Ranging from world-class Michelin-starred eateries to hugely popular hawker outlets, the country’s eclectic dining scene is truly a treat for the palate.
By PRACHI JOSHI
As a nation blessed with enviably diverse ethnicities, is there such a thing as Singaporean cuisine? Undoubtedly, yes! From Chinese and Indonesian to Malay and South Indian, the city-state has absorbed it all to create something totally unique. Here are seven iconic, not-to-be-missed Singaporean dishes, and where to try them.
You may wonder what’s so special about steamed or boiled chicken served with rice. But the combination of succulent chicken cooked in a blend of pork and chicken bone stock, and rice fragrant with chicken stock, ginger, and garlic is truly magical! Condiments such as sweet and savoury dark soy sauce, chilli sauce, and ginger-garlic sauce only add to the flavour.
Try it at: The Chef Anthony Bourdain-approved Tian Tian at Maxwell Centre. Or opt for the meat-free version (made from tofu) at 33 Vegetarian in Ang Mo Kio.
Toast and coffee for breakfast isn’t exactly groundbreaking, but in a Singaporean kopitiam (traditional coffee shop), you will find it elevated to an art form. Kaya is a mildly sweet spread made from eggs, sugar, coconut milk, and pandan leaves. Savour it slathered on warm toast along with soft boiled eggs and a steaming cup of kopi, a strong coffee sweetened with condensed milk.
Try it at: Ya Kun Kaya Toast, a popular Singaporean chain. Or at Good Morning Nanyang Café on Scotts Road.
You simply cannot visit Singapore and not try a plate of spicy, messy, yet utterly delicious chilli crab. It’s prepared in a multitude of ways, but the most common, and loved, ones are crab with a spicy tomato chilli sauce and crab with black pepper sauce. Dig into the juicy crabmeat and mop up the gravy with steamed or fried buns called mantous that are served alongside.
Try it at: Jumbo Seafood, which has multiple outlets; head to the one at Riverside Point for a meal with a view.
Originating in China’s Fujian province, popiah is essentially a paper-thin crepe wrapper stuffed with grated and steamed vegetables such as turnip, jicama, bean sprouts, shredded carrots, and more—all dressed in two delicious sauces: sweet-spicy bean and chilli. It is served steamed or deep-fried and, of course, has variations with egg or seafood fillings.
Try it at: The Old Long House at Kim Keat Palm Market & Food Centre, a local favourite that has been around since 1930.
The Nyonya laksa is a much-loved highlight of Singapore’s Peranakan cuisine, which combines Malay and Chinese influences. This comfort-in-a-bowl features delicate rice vermicelli noodles along with seafood cooked in a rich coconut gravy that’s flavoured with rempah or fried spice paste. There are many variations of this laksa; the most popular one is with clams, prawns, fishcakes, and dried shrimp.
Try it at: The famous Sungei Road Laksa. Locals and tourists queue up for a bowl of laksa cooked traditionally on blazing charcoal.
Char Kway Teow
If you love noodles, you must try char kway teow, a favoured Malay- Singaporean dish and a hawker classic. It’s essentially flat rice noodles stir-fried on high heat with eggs, cockles, chunks of fried pork lard, bean sprouts, shrimp paste, and Chinese chives. Both light and dark chilli soy sauce add a special zing to the dish.
Try it at: Outram Park Char Kway Teow opened in the 1930s. It won the Bib Gourmand Award in the Michelin Guide Singapore 2018 selection.
Thunder Tea Rice
Also known as lei cha, this ancient Hakka dish is a hearty bowl of rice served with assorted veggies and proteins, all drenched in a herby tea soup flavoured with Chinese tea leaves, basil, mint, coriander, and more.
Try it at: Thunder Tree at People’s Park Centre. It offers generous helpings.