What to Eat in Singapore, Food and Drink, Dishes
Singapore is a melting pot of diverse cultures and flavors. With its unique blend of Chinese, Malay, Indian, and Peranakan influences, the city-state offers a mouthwatering array of food and drink options. This comprehensive guide will introduce you to some of the most iconic dishes and beverages in Singapore, ensuring that you don’t miss out on any of the culinary delights this vibrant destination has to offer.
Hainanese Chicken Rice
Hainanese chicken rice is considered Singapore’s national dish and is a must-try for any visitor. This dish consists of poached chicken served with fragrant jasmine rice that’s cooked in chicken broth and flavored with ginger and garlic. It’s typically served with a side of cucumber slices, a bowl of chicken broth, and a trio of dipping sauces: chili, ginger, and dark soy sauce.
Chilli crab is another iconic Singaporean dish that’s both delicious and messy. Fresh mud crabs are stir-fried in a thick, sweet, and spicy sauce made with tomatoes, chili, and egg. It’s best enjoyed with steamed or fried mantou (Chinese buns) to soak up the flavorful sauce.
Laksa is a spicy noodle soup that’s popular in both Singapore and Malaysia. There are several variations of laksa, but the most famous in Singapore is the Katong Laksa. This rich, coconut-based curry soup is filled with rice noodles, prawns, fishcake, and bean sprouts. It’s typically served with a dollop of sambal chili paste and a sprinkling of chopped laksa leaves.
Char Kway Teow
Char kway teow is a delicious stir-fried flat rice noodle dish that’s popular in both Singapore and Malaysia. The dish is typically made with dark soy sauce, garlic, chilies, bean sprouts, Chinese sausage, and a mix of seafood such as prawns, cockles, and fishcake. The key to a good char kway teow is the “wok hei” or “breath of the wok,” which gives the dish its distinctive smoky flavor.
Hokkien mee is a flavorful noodle dish that originated in the Fujian province of China. In Singapore, Hokkien mee consists of a mix of yellow noodles and thin rice noodles stir-fried with prawns, squid, pork, and bean sprouts in a rich prawn stock. It’s typically served with lime, sambal chili paste, and a side of crispy pork lard.
Bak Kut Teh
Bak kut teh, which translates to “meat bone tea,” is a comforting pork rib soup that’s popular in both Singapore and Malaysia. There are two main types of bak kut teh: the peppery, Teochew-style version and the herbal, Hokkien-style version. The soup is typically served with steamed white rice, braised tofu, and fried dough sticks (you tiao) for dipping.
Roti prata is a popular Indian flatbread that’s commonly enjoyed for breakfast or as a snack in Singapore. The dough is made from flour, water, and ghee, and it’s skillfully stretched, flipped, and folded before being cooked on a hot griddle. It’s typically served with a side of curry for dipping. Variations of roti prata include egg, cheese, and even sweet options like banana or chocolate.
Satay is a popular Southeast Asian dish that consists of skewered, marinated meat grilled over charcoal. In Singapore, the most common types of satay include chicken, beef, and mutton, although you can also find more exotic options like rabbit or venison. The skewers are typically served with a spicy peanut sauce, cucumber, and ketupat (compressed rice cakes). Satay is a popular street food and can be found at hawker centers and food courts across the city.
Nasi lemak is a fragrant rice dish that’s popular in both Singapore and Malaysia. The rice is cooked in coconut milk and pandan leaves, giving it a rich, creamy flavor and a hint of fragrance. It’s typically served with a variety of side dishes such as fried chicken, fish, omelette, cucumber, roasted peanuts, and sambal chili paste. Nasi lemak can be enjoyed for breakfast, lunch, or dinner.
Kaya Toast and Soft-Boiled Eggs
Kaya toast is a quintessential Singaporean breakfast dish that consists of toasted bread spread with kaya (a sweet coconut jam) and butter. It’s usually served with soft-boiled eggs, which are seasoned with dark soy sauce and white pepper. Kaya toast and soft-boiled eggs are best enjoyed with a cup of traditional Singaporean coffee or tea.
Fish Head Curry
Fish head curry is a unique Singaporean dish that’s popular among the Indian and Chinese communities. The dish consists of a large fish head cooked in a tangy, spicy curry with vegetables like okra and eggplant. It’s typically served with steamed white rice or bread to soak up the flavorful sauce.
The curry puff is a popular snack in Singapore that’s similar to a British pasty or an Indian samosa. It consists of a flaky pastry shell filled with a spiced potato mixture, which may also include chicken, beef, or hard-boiled egg. Curry puffs can be found at hawker centers, bakeries, and cafes across Singapore, making them an easy and delicious on-the-go snack.
Popiah is a Singaporean version of a fresh spring roll that’s popular among the Chinese community. The thin, delicate rice paper wrapper is filled with a variety of ingredients, including julienned vegetables, tofu, bean sprouts, and a sweet, savory sauce. Some variations also include meat or seafood. Popiah can be found at hawker centers and food courts throughout Singapore.
Rojak is a traditional Singaporean salad that combines sweet, sour, and spicy flavors. The dish typically consists of a mix of fruits and vegetables like pineapple, cucumber, and turnip, which are tossed in a tangy dressing made from shrimp paste, sugar, and lime juice. Rojak is garnished with crushed peanuts and toasted sesame seeds, adding an extra layer of texture and flavor.
Ice kacang is a popular Singaporean dessert that’s perfect for cooling down on a hot day. The dessert consists of a mound of shaved ice topped with a variety of sweet ingredients, such as red beans, sweet corn, jelly, and fruit. It’s drizzled with syrup, condensed milk, and sometimes topped with a scoop of ice cream.
Teh tarik, which translates to “pulled tea,” is a traditional Singaporean tea that’s made by “pulling” the tea between two containers to create a frothy texture. The tea is typically sweetened with condensed milk and sugar, making it a rich and indulgent beverage. Teh tarik is often enjoyed with a variety of local snacks and dishes, making it a staple in Singaporean food culture. You can find teh tarik at hawker centers, coffee shops, and cafes throughout the city.
Bak Chor Mee
Bak chor mee, which translates to “minced meat noodles,” is a popular noodle dish in Singapore. It typically consists of egg noodles tossed in a savory sauce made from vinegar, soy sauce, and chili, then topped with minced pork, sliced pork, liver, fish balls, and mushrooms. The dish is garnished with crispy lard pieces and served with a bowl of soup on the side. Bak chor mee can be found at hawker centers and food courts across the city.
The oyster omelette, also known as “orh luak” or “orh jian” in local dialects, is a popular hawker dish in Singapore. The omelette is made from a mixture of eggs, tapioca starch, and oysters, resulting in a gooey, crispy texture. It’s typically served with a tangy chili sauce for dipping. You can find oyster omelettes at hawker centers and seafood restaurants across Singapore.
Murtabak is a popular Indian-Muslim dish that’s similar to a stuffed pancake or pan-fried bread. The dough is filled with a spiced mixture of meat (usually mutton or chicken) and onion, then folded and cooked on a griddle. Murtabak is typically served with a side of curry for dipping and a cucumber salad. You can find murtabak at Indian-Muslim food stalls in hawker centers and food courts.
Carrot Cake (Chai Tow Kway)
Despite its name, Singaporean carrot cake (chai tow kway) doesn’t contain any carrots or resemble a traditional cake. Instead, it’s a savory dish made from steamed rice flour and white radish, which is then fried with eggs, garlic, and preserved radish. There are two popular versions: the white version, which is seasoned with light soy sauce, and the black version, which is flavored with a sweet, dark soy sauce. Carrot cake can be found at hawker centers and food courts throughout Singapore.
Singapore’s diverse culinary scene offers an incredible array of dishes and flavors to satisfy any palate. From iconic local dishes like Hainanese chicken rice and chili crab to sweet treats like ice kacang and teh tarik, this city-state’s food scene is a true gastronomic paradise. As you explore Singapore’s vibrant neighborhoods and bustling hawker centers, be sure to indulge in these delicious dishes and drinks for an unforgettable culinary experience.