Foodie Guide: Must Eats In Singapore
There’s plenty to eat in Singapore; so much so that it wouldn’t be surprising for a first-time visitor, or for a local even, to feel slightly overwhelmed at the wealth of choice. Considering the sheer variety of dishes in Singapore, it sure wasn’t easy choosing 20 dishes that shouldn’t be missed, but if we were to cover it all, I daresay it’d take you a year to finish reading this!
As Singapore’s unofficial national dish, it’s not difficult to see why this is one of the city’s most well-known and much loved dishes. All its elements work together, from the fragrant rice, to the succulent, tender chicken, and the dipping sauce of chili and/or dark soy sauce.
If you’re a crab lover, it’s difficult to pass up chili crab when you’re visiting Singapore. Despite its name, the dish isn’t as hot as you might think; the crabs are cooked in a tomato-chili gravy thickened with egg, making it sweet, savory, and slightly spicy. Served on the side are steamed or fried mantous (buns), which are often dipped into the gravy.
Kaya Toast & Soft-boiled Eggs
Start your morning with a traditional breakfast staple. Readily available across the island, kaya toast and soft-boiled eggs are a classic pairing that many locals love. Sink your teeth into toasted bread slices spread with kaya – a creamy coconut jam often flavored with pandan leaves – and pats of butter. Don’t forget to crack your soft-boiled eggs into a saucer, season with a dash of soy sauce and a sprinkling of pepper, and enjoy!
These steamed rice flour cakes topped with preserved radish and chili sauce are great for breakfast or as a teatime snack. Smooth and wobbly, soft yet firm enough to cut with a fork, they’re an absolute favorite for both the young and old.
This dish is far from the American dessert as we all know it. Carrot cake in Singapore is a savory dish with steamed rice flour cubes and daikon shreds, stir-fried with eggs, preserved radish, garlic, and various seasonings. Every forkful yields soft, moist chunks of radish cake mixed with eggs. Choose from the black (fried with sweet dark sauce) or white version (fried with eggs, forming a thin crust) – we promise you’ll love it either way!
A combination of Chinese and Malay flavors, this noodle dish consists of rice noodles in a spicy coconut curry soup topped with sliced fish cakes, beancurd puffs, and cockles. Typically served in a bowl with a dollop of sambal chili on the side and a sprinkling of chopped coriander, slurp the slippery noodles up with a spoon. Here’s a pro-tip: don’t wear white!
As one of the most popular fried noodle hawker dishes in Singapore, this is a humble yet tasty dish that has its origins in the Fujian (Hokkien) province in China. A mix of yellow egg noodles and rice noodles is wok-fried with eggs, prawns, and squid in a robust prawn stock. It is also plated with a dollop of sambal chili (hot sauce that’s sweet, spicy, tangy, and flavorful) and half a lime on the side. If added flavor is what you’re after, ask for a handful of fried pork lard cubes to be sprinkled on top as well. There are two versions of Hokkien mee, wet and dry; if you can’t make up your mind, why not try both?
Traditional Ice Cream
The Italians have their gelato, and the Americans have their ice-cream trucks but we have our friendly neighborhood ice-cream cart men. Stationed at various locations, it’s easy to spot them with their large umbrellas, metal carts, and the queue of people waiting to get their hands on a frozen delight. Take your pick from a variety of local and international flavors, then choose how you’d like it to be served: ice cream wrapped in a slice of ‘rainbow’ bread, sandwiched between wafer biscuits, or in a cup.
This is simplicity at its best. Essentially a fresh spring roll, similar to a burrito, a soft, thin crepe is wrapped around a mixture of ingredients including grated and stir-fried turnip and carrot, beansprouts, chili paste, and shredded omelette or sliced hard boiled eggs. Crunchy, flavorful, and full of texture, popiah is perfect as a light bite for one, or as an additional dish to share.
These vividly colored glutinous rice balls quite literally explode in your mouth. Glutinous rice dough is wrapped around a nugget of gula Melaka (palm sugar) before being boiled and rolled in freshly grated coconut. A favorite across all generations, these Nyonya kueh (sweet bite-size snacks) are soft, chewy, delicious, and will have you coming back for more!
Skewers of marinated and grilled nuggets of lamb, chicken, beef or mutton are served alongside ketupat (compressed rice wrapped in palm leaves), sliced onions and cucumbers. You’ll also get a bowl of thick peanut sauce that’s sweet, slightly spicy, and a perfect accompaniment to the juicy and tender meat.
Moonlight Hor Fun
Odd name aside, moonlight hor fun tastes better than it sounds. Imagine soft, slippery flat rice noodles, wok-fried with dark sauce, beef or pork slices, and beansprouts, then topped with a raw egg just before serving. Mix the egg into the hot noodles, and dig in.
Prawn Paste Chicken
This is a fried chicken dish that most, if not all Singaporeans love. Chicken wings are first marinated in a fermented shrimp paste batter overnight before going into the fryer. This results in crispy, juicy wings with a strong umami taste that are finger lickin’ good.
Char Kway Teow
Another local favorite, a mixture of flat rice noodles and yellow egg noodles is stir fried with dark soy sauce, sliced fishcake, eggs, beansprouts, cockles, and slices of Chinese sausage. A handful of greens are then thrown in, almost as an afterthought; a gesture to counterbalance this hearty and indulgent dish. Some places use lard to fry the noodles, which make it even more sinful, so be prepared!
There’s nothing better than a plate of prata to satiate those hunger pangs! This Indian specialty is crispy, flaky, buttery, and pairs perfectly with mutton or fish curry. There are a number of varieties to choose from, but our favorites are plain, egg, or cheese.
You Tiao With Tau Huay
AKA fried dough fritters and soya beancurd pudding. These two go together like a match made in Heaven and is perfect for breakfast, a midday pick-me-up or a midnight snack. The pudding is the ultimate comfort food; its sweetness and silky smoothness makes it a perfect vessel to dip the dough sticks in.
Bak Kut Teh
Pork rib soup boiled for hours with herbs & spices, this is a one-dish meal that many locals love. Usually eaten with a bowl of rice and side dishes of dough fritters, braised eggs or tofu, the broth can be peppery (Teochew style) or herbal (Hokkien style), depending on your preference. Psst: our pick is the peppery broth.
The key component to this dish is the rice. Cooked with coconut milk and pandan leaves, the rice is fragrant, fluffy, and a great partner to the side dishes on offer. The traditional version comes with anchovies, peanuts, a small fried fish, and sambal chilli on the side. Take the alternative route and jazz it up by adding other ingredients like a fried chicken wing, otak (grilled fish cake), an egg, or more. Go big or go home, we say.
Yeah, we know. Stingray?! But trust us; stingray meat slathered in thick sambal sauce, then wrapped in a banana leaf and cooked slowly on a grill, is delicious. The meat is juicy and tender, which makes it a perfect foil for the spicy sambal. Squeeze a lime on top for some acidity. Locals tend to order this alongside other dishes, so make sure you do the same too!
Old-school Pandan Waffles
Before the reign of crisp, fluffy waffles that you see in cafes nowadays, freshly waffles made by local bakeries were preferred as they were both soft and dense. They also came in a funky green color and had a fragrant smell of pandan leaves. You can opt to slather on jam, peanut butter, or Nutella if you prefer, but we’re fans of the waffle on its own. Not many bakeries offer these traditional waffles anymore, so if you do happen to come across them, try one!