Singapore is a hot pot of cuisines to eat, incorporating a rich heritage of food dishes consisting of Chinese, Indian, Malaysian and Indonesian influences. If you are a local Singaporean, you would have seen these dishes in the hawker centres below your void deck, in the food courts of shopping centres and in the quaint shop-houses decades old.
These are the real dishes you need to eat in Singapore before you die. I know there are still dozens of dishes in Singapore that are true to our heritage, but if I were to cover them all, this list would take you 2 years to finish reading.
As a Singaporean, there is no excuse to not trying these time-tested foods we all grew up with. As a tourist, this is a good check-list of authentic local cuisine in Singapore. These are the foods to eat in Singapore when you visit.
Many others have tried to cover Singapore’s food and although I appreciate Chef Anthony Bourdain for his wonderful exploration of Singapore food in his travel journals, I feel only a local can truly express the adequate love for our unique cuisine.
1. Bak Kut Teh (肉骨茶 lit. Meat bone tea/ Pork Ribs soup)
One of the many stories of Bak Kut Teh’s invention was that during the olden days of Singapore, a poor, starving beggar came by a road side pork noodle store to beg for food. The stall owner was in poverty, but wanted to help him. He boiled some of his left over pork bones and added whatever cheap spices he had to flavour the soup, including star anise and pepper which created a soup resembling tea in colour. Thus pork bone tea was born. Another canon states that this was a tonic invented to ‘reinvigorate’ the Chinese coolies that worked in the Clark Quay area.
Bak Kut Teh has been in Singapore since we were still a developing country and deserves its recognition as a simple, humble dish. Most of the Bak Kut Teh here are the pepper variety with mild use of herbs like Star Anise. Choose pork ribs meat in your soup for a more tender bite. The other variant would be the Klang Bak Kut Teh, a dark and highly flavoured herbal soup originating from Malaysia.
Best Bak Kut Teh stalls:
Ya Hua Bak Kut Teh: 7 Keppel Road, #01-05/07, PSA Tanjong Pagar Complex, Singapore 089053 (closed on Mon)
Song Fa Bak Kut Teh: 11 New Bridge Road #01-01, Singapore 059383
Ng Ah Sio Pork Ribs Soup: 208 Rangoon Road, Hong Building Singapore 218453 (closed on Mon)
Leong Kee (Klang) Bak Kut Teh: 321 Beach Road, Singapore 199557 (closed on Wed)
2. Wanton Mee (云吞面)
The Singapore Wanton noodles was probably influenced by Hong Kong cuisine, but has become entrenched in our culture over the years. The Singapore version is typically eaten ‘dry’, drenched with some light sweet sauce, slices of pork char siew and wanton dumplings filled with pork, with a small bowl of soup on the side. Auntie will also ask if you want spicy or not. The spicy type sees chilli being mixed into the noodles, while the non-spicy kids version will have tomato sauce mixed in. Wanton dumplings may be either deep fried or come in soup dumplings.
The Malaysian variant is a darker colored sauce, sweeter tasting mee.
Best Wanton Mee stalls:
Fei Fei Wanton Mee: 62 Joo Chiat Place, Singapore 427785
Kok Kee Wanton Mee: 380 Jalan Besar, Lavender Food Square, #01-06, Singapore 209000 (closed every 3 weeks Wed & Thur)
Parklane Zha Yun Tun Mee House: 91 Bencoolen Street, #01-53, Sunshine Plaza, Singapore 189652
3. Fried Carrot cake (菜头粿)
No, this isn’t the American Dessert. This is far from it. The Singapore Fried Carrot cake is made with eggs, preserved radish (chai poh) and white radish flour cake, which resembles a ‘white carrot’ and how the name comes about.
This is a teochew dish popular both in Singapore and Malaysia. Variants include the ‘black’ version, which is with sweet sauce (molasses) added, or a crispy version with the cake fried on top of a beaten egg to create a crust and chunks of cake. Most commonly seen in Singapore though is the chopped up version with individual radish cake cubes.
Best Fried Carrot Cake Stalls:
Carrot Cake 菜頭粿 (that’s the literal name of the store): 20 Kensington Park Road, Chomp Chomp Food Centre, Singapore 557269 (closed on alternate Tues)
Fu Ming Carrot Cake: Blk 85 Redhill Lane, Redhill Food Centre, Singapore 150085
Hai Sheng Carrot Cake: Blk 724 Ang Mo Kio Ave 6, Market and Food Centre, #01-09, Singapore 560724
He Zhong Carrot Cake: 51 Upper Bukit Timah Rd, Bukit Timah Market and Food Centre, Singapore 588172
4. Dim sum (点心)
Another Hong Kong/ Shang Hai inspired type of dishes available in Singapore is the Dim Sum or ‘Dian xin’. This is not exactly 1 dish, but a set of small dishes to be savoured in a group- a typical Chinese dining sharing custom. Popular dim sum dishes include the BBQ Pork Bun, Xiao Long Bao, Siew Mai, Chee Chong Fun and many more.
Best Dim Sum Stalls:
Swee Choon Tim Sum: 191 Jalan Besar, Singapore 208882 (closed on Tues)
Tim Ho Wan: 450 Toa Payoh Lorong 6, #02-02, ERA Centre, Singapore 319394
Wen Dao Shi (搵到食): 126 Sims Ave, Singapore 387449
Related Guide: Best Dim Sums in Singapore History: The Ultimate Guide
5. Kaya Toast and Soft-boiled Eggs
The one and only traditional Singaporean breakfast- Kaya toast with soft-boiled eggs. The traditional bread is an old school rectangular white loaf, toasted with a bread grill, lathered with coconut or egg kaya then slapped with a thick slice of SCS butter to slowly melt within 2 slices of warm bread. This is the classic kaya toast. Variations include using thinly sliced brown bread, round buns or ‘Jiam Tao Loh Tee’ like a French baguette.
For the eggs, it’s usually put in a large hot water metal pot and covered with a plate. Then you time it and take out the egg when it’s ready (about 7-10 minutes depending on how well you like your egg). Trying not to scream like a little girl, crack open the eggs with your bare hands onto 1 of the 2 plates given and throw the shells on the remaining plate. Season with pepper and dark/light soya sauce.
Best Kaya Toast stalls:
Killiney Kopitiam: 67 Killiney Road, Singapore 239525
Chin Mee Chin Confectionery: 204 East Coast Road, Singapore 428903 (closed on Mon)
Good Morning Nanyang Cafe: 20 Upper Pickering Street, Hong Lim Green Community Centre, Singapore 058284
Ya Kun Kaya Toast: 18 China Street #01-01, Far East Square, Singapore 049560 (there are like over 30 outlets of Ya Kun in Singapore now)
6. Crabs (Chilli or Pepper)
The 2 most famous styles of crab cooking in Singapore are with a sweet, spicy tomatoish chilli sauce, or with black pepper sauce. Chilli crabs are usually eaten along with fried mantous (buns), which are dipped in the luscious chilli sauce. Well prepared crabs go through a 2 step cooking process, boiled first then fried so that the meat doesn’t stick to the shell. Recently, many popular styles of cooking have surfaced as well, like salted-egg crabs or crab bee hoon.
Best Singapore Crab stalls:
Red House Seafood Restaurant: 68 Prinsep Street, Singapore 188661
No Signboard Seafood: 414 Geylang Singapore 389392
Long Beach Seafood: Blk 1018 East Coast Parkway, Singapore 449877
Crab Party: 98 Yio Chu Kang Road, Singapore 545576
Ban Leong Wah Hoe Seafood: 122 Casuarina Road, Singapore 579510
Laksa is a dish merged from Chinese and Malay elements otherwise known as Peranakan culture. There are 2 main types of laksa- curry laksa and asam laksa. Curry laksa is more predominant in Singapore, while assam laksa is found more in Malaysian regions like Penang Laksa. In fact there loads of variants of Laksas differing in fish type, broth and even noodles.
Traditional Singapore Curry Laksa uses vermicelli, coconut milk, tau pok (beancurd puffs), fish slices, shrimp and cockles (hum). Due to cost cutting or taste preference, some stalls might opt out of shrimp and cockles. A unique Singapore variant known as Katong Laksa has it’s vermicelli cut into short ends and is eaten only with a spoon. There is much debate on who is the original Katong Laksa.
Best Laksa Stalls:
328 Katong Laksa: 51/53 East Coast Road, Singapore 428770
Sungei Road Laksa: Blk 27 Jalan Berseh, #01-100 Singapore 200027
Janggut Laksa: 1 Queensway, Queensway Shopping Centre, #01-59, Singapore 149053
8. Curry Fish Head
Is it Chinese, Indian or Malay? This is another ambiguous dish with probably a South Indian origin, but heavily influenced by the various ethnicities in Singapore. What I do know, is that it’s delicious. Either half a head or the whole head of a Red snapper is stewed in curry with assorted vegetables like Lady’s Finger (okra) and brinjal. The Indian style of curry has heavier spices and flavours, while the Chinese styles are lighter and sweeter.Variants include the Assam style fish head curry, which adds in a tinge of sourness with Tamarind fruit (assam).
Best Curry Fish head stalls:
Gu Ma Jia (assam style): 45 Tai Thong Crescent, Singapore 347866
Bao Ma Curry Fish Head (Chinese style): #B1-01/07, 505 Beach Road, Golden Mile Food Centre, Singapore 199583
Zai Shun Curry Fish Head (Chinese style): Blk 253 Jurong East St 24, First Cooked Food Point, #01-205, Singapore 600253 (closed wed)
Karu’s Indian Banana Leaf Restaurant (Indian style): 808/810, Upper Bukit Timah Road, Singapore 678145
Samy’s Curry (Indian style): 25 Dempsey Rd, Singapore 249670
9. Bak Chor Mee (肉脞面 lit. Minced Meat Noodle)
Colloquially known as ‘Bak Chor Mee’ 肉脞面, this is a noodle dish with minced pork, liver, meat balls/ fish balls, fish cake slices and a signature vinegar braised sauce that adds some wetness.
Typically, the dish is ordered ‘dry’ to savour full flavours of the sauce and you can choose between chilli or ketchup, and the type of noodle to use. Noodle choices are normally either Mee Pok (a flat noodle) or Mee Kia (thin noodle), while some stalls offer bee hoon, mee sua or mee tai mak as well. Variants include an exclusively soup version with home-made noodles famous at Bedok Blk 85.
Best Bak Chor mee stalls:
Tai Hwa Pork Noodle: Blk 466 Crawford Lane #01-12, Singapore 190465 (closed on 1st and 3rd Mondays of the month)
58 Minced Meat Mee: 3 Yung Sheng Road, #03-150, Taman Jurong Market and Food Centre, Singapore 618495
Seng Hiang Food Stall (soup variant): Blk 85 Bedok North Street 4, Fengshan Market & FoodCentre, Singapore 460085
Seng Kee Mushroom Minced Pork Noodles: 49A Serangoon Garden Way, Serangoon Garden Market & Food Centre, Singapore 555945
10. Oyster Omelette (Orh Lua)
A dish popular in Singapore Hawkers as well as Taiwan Night markets, this is a dish many foreigners and locals love. Stalls that sell carrot cake typically also sell Oyster omelettes as it’s a similar cooking process as well as utilizing a common ingredient: Eggs. Potato starch is usually mixed into frying the egg and gives a thicker, fuller taste. Variants include a version without the starch, which is priced slightly higher due to more eggs needed instead. A special vinegar chilli is also paired exclusively with oyster omelettes in Singapore.
Best Oyster Omelette stalls:
Simon Road Oyster Omelette: 965 Upper Serangoon Road, Mee Sek Coffeeshop, Singapore 534721 (closed Tue)
Ang Sa Lee Oyster Omelette: 20 Kensington Park Road, Chomp Chomp, Singapore 557269 (closed alt. Wed)
Bedok 85 Fried Oyster Omelette: Blk 85 Bedok North Street 4, Fengshan Market & FoodCentre, Singapore 460085
Ah Hock Fried Oyster Hougang: Blk 90 Whampoa Dr, #01-54, Whampoa Hawker Centre, Singapore 320090 (closed Weds)
Related Guide: 11 Longest Queue Restaurants in Singapore
11. Hokkien Prawn Mee
The Singapore Hokkien Mee fries a combination of egg noodles and rice noodles in a rich prawn stock with cubes of fried pork fat, prawns, fish cake and squid. Some vendors add pork strips as well to add more flavour. This dish was a product of post-war Hokkien noodle factory workers who would gather along Rochor road and fry any excess noodles they had. Another version easily confused by the same name is called the Hokkien Char mee, which is covered in a signature thick dark sauce and uses only 1 type of egg noodle.
Best Hokkien Prawn Mee stalls:
Eng Ho Fried Hokkien Prawn Mee: 409 Ang Mo Kio Avenue 10, #01-34, Teck Ghee Square Food Centre, Singapore 560409
Ah Hock Fried Hokkien Noodles: 20 Kensington Park Road, Chomp Chomp, Singapore 557269 (closed once every fortnight)
Chia Keng Fried Hokkien Mee: 20 Kensington Park Road, Chomp Chomp, Singapore 557269
Original Serangoon Fried Hokkien Mee: 556 Serangoon Road, Singapore 218175
Satay is a dish of skewered, Turmeric marinated meat that is grilled on an open fire. It originates from Indonesia but has become a common hawker fare in Singapore. Stalls are not restricted to any race and may be operated by Chinese, Malays or Indians. Typical meats include chicken, beef, mutton and even pork which is sold by the Chinese stall owners. Ketupat (rice cake), onions and cucumbers usually accompanies Satay. A spicy peanut dip is also provided for the Satay and sides as well.
Best Satay Stalls:
Kwong Satay: 549 Lorong 29 Geylang Road, Sing Lian Eating House, Singapore 389504 (closed alt. Wed)
Haron Satay: 1220 East Coast Parkway, East Coast Lagoon Food Village, Singapore 468960
Chuan Kee Satay: Block 51 Old Airport Road, #01-85, Old Airport Road Food Centre Singapore 390051 (closed Mon, Thur)
13. BBQ Sambal Sting Ray
In the past, having a fridge/freezer was as rare as winning Toto; Barbecuing or frying fishes to musk the fishy odour after being left out in the open for days was a popular cooking choice.
Also known as Ikan Bakar (barbequed fish), Stingray used to be unpopular but has risen in price since Singaporean Malays figured out that Sambal on top of Sting Ray = delicious. It is traditionally wrapped in banana leaf and barbecued, then a sambal paste made with belachan, spices, shallots and Indian walnuts is smothered generously all over the top. Lime is usually squeezed in right before eating as well.
Best BBQ Stingray stalls:
Star Yong Kwang B.B.Q. Seafood: Blk 127 Bukit Merah Lane 1, Alexandra Village Food Centre, #01-230, Singapore 150127
Chomp Chomp Hai Wei Yuan Seafood Barbecue: 20 Kensington Park Road, Chomp Chomp, Singapore 557269
B.B.Q. Seafood: 3 Yung Sheng Road, Taman Jurong Market & Food Centre, #03-178, Singapore 618499 (closed alt. Thur)
14. Tau Huay (Dou Hua 豆花)
Tau Huay is a Chinese dessert made with beancurd tofu that is sweetened with sugar syrup. The traditional type is very soft, slightly grainy and soaks in syrup to be eaten together. This Tau Huay can be eaten hot or cold, sometimes with Tang Yuan, grass jelly or Soya bean milk added as well.
In recent times, a popular more gelatine, jelly-like version of Tau Huay has surfaced and for a period, drove Singaporeans to queue like ants to sugar. This version is smoother and can incorporate pretty much any flavour like mango, melon or sesame. The texture is distinctively different from the traditional types and some camps advocate against it due to unnatural stabilizers used. This is eaten cold as heat would break the structure.
Best Tau Huay stalls:
Rochor Original Beancurd: 2 Short Street, Singapore 188211
Lao Ban Soya Beancurd (gelatine type): #01-127 and #01-107 Old Airport Road Hawker Centre, 51 Old Airport Road (closed Mon)
Selegie Soya Bean: 990 Upper Serangoon Road, Singapore 534734
15. Ice Kacang (lit. ice beans)
A grinding machine is used to produce the shaved ice mountain on top of a bowl of assorted ingredients like red bean, attap chee (palm seed), agar agar jelly, chendol, grass jelly or any other filling desired. Evaporated or condensed milk is then drizzled on the top along with red rose syrup and sarsi syrup to produce the multi-coloured effect. Variations may include drizzling with gula melaka, adding ice-cream or other novelty toppings like Durian or chocolate syrup.
Best Ice Kacang stalls:
Annie’s Peanut Ice Kacang: 20 Ghim Moh Road, #01-35, Ghim Moh Market & Food Centre Singapore 270020
Mei Heong Yuen: 65-67 Temple Street, Singapore 058610
An Ji Xiang Hua Ice Jelly: Blk 335 Smith Street, #02-183, Chinatown Complex Market, Singapore 050335
16. Chwee Kway (水粿 lit. Water Rice Cake )
Another breakfast dish seen regularly in Singapore and Johor, most stalls only open in the morning and close by lunch. Rice flour and water are mixed together to form the rice cake, then put into little saucers and steamed to produce the typical Chwee Kway bowl-like shape. It is topped with chai poh (preserved radish) and chilli. Chwee kway is a dying trade that the young generation does not want to carry on, so try it before its gone forever.
Best Chwee Kueh stalls:
Ghim Moh Chwee Kueh: 20 Ghim Moh Road #01-31, Ghim Moh Market and Food Centre, Singapore 270020
Bedok Chwee Kueh: blk 207 New Upper Changi Road #01-53 Singapore 460207
Jian Bo Shui Kueh: 30 Seng Poh Road, #02-05, Tiong Bahru Market and Food CentreS(168898)
Widely regarded by many as the ‘king of fruits’ in Southeast Asia and the national fruit of Singapore, Singapore even has a building modeled after one (Esplanade). Most foreigners are turned off by the strong ‘pungent’ smell, while locals adore the flesh so much they turn it into desserts, cakes, tarts and even shakes.
Many expensive and popular strains of Durian have surfaced like D24 or the Mao Shan Wang (猫山王), which are even stronger in fragrance. There is a taste preference for either the more bitter variety or sweeter flesh. Whether you love it or hate it, you can always smell it when it’s in the room, leading to bans in many public areas like the train or bus.
Best Durian stalls:
Wonderful Fruit Enterprise: 147 Sims Avenue, Singapore 387469
Ah Seng Durian: Blk 20 Ghim Moh Road, #01-197, Singapore 270020
Hoe Seng Heng Durian Centre: 49 Sims Ave, Singapore 387413
Biryani is a fried rice dish of Indian Muslim influence made using distinctive long grain rice, usually with Basmati rice. Meats can be added to make it a Chicken, beef or fish Biryani. Spices used are also heavy in flavour like cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg and bay leaves. The resulting rice grains is usually very dry and can be accompanied by curry or chutney.
Best Biryani stalls:
Bismillah Biryani Restaurant: 50 Dunlop Street, Singapore 209379
Taj Authentic Indian Cuisine: 214 South Bridge Road, Singapore 058763 (closed Sun)
Ali Nachia Briyani Dam: 5 Tanjong Pagar Plaza, #02-04, Singapore 081005 (closed Sun)
Koothurar: Block 17, Beach Road, Singapore 190017 (closed alt Tues)
19. Nasi Lemak (lit. coconut rice)
Nasi Lemak is a very versatile dish and what was once a breakfast item, is now eaten during lunch and dinner too. Traditionally wrapped in banana leaves, Nasi Lemak is a deeply rooted Malay coconut rice dish. The rice is steamed with coconut cream to give it a sweet fragrance. The typical Nasi Lemak set comes with Ikan Bilis (anchovies), peanuts, egg and sambal. A good sambal is arguably the mark of a good Nasi Lemak.
Nasi Lemak is so popular in Singapore, the other races have adopted Nasi Lemak in their own variations of the dish and offer a wide selection of ingredients like fried chicken drumsticks, luncheon meat and sotong balls.
Best Nasi Lemak Stalls:
Ponggol Nasi Lemak: 965 Upper Serangoon Road, Singapore 534721 (closed Thur)
Selera Rasa Nasi Lemak: 2 Adam Road, Adam Food Centre Singapore 289876
Chong Pang Nasi Lemak: 447 Sembawang Road, Singapore 758404
Mizzy’s Corner: 2 Changi Village road, #01-55, Changi Village market and food centre, Singapore 500002
Boon Lay Power Nasi Lemak: Blk 221B Boon Lay Place, Boon Lay Place Market and Food Centre, #01-06, Singapore 642221
20. Mee Siam
Popular among the Muslim community as well as Chinese, Mee Siam has been absorbed into Singapore’s Nonya culture. Mee Siam means “Siamese noodles” and is vermicelli soaked in a sweet and spicy gravy flavoured by Tamarind (assam), dried shrimp and Tau Cheo (fermented bean paste). It usually comes with a boiled egg, bean sprouts, tau pok (beancurd puff) and is garnished with chives.
Best Mee Siam stalls:
Dju Dju Indonesian Food: Blk 304 Serangoon Ave 2, #01-14, Singapore 550304 (closed Mon)
Robert Mee Siam Lontong: Blk 91 Whampoa Drive #01-43 Makan Place, Singapore 320091
Wak Limah Stall: 320 Shunfu Road, #02-15, Shunfu Food Centre Singapore 570320
Related Guide: Affordable Romantic Restaurants in Singapore
21. Mee Rebus
In the past, mobile hawkers would sell Mee Rebus on the road using a pole hanging 2 baskets- 1 basket would hold the ingredients, 1 with the stove and boiling hot water. Mee Rebus is a noodle dish using egg yellow noodles like the type in Hokkien prawn mee, with a brown, sweet curry gravy. Compared to Mee Siam, the Mee Rebus gravy is much thicker and viscous, lacking in the sour assam taste. The gravy is made from potatoes (starch makes it thicker), curry powder, peanuts, dried shrimp and salted soy beans.
Best Mee Rebus stalls:
Afandi Hawa & Family Mee Rebus: Blk 14 Haig Road, #01-21, Haig Road Food Centre Singapore 430014 (closed Wed, Thur)
Inspirasi stall: Blk 207 New Upper Changi Road, #01-11, Bedok Town Centre Market and Food Centre, Singapore 460207 (closed Thur)
Selera Kita: Blk 58 New Upper Changi Road, #01-182, Block 58 Market adn Food Centre Singapore 461058
22. Roti Prata
Yet another cross cultural food that has been popularly adopted by Singaporeans is the Roti Prata. Roti Prata is of Indian origin, has a Malay name, and is eaten by the Chinese! That’s what Singapore racial harmony is all about.
A fried flour-based pancake, Roti Prata popular variants include adding cheese, eggs, mushroom, onions or even chocolates inside the batter. The dough is flipped multiple times into a large thin layer before folding the edges in. Some outlets also flip the dough so thin it turns crispy when fried on the metal pan. These are called ‘paper’ or ’tissue’ prata. Prata is served with fish or chicken curry while some people like myself like to sprinkle sugar with it.
Best Prata Stalls:
Thasevi Famous Jalan Kayu Prata Restaurant: 237 & 239 Jalan Kayu, Singapore 799461
Casuarina Curry Restaurant: 138 Casuarina Rd, Singapore 579526
The Roti Prata House: 246M Upper Thomson Rd, Singapore 574370
ENAQ Restaurant: Block 303 Jurong East Street 32, Singapore 600303
23. Fish Head/fish slice Bee Hoon
What originally started as fish head bee hoon in the 1920s has slowly advanced to using fish slice or fish meats in this age of abundance. In the past, meat was scarce and food sellers had to maximise every part of the fish including the head. The fish head was fried to musk the fishy odour after a few days, as back then refrigeration wasn’t as accessible. With fresher stocks, boiled fish slices are now an available option.
Fish soup bee hoon’s broth is made from fish or pork bones boiled for several hours, and some stalls might add evaporated milk for a fuller taste. Variants include adding XO cognac or brandy.
Best Fish Soup Bee Hoon Stalls:
Holland Village XO Fish Head Bee Hoon Restaurant: Blk 19A Dover Crescent #01-05, Dover Coffee Hub, Singapore 131019
Bao Gong XO Fish Head Bee Hoon: Block 713 Clementi West Street 2 #01-115, S(120713)
Jin Hua Fish Head Bee Hoon: 1 Kadayanallur St, Maxwell Road Hawker Centre, Singapore 069184 (closed Thur)
24. Rojak (lit. mixture)
Singapore Chinese/Malay Rojak is a mixture of of You tiao (dough fritters), bean sprouts, tau pok (beancurd puffs), radish, pineapple, cucumber and roast peanuts. It is then all mixed together with a black, fermented prawn paste sauce. Chilli is optional. The ingredients in Chinese/malay rojak is quite standard.
The other distinctive variant is the Indian version. Indian Rojak allows you to pick what ingredients to be added and usually doens’t include you tiao. Red gravy made with potato and spices is used in Indian Rojak. It is also tossed in peanut sauce.
Best Rojak stalls:
Al Mahboob Indian Rojak: Blk 506, Tampines Ave 4, #01-361, Singapore 520506 (closed alt. Wed)
Toa Payoh Rojak: Blk 51 Old Airport Road, #01-108, Old Airport Road Food Centre, Singapore 390051 (closed Sun)
Hoover Rojak: 90 Whampoa Drive, #01-06 Whampoa Food Centre S320090
25. Chicken rice
More accurately known as Hainanese Chicken rice, this is one of Singapore’s most well-known and celebrated dish. No coffee shop in Singapore is complete without a chicken rice stall. The whole chicken is steeped in sub-boiling pork and chicken bone stock to absorb the flavours and cook. Some shops will also dip the bird in ice after cooking to create a jelly-like finish on the chicken’s skin. Variations also include roasting the chicken which is called ‘black chicken’, in contrast to the ‘white chicken’. The stores with better service will de-bone the chicken for you.
The rice used in chicken rice is cooked with chicken stock, ginger, garlic and occasionally pandan leaves for added fragrance. Chilli sauce made with garlic and red chilli is served with chicken rice, as well as being topped with dark sauce and heaping spoons of chopped ginger.
Best Chicken Rice stalls:
Boon Tong Kee: 401 Balestier Road, Singapore 329801
Ming Kee Chicken Rice & Porridge: 511 Bishan Street 13, Singapore 570511 (closed alt. Tues)
Tian Tian Chicken Rice: 1 Kadayanallur St, #01-10, Maxwell Road Hawker Centre, Singapore 069184 (closed Mon)
Wee Nam Kee Hainanese Chicken Rice Restaurant: 101 Thomson Road ,#01-08, United Square, Singapore 307591
26. Duck Rice
Sometimes chicken rice stalls will sell duck rice as well, but the real good ducks are in specialized duck rice only shops. The common version of duck rice, influenced by roast meats in Hong Kong, uses plain white rice with ruby red roasted duck, and is drizzled with braised sauce. The other Teochew version uses braised yam rice and braised duck meat, along with some tau pok, eggs and peanuts on the side. Teochews just love braised sauce. Both are equally yummy and have distinctively different taste profiles.
Best Duck Rice stalls:
Lian Kee Braised Duck: 49 Sims Place, Sims Vista Market and Food Centre, Singapore 380049
Sia Kee Duck Rice: 659 Geylang Rd, Lorong 35 , Singapore 389589
Hua Fong Kee Roasted Duck : Blk 116, Lorong 2 Toa Payoh #01-62, Singapore 310116
27. Char Kway Teow (lit. fried rice cake strips)
Char Kway Teow is another signature Singapore noodle dish made with flat rice noodles (河粉) with sweet dark sauce. Stir-fried with egg, pork lard, Chinese sausages and fish cake, Char Kway Teow was intentionally made to be loaded in fats because labourers in the past needed a cheap source of energy, and what better way than to get it from fats. Cockles are also usually added in, as there was plenty of it in Singapore’s port island. A Penang Char Kway Teow variation exists as well, using chives and prawns and lacks the sweetness that is distinctive of Singapore style Char Kway Teow.
Best Char Kway Teow stalls:
Hill Street Char Kway Teow: Blk 16 Bedok South Road, #01-187, Bedok South Road Market & Food Centre, Singapore 460016
Outram Park Fried Kway Teow Mee: Blk 531A Upper Cross Street, #02-17, Hong Lim Food Centre, Singapore 510531
No. 18 Zion Road Fried Kway Teow: 70 Zion Road, Zion Riverside Food Centre, , #01-17, Singapore 247792 (closed alt. Mon)
Guan Kee Fried Kway Teow: Blk 20 Ghim Moh Road, #01-12, Ghim Moh Market And Food Centre, Singapore 270020
28. Curry Puff
Curry puff is a small baked pie enclosed with either short crust or puff pastry, the former being more traditional in Singapore. A common snack locally, the filling is usually made with curry gravy, chicken, potato and egg. Other variants include fillings with yam, sardines, otak or even durian filling.
Best Curry Puff stalls:
Tip Top Curry Puff : Blk 722 Ang Mo Kio Ave 8, #01-2843, Singapore 560722
1A Curry Puff: 391 Orchard Road #B2-07-3-3, Takashimaya S.C, Singapore 238873 (they have 5 outlets locally)
Amk Curry Puff: Blk 184 Toa Payoh Central #01-372, Inside Super 28 Coffeeshop, Singapore 310184
Rolina Traditional Hainanese Curry Puff: 49A Serangoon Gardens Way, Serangoon Garden Market, Singapore 555945 (closed mon)
29. Fish Head Steamboat
Being an island port, Singapore used to have many fishermen who would bring their fresh unsold catch to be sold as dishes instead. Teochew Fish Head Steamboat is another such result of our geographic situation. The soup typically contains a controlled mix of fried yam, sour plums, fried fish bones and vegetables which add flavour to the soup. Raw fish slices are added in later. Grouper, red snapper or promfert are the usual choices available in Fish Head Steamboat.
Old school steamboat still uses hot charcoal as it’s heat source, which apparently adds more flavour as compared to just using a electric or fire stove. Be warned, good and popular fish head steamboats in Singapore have fervent customers queuing for more than an hour regardless of how nonchalant the restaurant service is.
Best Fish Head Steamboat Stalls:
Nam Hwa Chong (Ah Chew) Fishhead Steamboat: 808/812/814/816 North Bridge Road, Singapore 198779
Tian Wai Tian Fish Head Steamboat: 1383 Serangoon Road, Singapore 328254
Whampoa Keng Fishhead Steamboat: 556 Balestier Road, Singapore 97694451
And finally, our last food to eat in Singapore before you die, is Popiah. The Teochew call it 薄餅仔 (thin wafer) or 薄餅 in Mandarin, which in the Teochew dialect reads as ‘Bo-BEE-ah’, thus resulting in the English name Popiah. The round Popiah skin is a thin paper-like wheat crepe that rolls up all the ingredients. A sweet sauce called hoisin is lathered on the laid out flat skin thereupon fillings are added. Ingredients within a Popiah typically include small prawns, boiled eggs, Chinese sausage, lettuce, bean sprouts and majority filled with cooked carrot and turnip strips.
Best Popiah Stalls:
Glory Catering: 139 East Coast Road, Singapore 428829 (closed Sun)
Jit It Thai San Popiah 日益太山薄饼: Blk 449 Clementi Avenue 3, Singapore 120449
Qi Ji: 109 North Bridge Road, #01-17, Funan IT Mall Singapore 1799097
Miow Sin Popiah & Carrot Cake: 380 Jalan Besar #01-04, Lavender Food Square, Singapore 209000 (closed alt. Wed)
Ann Chin Popiah: Blk 335, Chinatown Complex Market, Smith Street #02-112, Singapore 050335 (Closed on Thurs)
Editor’s end notes
Think your stall should be here instead? Contact me.
Now you know where to eat in Singapore! This is in no way an exhaustive list of classic Singapore dishes. This article has generated a lot of passionate comments from Singaporeans, with their own take on who is the ‘best’ or the history of our dishes. The ‘best’ listed here is my personal bests, and definitely you are entitled to your own opinions as I am to mine. Any factual correction will be taken into consideration if you can provide a formal citation or reference to the information, instead of quoting it from your grandma. My grandma disagrees with your grandma.
Many of the Singapore dishes were invented out of poverty and whatever ingredient was available at the time. The high number of immigrants from predominantly China, Hong Kong, India, Malaysia and Indonesia also shaped how our food culture mingled and interacted to create many of these dishes. Some people disagree that certain dishes listed here are not Singaporean, but as mentioned, Singapore takes dishes from overseas and assimilates it into our culture. We’re shameless like that.
The hawker trade is a greying population with low interest from the more industrial driven Singapore youths today, so do support our hawker heritage before it slowly fades away.
No matter if you are a local or a tourist, I hope this guide I’ve compiled serves you a better, authentic picture of what is local Singapore food.