If you are interested in Singapore food, the city’s culinary attractions will not let you down. Even if you’re not the world’s most devout foodie tourist or you’re just in the city on a business trip, you still have to eat!
Singapore’s food history starts with the country’s long-established Malay people. The city’s aromas mix with the herbs and ingredients native to the region, and the spices of Chinese and Indian immigrants. With a touch of British sensibility, Singapore’s chefs and moms have developed a unique attitude towards food that favours the bold. Mix in the tropical climate’s bountiful and often unusual harvest of fruits and vegetables and a food landscape that’s as eccentric as it is tasty begins to appear (durian anyone?).
While the British may not be known for their food, Singapore has adopted their widespread tea culture of delectable desserts and treats during high and afternoon tea, served daily with a tropical twist; often adding one-of-a-kind distinct flavors to traditional cakes and sweets.
Singapore’s top gourmet restaurants and small street fair both offer inventive cuisine of East and West with a unique signature that has no other worldly comparison. The cheapest Michelin Star restaurant in the world is located here, along with countless eateries serving the most exotic Singapore food. So, what to eat on a day out in Singapore? Read on to find out!
Singapore Food #1 – (Breakfast) Kaya Toast and a Cup of the Local Brew
When you wake up from a long jet-lagged nap, even at 2 a.m., sometimes the best breakfast is the simplest one –especially if it’s served 24 hours a day. Start your day off in Singapore with a simple but savory Kaya toast and a cup of the local brew; plain Kaya toast is normally accompanied by a fruity, fresh coconut egg jam and soft-boiled eggs.
As Singapore foods go, the toast is usually served thin and golden brown for extra crunchiness. Add a hearty cup of local black coffee, and to top it off, a sprinkle of soya sauce for the eggs to give them that extra ‘umph’! This is a traditional slice of daily life for many Singaporeans that you can enjoy for cheap any time of the day throughout the city.
Singapore Food #2 – (Breakfast Dish 2) Roti Prata and Teh Tarik
If you happen to base yourself in the city’s colorful Little India, leaving without trying Roti Prata and Teh Tarik for breakfast would be a miss. Originally hailing from the Indian subcontinent, with a local twist, Roti Prata and Teh Tarik are a Singapore pairing many in the neighborhood can’t live without.
Roti Prata is a soft flaky crêpe or flatbread served with a sweet milk tea known as Teh Tarik. The combo can go for as little as 2 Singapore dollars. Doughy and sometimes smothered in buttery ghee, Roti Prata is often made with eggs (but also can be made without) and is paired with a hearty lentil-based sweet-curry sauce for dipping. Frothy Teh Tarik is a relaxing natural tea with added carnation milk. All in all, a sweet and satisfying one-two coupling that is perfect to set off on your travels throughout the city.
Food #3 – (Pre-Lunch Snack) Satay
For the foodies out there craving a tantalizing serving of grilled meat for a pre-lunch snack at one of the city’s many food stalls, you don’t have to look too far. No foodie trip to Singapore is complete without a taste of Satay. This traditional food is a staple from Malaysia to Indonesia’s most remote islands.
Satay is essentially Malay-style meat (usually chicken or beef, but also pork and mutton) served on a stick. Satay is paired with a side dish of rice and dipped in a savory peanut sauce. If you’re more inclined to try something a little different dipping-wise, cucumber relish mixed with spicy chili offers a fresh, tangy alternative. If you happen to be a fan of turmeric, this strong yellow spice is vital in giving the satay meat its alluring scent and delectable flavoring.
Singapore Food #4 – (Lunch) Barbecued Stingray
When it comes to lunchtime, why not go exotic? The barbecued stingray is a great place to start. As strange as it may sound, this Singapore dish has been served up for a generation in the city’s best street joints. Since then, grilled stingray has garnered a lot of attention, most notably as a seafood delicacy in recent years.
Although different stalls offer different takes on this Singapore food, the original recipe includes a glaze sauce made of shrimp paste and freshly diced tomatoes with spicy chilis to give the sauce a red-hot spicy kick and vibrant color. After the sauce, comes the banana leaf—carefully wrapped then skillfully and slowly grilled. So, what does stingray taste like? The flavor has been compared to shark meat, but its juice can produce a tingling sensation that has a slight sting or kick, making it a truly unique culinary experience as well as a modern local delicacy.
Singapore Food #5 – (Lunch Dish 2) Hokkien Prawn Mee
When the sun starts hitting peak position at around 1 o’clock, the heat might entice you into one of countless local restaurants to cool off and get a few nibbles in. As you may imagine, being an island nation, the catch in Singapore is good—making it a great place for seafood. Out of countless seafood dishes to try, the stir-fried Hokkien noodles are served piping hot, with fresh prawns, thick egg noodles, crisp, bright vegetables, and savory chicken (or pork depending on your preference).
A local favorite for Singapore natives and tourists alike, meat variations also include squid, tofu, and fish cake often doused in a tangy soy sauce base with hints of cilantro and chilis. To get this Singapore food that added freshness, every bowl is served with a green lime wedge to balance the dish’s deep sauce; it’s the perfect ying to Hokkien Prawn Mee’s yang!
Singapore Food Tours: An Experience You Can’t Miss
If you’re a foodie, or if you simply like to cook (or learn how to cook for that matter), don’t miss out on the best way to enjoy and learn about the Singapore’s best culinary pleasures by joining a cultural cooking class. The class takes you through 3 dishes in 3 hours and the right chops to make local dishes at home.
Get your brain and tastes buds going with Laksa, Hainanese Chicken Rice, Satay and the right way to prepare them, all in a fun and relaxing environment. Classes tend to book in advance so make sure to make that reservation before your trip!
If cooking isn’t really your thing, how about a gourmet bus tour which mixes a day of sightseeing and great food? The tour bus travels through a day’s worth of stops at the city’s most iconic sightseeing spots (including Marina Bay Sands, Gardens by the Bay, the Singapore Flyer, the Esplanade Theatre and more) between lunch, high tea, and dinner. Dinner service also includes ‘Garden Rhapsody’ light and sound show at the city’s famed Supertree Grove, along with VIP service. A simple and unforgettable way to enjoy the city’s best views, along with its greatest flavours.
Food #6 – (Dinner Starter) Laksa
If you decide to opt out on a VIP gourmet bus tour for dinner, Singapore food has dishes to meet every taste preference and budget. Laksa is a traditional savory dish that satisfies tastes buds both high and low. This curry soup is an Asian hodge-podge of the most complementary flavors from far and wide.
Perfect for curry enthusiasts, this dish is served with rice noodles doused in a creamy coconut curry base, and chalk-full of fresh prawns, deep-fried fish cakes, eggs, and of course who can forget, savory, tender chicken slices. Often referred to as a hybrid cuisine bridging Chinese and Malay sensibilities, many cooks offer various takes on the Laksa, though the main staple in Singapore food usually includes individually sliced noodles and slow cooked chicken.
Singapore Food #7 – (Dinner) Hainanese Chicken Rice
Often served on street stalls or small restaurants, don’t let the looks of this dish fool you, it packs all the flavor of some of the more complex dishes on this list, albeit in a simple and savory way. The name says it all—succulent chicken served piping hot, often marinated in chicken stock over a bowl of rice. If you’re looking for a simple, yummy dish that’s fast and tastes amazing, the Hainanese chicken rice will hit the spot. Tender sultry chicken is cut into bite-size pieces and topped with fresh coriander for good measure. The key here, is the chicken sauce which usually marinates for a few hours before being served hot over sticky rice. Convenience and flavor all packed into one dish!
You probably won’t want to stop there since Singapore’s Chinatown is a destination in its own right for its endless options and unique takes on traditional dishes. The best way to enjoy its savors is through an intimate culinary food tour. Singapore is simply one of the best places for a night-time or evening food tour since the city is warm year-round, options are packed and closed together, and there are many different styles and flavors to complement a full range of options. Visit Chinatown’s best restaurants and street food through a guided tour with a local-connoisseurs here.
Singapore Food #8 – (Dinner Dish 2) Fish Head Curry
While strolling through Little India for a late-night dinner, one is bound to bump into endless enticing smells and colors from across the Indian sub-continent all vying for your sensory attention. Singapore’s Little India is known as a microcosm of Indian ingredients that sometimes aren’t even available in the homeland itself; top-quality Rajasthani fenugreek leaf, you bet! —Kerala cinnamon, sure thing!
At this late in the game, you’ll probably want to stick with something tried and true. Although originating as a south Indian dish and migrating over to Singapore, Fish Head Curry is loved by natives and locals alike, and for good reason. Even if fish isn’t your thing, this dish features a fish head slowly marinated in a delectable ruby, red curry sauce and cooked with fresh vegetables for a hearty, healthy meal.
While a fish head may not sound super tasty, the idea is to bring out the flavor through a slow cooking process that makes it both subtle and complex. The dish is typically paired with a local juice (freshly squeezed limes and cane sugar to balance out the sauce’s creamy texture). Just like many of the dishes included in this list, Malay and Chinese variations have added their own unique touches, in some cases, tamarind juice is included in the sauce for tang and zest, sweetness and add a pinch of sourness.
Food #9 – (Dessert) Ice Kacang
Served year-round on the street to alleviate the effects of the hot, humid weather, Ice Kacang is even tastier at night after a good meal. In Singapore, the saying goes—’you can never go wrong with Ice Kacang’. This refreshing treat has variations throughout Asia, but the Singaporean variety is perhaps the most ridiculously decadent of them all.
Ice Kacang, which literally translates to “bean ice”, is shaved ice topped with an array of sweet ingredients which are stacked for a picture-worthy dessert. Common toppings include, grass jelly, cubes of agar-agar jelly, aloe vera, nata de coco, evaporated/coconut milk, roasted peanuts, corn—you name it! The stack is topped with red rose syrup or Sarsi syrup for a bright-red and/or green splash of color. You want a ball of ice-cream on top? No problem! When it comes to Singapore style Ice Kacang, the more the merrier.
Singapore Food #10 – (Dessert 2) Pandan Cake
Pandan cake is a staple dessert known throughout the world as one of Singapore’s most heavenly. The traditional Pandan cake is a delicate chiffon dessert colored pale green with a light fluffy texture—it’s the perfect extravagance after a heavy meal. This traditional Singapore dessert gets its name and unique green color from natural Pandan leaves and is considered the staple cake of high and afternoon tea.
After you’ve had your fill of delicious curry dishes, tender chicken slices, egg noodles, street meats and desserts, relax and enjoy this Singapore food that is as much a symbol of Singapore as Marina Bay Sands may be. Don’t worry, you can hit the gym tomorrow!
While you’re visiting Singapore, you will find an endless number of local dishes awaiting for you. You might be hard-pressed for choice amongst the ever-expansive compendium of delicious local dishes on offer. For those who need a little nudge in the right direction, culinary experiences that will expand your horizons, like a helpful cooking class or a gourmet bus tour, are excellent ways to get your feet wet. One thing’s for sure—Singapore’s local dishes will not disappoint!
PS: If you are interested to learn 10 weird things about Singapore, feel free to read this blog post: Singapore Facts.