If you’ve been keeping up with social media, you might have caught a whiff of (yet another) food-related controversy. Hello, Crispy Rendang 2.0.
It’s no secret that Singaporeans, and our neighbouring counterparts, get fiercely protective over our food culture. Woe befalls the clueless commentator who happens to get the essence of our local dishes wrong.
In the recent incident, cooking blog Nyonya Cooking posted a recipe for roti canai (also known as roti prata for Singaporeans), but here’s the real kicker: they called it “Asian flat croissant” in the accompanying image.
Chaos ensued—and memes proliferated.
Numerous other variations have spawned, and we’ve gladly come up with a compilation of all of these “ang moh” names for our beloved local dishes. And of course, we’ve added our recommendations on where you can get a taste of them—yes, both the local dishes and their Western counterparts.
Here are five alternative (tongue-in-cheek) names for local dishes and where to find them.
1. Asian Flat Croissant (Roti Canai/Prata)
The one that started it all: Asian Flat Croissant. Which is really just a white-washed, unnecessarily fancy name for our beloved roti canai, or roti prata (as we call it in Singapore).
I have to admit, I can see why someone would use Asian flat croissant in a tongue-in-cheek way.
Roti prata can be crispy, and the preparation process means that each piece of prata has multiple folds. And of course, like buttery croissant, prata is bound to leave your lips (and hands) greasy.
A croissant is a buttery, flaky viennoiserie pastry made of layered, yeast-leavened dough. Layered with butter, rolled and folded, the dough is then “laminated” (rolled into a sheet), which is what gives croissants the distinctive flaky texture—much like puff pastry.
Roti prata refers to unleavened flatbread, and the bread dough is coated in ghee then flipped and spun till very thin, and folded on an oiled counter. It’s usually served with curry.
Western or Asian, both of these crispy, buttery treats are great for breakfast, an afternoon snack, or really, at any time of the day.
Or if you’re more adventurous, the Prata Alley in Clementi has unique flavours like Pizza Prata (S$12.90) or the Nutella Prata (S$1.50). That’s definitely going on the list of controversial prata flavours.
Count on our multi-cultural city to bring us delectable renditions of buttery, flaky croissants too. No, we’re not talking about Delifrance.
Fresh pastry and coffee is a classic combination that Mother Dough offers, and the Almond Chocolate Croissants (S$4.50) here are to die for. Melted chocolate, buttery and flaky layers—what’s not to love?
Support our young local talents at Lalune in 313@Somerset, and pair your Custard Croissant (S$3.90) with bubble tea served in a charming, reusable bottle.
What about croissants and ice cream? Dopa Dopa Creamery near Clarke Quay brings us just that perfect pairing, guaranteed to inject a bit of happiness-inducing dopamine into your life.
And try some unique croissants at Sugar Thieves. Desserts that will steal your heart include Boluo Liu Sha Croissant (S$6.50), Kopi Gao Siew Dai Croissant (S$6), Earl Grey Milk Tea With Raspberry Jam Croissant (S$6.50) and more.
2. Asian Churros (Youtiao)
You just know that everyone’s favourite fried treat to pair with soybean milk has to get in on the fun too.
Originating from China and Southeast Asia, the deep-fried youtiao is long, golden-brown and lightly salted. You can enjoy it with soybean milk, with plain congee or even with bak kut teh. And yes, the bits in rojak are youtiao chunks.
Churros, on the other hand, come from Spain and Portugal. Thin and knotted or long and thick, the dough is pushed through a star-shaped nozzle for the signature ridges. These fried treats are eaten with sugar sprinkled on top, dipped in hot chocolate or dulce de leche.
Either way, you know you’re in for a good time when you pick one of these deep-fried golden sticks.
Enjoy crispy youtiao with Mixed Pork Congee (S$5) at Li Fang Porridge 丽芳粥品 in Albert Market & Food Centre. Tear off pieces of the youtiao to dip into the congee, or munch on the youtiao together with a spoonful of congee, pork slices, liver, and more.
Or get a sweeter, tangier version—the Rojak (S$4) from Toa Payoh Rojak in Old Airport Road Food Centre. Fresh bean sprouts, spinach, tau pok and youtiao mingled on a plate sprinkled with crushed peanuts and drenched in sweet, tangy shrimp paste dressing.
For a snack, get your breakfast staple in the form of chips—You Tiao Chips (S$6.90 for 110g), that is. Created by Inspired Snacks, the chips are available in two flavours: Sweet & Spicy or Soy Milk With Coconut.
Prefer sweet, crispy churros? Take your pick from Churreria La Lola, and Chulove Café, Panamericana and more.
Try something different at Churreria La Lola in Clarke Quay; you can opt for Pork Floss Stuffed Xuxos (S$8), a localised savoury version. Pork floss, mayonnaise, and garlic aioli complete this unique churro.
Chulove Café is another churros speciality store, churning out golden sticks of goodness coated with chocolate and sprinkled with sweet toppings. Kids will love the Marshmallow and Rainbow Sprinkles Signature Churros (S$3 each)—watch out for that sugar rush.
And for date night, Panamericana has you covered. Aside from the superb dishes presenting the best of the Pan American region (North America, South America, Central America and the Caribbean), they have possibly the best churros, served with dulce de leche. At S$12, it’s pricey but very worth it.
And if you can’t decide, McDonald’s has added Donut Sticks (S$2.20), sprinkled with cinnamon sugar, to its menu—it’s a cross between youtiao and churros, so you’ll get the best of both worlds.
Another common Singaporean dish, there’s a cai png stall in almost every hawker centre and coffee shop. It’s your regular, low-cost, quick-and-easy meal from the nearest food centre, so what could be its atas and Western counterpart?
Grimm & Co, Singapore-based branding and marketing agency has the answer: its elevated counterpart is the Singaporean protein bowl.
So, what exactly is cai png? Consisting of a rice base with vegetables and meat options, this simple meal is a staple for Singaporeans. While it’s a quick fix for your hunger pangs, some cai png stalls are simply better than others, and the quality of dishes, price and convenience are all important factors.
The old couple behind Hao Hua Cooked Food 豪华热食 in Chinatown Complex Food Centre brings us value-for-money homecooked food. Get the pillowy tofu and drench the plate with curry.
Ever had curry stingray at a cai png stall? Xin Kee Penang Famous Curry Vegetable Rice 鑫记槟城驰名咖喱菜饭 in Toa Payoh serves up soft and tender curry stingray, together with Malaysian-style dishes.
Prices can run pretty high for these atas cai png options, so drop by Beng Who Cooks in Hong Lim Market & Food Centre for affordable protein bowls. Even the Towkay Bowl (S$9), which is the most expensive choice, still keeps the damage under S$10.
For healthier options, head to Supergreek at Raffles City. The Flame Grilled Steak (S$13.90) comes with house-made Greek yoghurt, fatty roasted beef and exceptional hummus.
And if you’re feeling fancy, treat yourself to the customisable healthy bowls from GentleBros Café along Pickering Street. The ingredients are freshly cooked, and each bowl comes with one protein, one staple, and two vegetable options. You can add on other items which are priced separately—which can bump the price of a bowl up to S$25!
Whether you’re looking for a simple meal with a variety of dishes, or an elevated healthy grain bowl, you know you can find what you want in Singapore.
4. Chinese Bolognese (Zhajiangmian 炸酱面)
Bolognese pasta is the ultimate comfort food for me, with rich, meaty sauce and al dente pasta. Simple, yet hearty and filling. On the flip side, the iconic Northern Chinese dish zhajiangmian has the same comforting effect, which is why I thought these two dishes seem to be counterparts from different cultures.
The key component of bolognese pasta is the sauce—though what we Singaporeans are used to isn’t the same as the original Italian recipe. The bolognese sauce we know and love is tomato-based, and mixed with minced beef or pork. Often served with spaghetti, this is pretty simple to recreate in a home kitchen too.
If you’d like to indulge in bolognese pasta, affordable Wild Olives is a good choice. The fact that it’s located at Pasir Ris Central Hawker Centre should already be a giveaway—its prices start from S$5.20. The Homemade Meatball Bolognese (S$5.70) comes with carrot-flecked meatballs too!
Our halal friends can join us at Tipo in Bugis, an artisanal flavoured pasta restaurant where you can design your own pasta dishes. The Black Pepper Fettucine In Beef Ragu Topped With Ricotta Cheese (S$12.90++) consists of al dente black pepper flavoured fettuccine coated in thick Beef Ragu sauce. Creamy, sweet, peppery and simply delicious, this is a hearty meal indeed.
For pasta that’s both yummy and healthy, head to Genius Central at Far East Square. The Genius Bolognese Pasta (S$12.80) doesn’t contain meat, but it’s just as scrumptious as any bolognese pasta out there. Generously slathered with red sauce and topped with carrots, mushrooms, tomatoes, basil and oregano, it didn’t leave me feeling bloated, but was still pretty comforting and filling.
If your tastebuds tend towards Asian flavours, then zhajianmian might be more suitable for you.
A simple bowl of noodles served in a generous portion, the La Mian With Fried Sauce (S$3.50) from Ah Wang La Mian Xiao Long Bao at Zion Road is good for a quick, affordable meal.
Another hawker stall which offers this classic Chinese dish is You Peng Noodle Dumpling House at Beauty World. Although the signature soybean mixture doesn’t look all that appetising, you need to get a taste of the Special Sauce Noodles (S$4.50)—it’s simply slurp-worthy.
I wouldn’t be able to decide between bolognese pasta and zhajiangmian, so it’s a good thing that in Singapore, it’s easy enough to get the best of both worlds.
I’ve always had a special place in my heart (or rather, tummy) for min jiang kueh (also known as ban chiang kueh in Hokkien). Also known as Chinese pancake, this breakfast treat originates from Fujian, China.
Made with a batter that’s a blend of flour, eggs, yeast, sugar, and baking soda, min jiang kuehs are fluffy, chewy, and often moist.
Priced affordably, it’s not uncommon to find hawker stalls serving up these delicious morsels too. Frankie’s Peanut Pancake at Telok Ayer offers traditional min jiang kueh for just S$1 per piece. Specialising in only three kinds of min jiang kueh (Peanut, Red Bean Paste, and Peanut & Red Bean Paste), each bite is full of chewy and nostalgic goodness.
For those with more adventurous tastebuds, head to The Pantree at Marina One which offers 17 flavours for you to choose from. Sweet flavours like Nutella & Peanut (S$3.20) and Speculoos (S$3) are great for a snack, while savoury treats like Luncheon Meat & Cheese (S$3) will do for lunch.
Despite its similarities to pancake, Reddit has called min jiang kueh “Asian chewy crêpe”. For the uninitiated, crêpes are very thin pancakes, and can be sweet or savoury, and are often associated with France.
Sweet crêpes are made with wheat flour, while their savoury counterparts are made with non-wheat flours like buckwheat. The fillings are usually added to the centre of the crêpe, and sweet ones are good breakfast or dessert options, and savoury crêpes are good for lunch or dinner.
Save your stomach space for the French Apple Tart (S$13) from Eleven Strands opposite Serangoon Stadium. Though it’s called a tart, it’s actually a gorgeously-plated dessert with caramelised onions wrapped in thin, crispy crêpe and served with croquant and ice cream.
COMO Cuisine at Dempsey Hill serves up a more local version of the crêpe, bringing us the Pandan Crêpe (S$12). Pillowy-soft, a thin layer of fragrant pandan crêpe is wrapped around a refreshing, delectable mango, passionfruit and coconut sherbet.
I’ve always found crêpe desserts to be more of a sit-down affair, while min jiang kueh is easily enjoyed on the go. Both are equally welcome to get in my belly, though!
Roti prata or Asian flat croissant, Asian churros or youtiao—regardless of the name, I’m just as happy to devour them all. And whichever version you’re looking for, I’m sure there’s somewhere that offers just the right dish to satisfy your craving.
Let’s just all agree that Singapore is a wonderful treasure trove of multi-cultural dishes, and leave it at that.
Have you come up with any alternative names for our local dishes? Drop a comment and let us know!