Last Updated: March 21, 2018
Singapore is a melting pot of cuisines, 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 shophouses that are 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 two years to finish reading.
As a Singaporean, there is no excuse not to try these time-tested foods we all grew up with. As a tourist, this is a good check-list of authentic local cuisine in Singapore that you must eat 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.
One of the many stories of the invention of Bak Kut Teh is that during the olden days of Singapore, a poor, starving beggar came by a roadside pork noodle store to beg for food. The stall owner was in poverty, but wanted to help him.
He boiled some of the leftover pork bones and added whatever cheap spices he had to flavour the soup, including star anise and pepper which created a soup that resembled tea in terms of colour. Thus, pork bone tea was born. Another story claims that it was a tonic invented to ‘reinvigorate’ the Chinese coolies who worked in the Clark Quay area.
Bak Kut Teh has been around 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 of the pepper variety with mild use of herbs like star anise.
Choose pork rib 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.
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)
This Singapore wanton noodle dish 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 it spicy or not. The spicy type sees chilli mixed into the noodles, while the non-spicy kids version will have tomato sauce mixed in. The wanton dumplings may be either deep fried or come in the form of soup dumplings.
The Malaysian variant uses a darker-coloured sauce and sweeter tasting mee (noodles).
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 on Wed & Thur)
Parklane Zha Yun Tun Mee House: 91 Bencoolen Street, #01-53, Sunshine Plaza, Singapore 189652
No, this isn’t the Western 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’, thus giving rise to the dish name.
This is a Teochew dish popular in both Singapore and Malaysia. Variants include the ‘black’ version, which has 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.
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 alt. 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
Another Hong Kong/ Shanghai-inspired type of cuisine available in Singapore is Dim Sum or ‘Dian Xin’. This is not exactly one dish, but a set of small dishes to be savoured in a group – a typical Chinese dining sharing custom. Popular Dim Sum dishes include BBQ Pork Buns, Xiao Long Bao, Siew Mai, Chee Cheong Fun and many more.
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
The one and only traditional Singaporean breakfast – Kaya Toast with Soft-Boiled Eggs. The traditional bread is an old school rectangular white loaf, toasted on a bread grill, lathered with coconut or egg kaya, then slapped with a thick slice of SCS butter that slowly melts within two 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, they’re usually placed in a large hot water metal pot and covered with a plate. Then you time it and take out the eggs when they’re ready (about 7 – 10 minutes depending on how well you like your eggs).
Trying not to scream like a little girl, crack open the eggs with your bare hands onto one of the two plates given and throw the shells onto the remaining plate. Season with pepper and dark/light soya sauce. Dip the kaya toast into the eggy mixture for extra deliciousness!
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)
The two most famous styles of cooking crabs in Singapore are with a sweet, spicy tomato-ish 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.
To achieve a delicious texture, the crabs go through a two-step cooking process; they’re first boiled then fried so that the meat doesn’t stick to the shell. Recently, many new popular styles of cooking have surfaced as well, like salted-egg crabs or crab bee hoon.
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 created from the merging of Chinese and Malay cuisine, otherwise known as Peranakan culture. There are two main types of Laksa – Curry Laksa and Asam Laksa.
Curry Laksa is more predominant in Singapore, while Asam Laksa is more commonly found in Malaysian regions like Penang. In fact there are loads of variants of Laksa, differing in the type of fish used, broth and even noodles.
Traditional Singapore Curry Laksa uses vermicelli, coconut milk, tau pok (beancurd puffs), fish slices, shrimp and hum (cockles). Due to cost-cutting or taste preference, some stalls might opt out of shrimp and cockles.
A unique Singapore variant known as Katong Laksa features vermicelli that’s been cut into short pieces and is eaten only with a spoon. There is much debate on which establishment is the original Katong Laksa, but most bowls are delicious in their own way.
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
Is it Chinese, Indian or Malay? This is another ambiguous dish which probably has a South Indian origin, but has been 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 (aubergine). The Indian-style of curry has heavier spices and flavours, while the Chinese-style is lighter and sweeter. Variants include the Assam-style fish head curry, which has an added tinge of sourness from tamarind fruit (assam).
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 on 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
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 vinegary braised sauce that adds some wetness.
Typically, the dish is ordered ‘dry’ to savour the full flavours of the sauce and you can choose between chilli or ketchup, and the type of noodles that you would like. 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 homemade noodles that’s famous at Bedok Blk 85.
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
Popular in Singapore hawker centres as well as in Taiwan night markets, this is a dish that many foreigners and locals love. Stalls that sell Carrot Cake typically also sell Oyster Omelettes as it’s a similar cooking process that also utilises a common ingredient: Eggs.
Potato starch is usually mixed in when 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.
Simon Road Oyster Omelette: 965 Upper Serangoon Road, Mee Sek Coffeeshop, Singapore 534721 (closed on Tue)
Ang Sa Lee Oyster Omelette: 20 Kensington Park Road, Chomp Chomp, Singapore 557269 (closed on alt. Weds)
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 on Weds)
Related Guide: 11 Longest Queue Restaurants in Singapore
Singapore Hokkien Mee features a combination of fried 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 the creation 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 Hokkien Char Mee, which is covered in a signature thick dark sauce and uses only one type of egg noodles.
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 dish in Singapore. Stalls are not restricted to any race and may be operated by the 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 accompany Satay. A spicy peanut dip is also provided for the Satay and sides as well.
Kwong Satay: 549 Lorong 29 Geylang Road, Sing Lian Eating House, Singapore 389504 (closed on 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 on Mon & Thur)
In the past, having a fridge/freezer was as rare as winning TOTO (lottery); barbecuing or frying fishes to mask the fishy odour after being left out in the open for days was a popular cooking choice.
Also known as Ikan Bakar (barbecued fish), stingray used to be unpopular but has risen in price since Singaporean Malays figured out that sambal (chilli paste) on top of stingray = delicious. It is traditionally wrapped in banana leaf and barbecued, then a sambal paste made with belachan (dried shrimp paste), spices, shallots and Indian walnuts is smothered generously all over the top. Lime is usually squeezed over the fish right before eating as well.
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 on alt. Thur)
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 (glutinous rice balls), grass jelly or soya bean milk added as well.
In recent times, a popular and more gelatinous, jelly-like version of Tau Huay has surfaced and for a period of time, 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 distinct from the traditional types and some camps advocate against it due to unnatural stabilisers used. This version is only eaten cold as heat would break the structure.
Rochor Original Beancurd: 2 Short Street, Singapore 188211
Lao Ban Soya Beancurd (gelatinous type): #01-127 & #01-107 Old Airport Road Hawker Centre, 51 Old Airport Road (closed on Mon)
Selegie Soya Bean: 990 Upper Serangoon Road, Singapore 534734
A grinding machine is used to produce the mountain of shaved ice 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 top, along with red rose syrup and Sarsi syrup to produce the multi-coloured effect. Variations may include drizzling with gula melaka (palm sugar), adding ice cream or other novelty toppings like durian or chocolate syrup.
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
Another breakfast dish seen regularly in both Singapore and Johor, most stalls selling Chwee Kueh only open in the morning and close by lunch time. Rice flour and water are mixed together to form the rice cake, then put into little saucers and steamed to produce the typical bowl-like Chwee Kueh shape.
It is topped with chai poh (preserved radish) and chilli. Making Chwee Kueh is a dying trade that the young generation does not want to carry on, so try it before it’s gone forever.
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 Centre, Singapore 168898
Widely regarded by many as the ‘King Of Fruits’ in Southeast Asia and the national fruit of Singapore, our country has even modelled a building after one (The Esplanade). Most foreigners are turned off by the strong ‘pungent’ smell, while locals adore the flesh so much that they turn it into desserts, cakes, tarts and even shakes.
Many expensive and popular varieties 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 on trains and buses.
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 (or Briyani, Biriyani, Biriani and Birani) is a mixed rice dish of Indian Muslim influence made using distinctive long grain rice, usually Basmati rice. A little bit of saffron is added to give the dish its distinct colour. Meats like chicken, mutton, beef or fish is often included.
Spices used are also heavy in flavour like cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg and bay leaves. The resulting rice grains are usually very dry and can be accompanied by curry or chutney.
Bismillah Biryani Restaurant: 50 Dunlop Street, Singapore 209379
Taj Authentic Indian Cuisine: 214 South Bridge Road, Singapore 058763 (closed on Sun)
Ali Nachia Briyani Dam: 5 Tanjong Pagar Plaza, #02-04, Singapore 081005 (closed on Sun)
Koothurar: Block 17, Beach Road, Singapore 190017 (closed on alt Tues)
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. A typical Nasi Lemak set comes with Ikan Bilis (fried anchovies), peanuts, egg and sambal (chilli paste). A good sambal is arguably the mark of a good Nasi Lemak.
Nasi Lemak is so popular in Singapore, the other races have adopted this dish in their own variations and offer a wide selection of additional ingredients like fried chicken drumsticks, luncheon meat and sotong (cuttlefish) balls.
Ponggol Nasi Lemak: 965 Upper Serangoon Road, Singapore 534721 (closed on 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
The Coconut Club (upscale version): No. 6 Ann Siang Hill, Singapore 069787 (closed on Mon)
Popular among the Muslim community as well as the 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, beansprouts, tau pok (beancurd puff) and is garnished with chives.
Dju Dju Indonesian Food: Blk 304 Serangoon Ave 2, #01-14, Singapore 550304 (closed on 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
In the past, mobile hawkers would sell Mee Rebus by the roadside using a pole with a basket hanging at each end – one basket would hold the ingredients and the other contained a stove and boiling hot water.
Mee Rebus is a noodle dish that uses yellow egg noodles like the type in Hokkien Prawn Mee, with a brown, sweet peanut-ty 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 (the starch makes it thicker), curry powder, peanuts, dried shrimp and salted soy beans.
Afandi Hawa & Family Mee Rebus: Blk 14 Haig Road, #01-21, Haig Road Food Centre Singapore 430014 (closed on Wed & Thur)
Inspirasi Stall: Blk 207 New Upper Changi Road, #01-11, Bedok Town Centre Market and Food Centre, Singapore 460207 (closed on Thur)
Selera Kita: Blk 58 New Upper Changi Road, #01-182, Block 58 Market and Food Centre, Singapore 461058
Yet another cross-cultural dish 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, popular Roti Prata variants include adding cheese, eggs, mushroom, onions or even chocolates and strawberries to the batter. The dough is tossed, flipped and stretched multiple times into a large thin layer before folding the edges inwards.
Some outlets also stretch the dough so thin that 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 onto it.
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
What originally started as Fish Head Bee Hoon in the 1920s has slowly advanced to using fish slices or chunks of fish meat 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 mask the fishy odour after a few days, as back then refrigeration wasn’t as accessible. These days, boiled fish slices are now an available option.
The Fish Bee Hoon Soup broth is made from fish or pork bones that have been boiled for several hours, and some stalls might add evaporated milk for a fuller taste. Variants include adding XO cognac or brandy.
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: Blk 713 Clementi West Street 2 #01-115, Singapore 120713
Jin Hua Fish Head Bee Hoon: 1 Kadayanallur St, Maxwell Road Hawker Centre, Singapore 069184 (closed on Thur)
Singapore Chinese/Malay Rojak is a mixture of of you tiao (dough fritters), bean sprouts, tau pok (beancurd puffs), radish, pineapple, cucumber and roasted peanuts. Everything is then all mixed together with a sweet-savoury 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 are added and usually doesn’t include you tiao. Red gravy made with potato and spices is used in Indian Rojak instead. It is also tossed in peanut sauce.
Al Mahboob Indian Rojak: Blk 506, Tampines Ave 4, #01-361, Singapore 520506 (closed on alt. Wed)
Toa Payoh Rojak: Blk 51 Old Airport Road, #01-108, Old Airport Road Food Centre, Singapore 390051 (closed on Sun)
Hoover Rojak: 90 Whampoa Drive, #01-06 Whampoa Food Centre, Singapore 320090
More accurately known as Hainanese Chicken Rice, this is one of Singapore’s most well-known and celebrated dishes. 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’ (pictured), in contrast to the ‘white chicken’. The stalls 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, and the dish sometimes comes topped with sweet dark soy sauce and heaped spoons of chopped ginger.
Boon Tong Kee: 401 Balestier Road, Singapore 329801
Ming Kee Chicken Rice & Porridge: 511 Bishan Street 13, Singapore 570511 (closed on alt. Tues)
Tian Tian Chicken Rice: 1 Kadayanallur St, #01-10, Maxwell Road Hawker Centre, Singapore 069184 (closed on Mon)
Wee Nam Kee Hainanese Chicken Rice Restaurant: 101 Thomson Road, #01-08, United Square, Singapore 307591
Sometimes Chicken Rice stalls will sell Duck Rice as well, but the real good ducks are in specialised 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 (beancurd puffs), eggs and peanuts on the side. Teochews just love braised sauce. Both are equally yummy and have distinct taste profiles.
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
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 that from one fatty meal.
Cockles are also usually added, 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.
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 on alt. Mon)
Guan Kee Fried Kway Teow: Blk 20 Ghim Moh Road, #01-12, Ghim Moh Market And Food Centre, Singapore 270020
A Curry Puff is a small baked pie enclosed with either short crust or puff pastry, the former being the more traditional option in Singapore. A common local snack, the filling is usually made with curry gravy, chicken, potato and egg. Other variants include fillings with yam, sardines, otak (grilled fish cake) or even durian.
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 (there are five outlets in SG)
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 on Mon)
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 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 pomfret are the usual choices available in Fish Head Steamboat.
Old school steamboat places still use hot charcoal as a heat source, which apparently adds more flavour as compared to just using an 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.
Nan Hwa Chong Fishboat: 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, the last dish on this list to eat in Singapore before you die: Popiah. The Teochews 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 encases all the ingredients. A sweet sauce called hoisin is lathered onto the laid-out flat skin before fillings are added. Ingredients within a Popiah typically include small prawns, boiled eggs, Chinese sausage, lettuce, bean sprouts and primarily filled with cooked carrot and turnip strips.
Glory Catering: 139 East Coast Road, Singapore 428829 (closed on Sun)
Jit It Thai San Popiah 日益太山薄饼: Blk 449 Clementi Avenue 3, Singapore 120449
Qi Ji: Several outlets all over Singapore
Miow Sin Popiah & Carrot Cake: 380 Jalan Besar, #01-04, Lavender Food Square, Singapore 209000 (closed on 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 and what 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 on the history of our dishes.
The ‘best’ listed here is my personal bests, and you are definitely 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 predominantly from 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 and think that certain dishes listed here are not Singaporean, but as mentioned, Singapore adopts dishes from overseas and assimilates them into our culture. We’re shameless like that.
The hawker trade comprises a greying population with little interest from the more industrial driven Singapore youths today, so do support our local hawker heritage before it slowly fades away.
No matter if you are a local or a tourist, I hope this guide I’ve compiled gives you a better, more authentic picture of what local Singapore food is all about.