14 Best Singaporean Local Cuisine and Foods You Must Try
SINGAPORE AND THE HAWKER CULTURE THAT YOU KNOW
Singaporean cuisine is as ethnically diverse as its people, blending Malay, Chinese, Indonesian, Indian and Indian influences. A trip to a few of the hawker centres or shopping mall food courts will probably be as eye-opening as gastronomically gratifying.
Hawker Culture, between the practice of dining and mingling at hawkers centres over food prepared by hawkers, is an integral part of the Singapore way of existence. Throughout the formative years of Singapore’s independence, hawkers and local communities, with the assistance of the authorities, came together to build up hawker centres, supplying secure livelihoods for hawkers and affordable meals for the people. Today, hawker centres across Singapore continue to serve the needs of diverse communities in recreational, residential and business districts.
Hawker civilisation is permitted by hawkers in Singapore, who maintain the culinary practices connected with food dishes prepared at hawker centres. The food reflects the multicultural make-up of Singapore, comprising mostly Chinese, Chinese and Indian as well as many different cultures. Hawkers at Singapore take inspiration from the confluence of cultures, experimentation, and adapting dishes to local tastes and context, representing a living food heritage through generations.
Hawker centres serve as”community dining rooms” where people from varied backgrounds share the experience of dining over breakfast, lunch and dinner. An individual can see freshly prepared food at the hawker stalls and hear multi-lingual exchanges made over meals in a lively atmosphere. A standard hawker centre includes many food and drink stalls, and a shared seating area. Dining at a hawker centre is a quintessentially Singaporean experience, allowing one to experience a wide variety of multicultural food and drinks at affordable rates. It’s common for people and even strangers to eat and interact in the same table regardless of religious or dietary differences.
This (non-exhaustive) list by Tropika Club covers what we think are the best examples of Singaporean food available across the city-state, from humble road food carts to swanky rooftop restaurants and all in between.
1. CHILLI CRAB
Chilli crab was encouraged by the Singapore Tourism Board among Singapore’s national dishes, and are available in fish restaurants all around the island. It’s traditionally eaten with bare hands as a way to savour the delicious crab meat using its sweet and hot chilli sauce. Restaurants often offer wet towels or even a washing machine bowl with lime for diners to wash their hands after their meal.
CNN Go listed chilli crab among the”world’s 50 most tasty foods”, at Number 35
2. CHAR KUAY TEOW
Char kway teow is a popular noodle dish from Maritime Southeast Asia, notably in Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, and Brunei. In Hokkien, Char means “stir-fried” and kway teow refers to flat rice noodles. The dish is considered a national favourite in Malaysia and Singapore. A traditional plate of char kway teow could not be done without lard, which delights the dish with special flavors. These days, in the healthier version of this delicious fried noodle dish, lard is replaced by oil, and more vegetables are added in.
A traditional plate of char kway teow could not be done without lard, which delights the dish with special flavors. These days, in the healthier version of this delicious fried noodle dish, lard is replaced by oil, and more vegetables are added in.
“Satay” basically refers to skewered and grilled meat, served with a spicy sauce that tends to involve peanuts. What kind of meat is used? That depends on personal preference. This dish can be made with chicken, pork, beef, lamb, or even fish.
4. HAINANESE CHICKEN RICE
When you see succulent cooked poultry hanging neatly in a row in a food booth, you’re looking at one of Singapore’s national dishes–Hainanese Chicken Rice.
A ubiquitous sight in hawker centres throughout the nation, it is also on the menu at several major restaurants and even resort cafes. All provide the same dish at varying costs: bite-sized pieces of chicken–or even an entire chicken if you are eating as a big set –served with fragrant rice, spicy chilli and ginger paste.
The recipe for the dish is adapted from ancient Chinese immigrants in Hainan Island, off the southern coast of China. They utilise a specific fowl that is bony and fibrous and serve the chicken with oily rice. A ground green chilli dip rounds off the dish.
5. BAK KUT TEH
Bak kut teh is a Chinese soup broadly served in Singapore, and its name translates as”meat bone tea”, and at its simplest, includes meaty pork ribs simmered in a complex broth of herbs and spices (such as star anise, cinnamon, cloves, dang gui, fennel seeds and garlic) for hours. Bak kut teh is generally eaten with rice, and Bak kut teh is typically a great morning meal.
The Bak Kut Teh tradition dates back to the 19th century when Chinese immigrants in Singapore and Malaya utilised pork ribs and herbs like star anise, fennel seeds, cloves and coriander to boost their energy. The soup was also found to have positive benefits for people with ailments such as rheumatism, and it soon grew to become very popular among Chinese migrant workers. The Hokkien and Teochew are traditionally tea-drinking cultures, and the significance of Bak Kut Teh runs deep within their cuisines.
6. NASI LEMAK
Nasi lemak is a dish which comprises rice made fragrant with coconut cream and pandan leaves. A light meal that is believed to be more Malay in origin, it’s traditionally accompanied by fried anchovies, sliced cucumbers, fried fish called ikan selar, and a sweet chili sauce.
Katong laksa is motivated by the Peranakans* that reside at the Katong area. It’s a hot soup stock that the colour of a flaming sunset, flavoured with coconut milk and dried beans, and topped with ingredients such as cockles, prawns and fishcake.
Its defining feature is that the noodles: thick vermicelli cut into shorter pieces which may be readily slurped up using a spoon. At some stalls, you merely receive a spoon to eat the laksa–no more chopsticks required.
The flavor is indeed sought-after that Katong laksa has moved past the east to achieve each corner in Singapore, due to franchising and enterprising laksa stalls imitating the tastes.
8. ROTI PRATA
Crispy on the outside, soft on the inside, roti prata hits the spot every time. A South-Indian flatbread made by skillet soup flavoured with ghee (Indian clarified butter), it’s usually served with fish or mutton curry.
Roti signifies bread’, and prata or paratha means’level’ in Hindi. Some believe that the dish evolved from original pancake recipes out of Punjab in India, but around the causeway in Malaysia, the flatbread is known as roti canai, which some say is a nod to its roots from Chennai.
Regardless of where it comes from, roti prata is a satisfying meal for virtually any hour of the day. While the classic versions are served plain or with eggs as a filling, neighbourhood menus now feature an assortment of modern variations such as chocolate, cheese, ice-cream, and even durians — turning it from a major course into a dessert.
9. BAK CHOR MEE
Bak chor mee is a Singaporean noodle dish broadly sold as street food in hawker centres and food courts.  The noodles are thrown in vinegar, minced beef, pork pieces, pork liver, stewed chopped mushrooms, beef balls and pieces of deep-fried lard. Bak chor mee may be sorted into two variations: a sterile variant and a soup variant. Most ironic models have slices of stewed mushroom, minced pork, pieces of pork and sometimes fried ikan bilis, atop noodles tossed in a punchy chilli-vinegar sauce, while soup variations are famous for the thickness of pork flavour in its own broth. Singapore’s bak chor mee was recorded as the very best world road food by World Street Food Congress.
10. PRAWN MEE
The humble prawn noodle, otherwise called “hae mee” at Hokkien, is a comforting noodle dish that is hugely aromatic and savoury beyond compare. Flavoured using a combination of pork bones and prawn heads, prawn noodle is a dish that is fundamentally simple yet always ends up tasting different where you go.
Popiah is a Fujianese/Teochew-style fresh spring roll. Popiah is often eaten in the Fujian of China and its neighbouring Chaoshan and in Taiwan, during the Qingming Festival. In the Chaoshan dialect, popiah means “thin wafer”.
12. CHAR SIEW RICE
Char siu literally means “fork roasted” (siu being burn/roast and cha being fork, both noun and verb) after the traditional cooking method for the dish: long strips of seasoned boneless pork are skewered with long forks and placed in a covered oven or over a fire. In Singapore, Char Siew Rice is a char siew with plain white jasmine rice and a delicious sweet drizzle.
13. OYSTER OMELETTE
Should you ever ask me precisely what the signature dish of the Hokkien people is, I’d reply this is it: the oyster omelette. Throughout the Min-language speaking areas (from all of Fujian province in China, the whole of Taiwan and also the Min-speaking Teochew community from Canton, into the Hokkien diaspora in Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia and the Philippines)this dish is still eaten regardless of in which the Min people land up.
Shellfish is a staple of those Min people because these flourish along the shallow rocky coastline of the Fujian province by the South China sea. Locals have a particular penchant for oysters, long before the French climbed madly about them. And they also use them in a different standard Hokkien dish, the Rice Vermicelli Soup with Oysters, that’s currently the national dish of Taiwan.
14. FISH HEAD CURRY
If it comes to meals in Singapore, fish head curry is perhaps the city country’s most renowned dishes. Formerly, it was a small puzzle regarding the roots of fish head curry. Still, thanks to some recent information coming to light by the English newspaper Tabla, it’s now pretty much undisputed that it had been invented by a guy named “MJ Gomez” who conducted a Indian restaurant together Sophia Road (his initials stood for”Marian Jacob”). On the other hand, the date of this dish creation is somewhat vague, some states 1949, some states 1952. But what’s most important is that this dish is here to stay.