Singapore’s multi-ethnic culture and heritage combines for a cuisine that’s full of flavour: a mix of Chinese, Indian, Malaysian and Indonesian influences. There’s plenty of seafood, hot spices, and dishes that are served at both budget hawker centres and fine dining restaurants. As for the must-eat traditional Singaporean dishes? Fish curries, fragrant broths and the famous chicken and rice await…
Must-Try Traditional Singaporean Dishes
1. Hainanese Chicken Rice
This is Singapore’s ‘national’ dish. You’ll find it at almost every dining spot, from humble hawker centres to high-end restaurants. The Hainanese version consists of poached chicken, rice cooked in chicken stock and a chilli dipping sauce.
2. Chilli Crab
Chilli crab is among Singapore’s tastiest culinary inventions, the king of all crab dishes. It is easily available in most seafood restaurants, which usually serve it with mud crabs that have sweet and juicy flesh. Scoop up the tomato-y, spicy sauce with fried or steamed buns, called mantou.
3. Kaya Toast
Kaya is a crunchy, sweet jam of coconut and eggs. Locals eat this for breakfast, alongside softboiled eggs and a piping hot cup of kopi (coffee). The ‘classic’ Kaya Toast consists of a sliver of butter and a splash of kaya, between paper-thin toasts.
4. Fried Kway Teow
Also known as ‘char kway teow’ in Singapore, this hearty wok-fried noodle dish has been a popular Singaporean hawker staple for decades. This ‘poor man’s dish’ comes from the region of Chaozhou, in China’s Guangdong province. It’s a noodle dish of lup cheong (Chinese waxed sausage), egg, fishcake and beansprouts, all stir-fried in lard with prawns.
5. Fish Head Curry
Fish head curry is unique to Singapore. It mixes the spices of a typical South Indian curry with the fish head, a delicacy among the Chinese. Feeling brave? Dive into the fish head curry the old-school Singaporean way, by eating the eyes of the fish.
There’s lots of types of laksa (spicy coconut milk-based noodle soup) in Singapore–from the tamarind-tang of Penang laksa to the curry-like Sarawak laksa. But, it’s the Katong laksa that’s the most famous. The main difference is its thick vermicelli cut into shorter pieces – slurp them up straight from the spoon!
7. Fried Carrot Cake
No, this has nothing to do with the sweet dessert cake! Similar to a Chinese rice cake, you’ll find this savoury radish and cake in every hakwer centre. It comes black (with sweet dark soya sauce) or white (original).