But thanks to a crop of organic restaurants and farms, the search for home-grown cuisine in its country of origin is over.
An hour from the city centre, the Poison Ivy restaurant and its attached farm, Bollywood Gardens, are one of ten rural enterprises in the island's experimental "countryside" in Kranji and part of Singapore's push into "agri-tainment".
If that sounds like a recipe for bad food, think again.
Bollywood Gardens is the real deal, says co-founder Ivy Singh-Lim who lives and works on the ten-acre farm with her co-founder and husband Lim Ho Seng, the ex-CEO of the island's best-known cooperative supermarket chain.
"We decided to build a farm to show how it can be an oasis to chill out – affordable, friendly, and relaxing," she said.
Along with the hats, necessary in the garden as the equatorial sun beats down, Singh-Lim wears a holstered buck knife on her hip for cutting back fronds. Her husband, another "gentle warrior farmer" as she calls him, sports a Nepalese kukri knife for the same purpose.
The garden is the restaurant's focal point. All tables face out to where the sweet potato, eggplants, ladies' fingers, papaya, figs, banana and tapioca that dominate the menu grow.
Fig tea, served chilled or hot, and moist tapioca cake are stand-out options. But the star attraction is the banana.
The farm is Singapore's biggest banana grower, with 16 edible and six ornamental varieties of the fruit. Patrons can also buy bunches of ladies' fingers, huge organic lemons, sweet potatoes, ginger, figs, almond cookies and organic tapioca chips.
City-slickers spooked by the idea of ingesting such natural ingredients can opt for chicken nuggets and fries, spring rolls, or a basket of fries, washed down with beer.
But when drunk in the sunshine looking out over Bollywood Gardens , even it, somehow, tastes authentically home-grown.