Travel Guides & Tips

Edible Singapore: Eat Your Way Around the Little Red Dot in 16 Dishes

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In Singapore, eating is usually an act of passion. Serious passion.

For a country so small, the variety of food that Singapore serves up is truly staggering. Here, eating is serious business—favourites are picked, allegiances are pledged and arguments are provoked. Google may tell you that Singapore’s national dish is chicken rice or chilli crab, but ask a couple of Singaporeans and you’ll discover that there are no right answers.

Here, we introduce top favourites to feast on all day long, from breakfast all the way to supper. Bring your appetite.

 

 

BREAKFAST

  1. KAYA TOAST, HALF-BOILED EGGS & COFFEE

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Tasty trinity

The classic Singaporean breakfast. There’s toast spread with a sweet creamy coconut jam known as kaya. Two half-boiled eggs. As well as the morning essential, coffee.

Most locals have a personal ritual when eating this. Some swear the eggs taste better when you mash them up and slurp them down, like a drink. Others insist on drinking their coffee with a spoon, like soup. And a few love dipping their toast into the runny eggs. Thankfully, this breakfast is as ubiquitous as it is delicious—which means plenty of chances for you to discover how you like it best.

Try it at:

Chin Mee Chin: 204 East Coast Rd. Open Tue–Sun, 8.30am–4pm.

Ya Kun Kaya Toast: Multiple outlets, including Bugis Junction, #B1-11. Open daily 7.30am–10pm with last orders half an hour before closing.

Most coffee shops islandwide: order from the drinks stall.

 

  1. CHWEE KUEH

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The kind of cake that’ll light up your morning; no candles necessary.

Springy, soft cake that’s as white as porcelain. That’s chwee kueh, which translates into ‘water cake’, a name that came about because freshly-steamed chwee kueh often has a small puddle of water in the centre.

Ironically, the real highlight of the dish isn’t the cake, but its toppings. The taste transformation happens with the preserved radish (chai poh), little brown bits that pack lots of flavour. Salty, sweet, crunchy and oh-so-satisfying.

Try it at:

Jian Bo Shui Kweh: Tiong Bahru Market, #02-05. Open 6.30am–10.30pm daily.

Bedok Chwee Kueh: 208 New Upper Changi Road, #01-19. Open 7am–11pm daily.

Ghim Moh Chwee Kueh: Ghim Moh Market, #01-31. Open 6.15am–7pm daily.

  1. PEANUT PANCAKE
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Childhood comforts for office folk at The Pantree (Photo by m__2)

This is one pancake that’ll remind you of your childhood days. For many locals, it’s because they grew up eating this. For tourists, it’s because there’s no way of eating this daintily. The peanuts within the pancake will spill, and it takes some skill to not get them all over yourself.

Then again, who wouldn’t want the fragrant aroma of roasted peanuts to trail them all day?

Also known as Mee Chiang Kueh, the traditional peanut pancake is thick and fluffy, but some stalls also do a thin and crispy version. Whichever you choose, just be careful not to eat it under a fan—or peanuts will fly.

Try it at:

Tanglin Halt Original Peanut Pancake: Tanglin Halt Market, Stall 16. Open Tue–Thu & Sat–Sun, 4.30am–11am.

Tiong Bahru Mian Jian Kueh: Tiong Bahru Market, #02-34. 30 Seng Poh Road. Open Tue–Sun, 6am–2pm.

The Pantree: CT Hub 2, 114 Lavender Street. Open Mon–Fri, 8.30am–5pm; Sat, 9am–3pm.

 

BRUNCH

  1. NASI LEMAK

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Tastes as good as it smells.

The aroma is what’ll first catch your attention, teasing your nose and triggering your salivary glands. That’s the magic of cooking rice in coconut milk. The magic doesn’t stop there. Pick a good place and the taste will always match up to (or even exceed) what the fragrance promises.

The rice is served with crispy anchovies (ikan bilis), roasted peanuts, egg, cucumbers, sweet-spicy sambal chili, and a choice between fried fish (ikan kuning) or fried chicken wings (this may vary across stalls). Yes, very indulgent—after all, you’re on holiday!

Try it at:

Selera Rasa Nasi Lemak: Adam Road Food Centre, #01-02. Open Sat–Thurs, 7am–5pm. (Halal-certified)

Pandan Leaf Nasi Lemak: Tanjong Pagar Plaza Market & Food Centre, #02-25. Open Mon–Sat, 6.30am–1pm.

Ponggol Nasi Lemak: Various outlets, including 371 Jalan Besar. Open Fri–Wed, 12pm–11pm.

 

  1. ROTI PRATA

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Eat with your hands.

Roti prata is a flatbread with Indian origins that has won over hearts from every race. Its secret? The irresistible traits of crispy and greasy. If there were prata eating instructions for optimal enjoyment, it would say: using your bare hands, tear a portion off, dip it into curry, and pop it in your mouth.

All prata places serve the plain or egg version, but many modern eateries also offer other variants, including cheese, bananas, mushrooms and plenty more. Wherever you choose, pick a seat that gives you a good view of the cooking action.

Try it at:

Mr and Mrs Mohgan’s Super Crispy Roti Prata: 7 Crane Road, Poh Ho Restaurant. Open 6.30am–1.30pm daily, except the third Tuesday and Wednesday of the month. (Halal-certified)

Casuarina Curry: 138 Casuarina Road. Open 7am–12am daily. (Halal-certified)

Sin Ming Roti Prata: 24 Sin Ming Road, Jin Fa Kopitiam. Open 6am–7pm daily. (Halal-certified)

 

  1. CARROT CAKE

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Definitely not the carrot cake you were thinking of.

Contrary to its name, there’s no carrot in this carrot cake. The carrot here refers to radish—what the Chinese call ‘white carrot’. You usually have a choice of either the white or the black version; the latter is flavoured by sweet, dark soy sauce.

Most people take sides, and they do so vehemently. The white is for purists. Black for those with a sweet tooth. As long as you know what you like, everyone eats in harmony.

 

Try it at:

Bukit Merah View Carrot Cake: Blk 115 Bukit Merah View Food Centre, #01-37. Open 7am–2pm; 6pm–1am.

Lau Goh Teochew Chye Thow Kway: Zion Riverside Food Centre, Stall 26. Open Wed–Mon, 12pm–2.30pm; 6pm–11pm.

Song Zhou Luo Bo Gao: 207 New Upper Changi Road, Bedok Interchange Food Centre, #01-18. Open Mon–Sat, 6.30am–8pm.

 

LUNCH

  1. CHAR KWAY TEOW

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Not a looker, but it makes up for it in the taste department.

Singapore is especially unkind to those on a no-carbs diet. The hero of some of her most irresistible dishes are made up of tasty carbohydrates. Like char kway teow (stir-fried noodles).

Two types of noodles, cooked in a sizzling hot cast-iron wok that might be older than you. Add Chinese sausage, bean sprouts and cockles. The noodle strands emerge glistening with oil and sauce that’ll dissolve all doubts you’ll have about the dish. A prime example of how chefs bring out the best in their ingredients—yes, even carb-laden noodles .

Try it at:

Hill Street Fried Kway Teow: Bedok South Road Market & Food Centre, #01-41. Open Tue–Sun, 10.30am–7.30pm.

Guan Kee Fried Kway Teow: Ghim Moh Market, #01-43. Open Tue–Wed & Fri–Sat, 9.30am–2.30pm.

No. 18 Zion Road Fried Kway Teow: Zion Riverside Food Centre, Stall 17. Open 12.30pm–2.30pm; 6.30pm–10pm daily.

 

  1. HOKKIEN MEE

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If char kway teow is yin, hokkien mee is yang.

Like char kway teow, hokkien mee is also a stir-fried noodle dish. However, the two dishes could not be more different. While char kway teow is dark brown, hokkien mee is at the other end of the colour spectrum—yellow and white noodles topped with beansprouts, squid and prawns.

What’s served to you on the plate is not quite dry, but not really wet—perfect for slurping. The essence of hokkien mee is from the few ladle-scoops of prawn-heads-and-pork-bones stock used while frying. Proof that when something is truly good, even a little will make a huge difference.

Try it at:

Geylang Lor 29 Hokkien Mee: 396 East Coast Road. Open Tue–Sun, 11.30am to 9.30pm.

Nam Sing Hokkien Fried Mee: Old Airport Road Food Centre, #01-32. Open 7am–8pm. May be closed sporadically.

Come Daily Fried Hokkien Prawn Mee: Blk 127 Toa Payoh Lorong 1, #02-27. Open Tue–Sun, 9.30am–6pm.

 

  1. NASI BRIYANI

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Colourful and flavourful. An unbeatable combo.

Long grain basmati rice with beautiful hues of dark orange, light orange, yellow, a few whites…probably the most colourful plate of rice you’ll ever eat.

This is briyani, and unlike many modern food fads, the colour here is not from colouring agents. Instead, it’s from as many as 14 different spices used in cooking—which also means it’s likely to be the most flavourful plate of rice you’ll ever have.

Try it at:

Geylang Briyani Stall aka Hamid’s Briyani: Geylang Serai Market, #01-327. Open Tue–Sun, 9am–5pm. (Halal-certified)

Zam Zam: 697/699 North Bridge Road. Open 8am–11pm daily. (Halal-certified)

Allauddin’s Briyani: Tekka Centre, #01-297. 665 Buffalo Road. Open 8am–3pm. (Halal-certified)

 

  1. LAKSA

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Sungei Road Laksa: so delicious, you’ll finish every drop.

Tasting laksa is a little like seeing cosplay dressers for the first time. It’s unexpected, but you’re both curious and fascinated. “It’s orange?”; “Uhh…there’s no chopsticks?”; “What’s this I’m tasting?” What you’re tasting is a coconut-based spicy noodle soup dish with fish paste slices and prawns, but the experience is much more memorable than its description.

The best part is, laksa comes in many variants, depending on the stall you’re visiting. Some are more spicy than others. Or more coconutty. Others are less heavy and hence more drinkable. That just means you’ll get surprised over and over again. Definitely an unforgettable dish.

Try it at:

Sungei Road Laksa: 27 Jalan Berseh, #01-100. Open Thu–Tue, 9.30am–5.30pm.

328 Katong Laksa: 53 East Coast Road. Open 8am–10pm daily.

Wei Yi Laksa & Prawn Noodle: Tanglin Halt Market, #01-20. Open Tue–Sun, 5.30am–2pm

  1. OYSTER OMELETTE

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It’s addictive—you’ve been warned.

Oyster omelette or “orh luak” doesn’t look very appealing, but that changes with your first taste. This isn’t just your typical omelette with oysters thrown in. A flour mix is used to give the eggs extra crisp, and fish sauce adds that savoury oomph that’ll keep you coming back for more.

Just ask New York Times food critic Pete Wells; he named it as one of his top dishes of 2015.

Try it at:

Simon Road Oyster Omelette: Mee Sek Food Court, 965 Upper Serangoon Road. Open Wed–Mon, 4pm–2am.

Ah Chuan Fried Oyster Omelette: Kim Keat Palm Market and Food Centre, Stall 25. Blk 22 Toa Payoh Lorong 7. Open Wed–Mon, 3pm–9pm.

Lim’s Fried Oyster: Berseh Food Centre, #01-32. 166 Jalan Besar. Open 6pm–12am daily.

 

DINNER

  1. CHICKEN RICE

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If you think chicken tastes bland, this will change your mind.

Unlike beef, chicken really isn’t a meat that many would claim they love. When it comes to chicken rice however, it’s an entirely different story. This is a dish that some wholeheartedly believe should be Singapore’s national dish. A dish so popular that it remains the main draw for many successful chain outlets and franchises islandwide. A dish that Gordon Ramsay believes shouldn’t be underestimated.

Rice good enough to be eaten on its own. Chicken poached to perfection. Who knew the humble bird could taste this good?

Try it at:

Tian Tian Hainanese Chicken Rice: Maxwell Food Centre, #01-10/11. Open Tue–Sun, 11am–8pm.

Boon Tong Kee: Multiple outlets including 425 River Valley Road. Open Mon–Sun, 11.15am–4pm (last orders at 3.45pm) and 4.30pm–3am (last orders at 2.45am).

Tong Fong Fatt Hainanese Boneless Chicken Rice: Multiple outlets, including Ghim Moh Market, #01-49. Open 10am–9pm.

 

  1. CHILLI CRAB

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Sauce worth licking.

Chilli crab remains one of Singapore’s most popular dishes—but the name is a little bit of a misnomer because the sauce that accompanies the crab is usually more sweet than spicy. In fact, the ‘chilli sauce’ contains tomato paste as well. The good news is, that doesn’t make it any less delicious and those who are not accustomed to spicy dishes can still enjoy it!

Just don’t forget to order some mantou (bread buns) to soak up all the sauce—it’s too good to waste.

Try it at:

Melben Seafood: 232 Ang Mo Kio Avenue 3, #01,1222. Open 4.30pm–11.30pm daily.

Ga Hock Seafood Restaurant: 794 Upper Bukit Timah Road, Hup Choon Eating House. Open 4pm–11pm daily.

Master Crab Seafood Restaurant: Blk 19 Ghim Moh Road. Open 4pm–1.30am daily.

 

 

  1. STEAMBOAT

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Slurp!

Steamboat is all about the soup, and there’s something about soup that just makes you feel good—it’s essentially comfort-in-a-pot. Some are chicken-flavoured, some are fish-flavored, and all are full-flavoured.

Many of these places have been around for ages, with a flavour that has been unchanged since decades ago—if it’s this good, there’s no need to change it. Tastes good on all days, but even better on rainy days.

Try it at:

Whampoa Keng Fishhead Steamboat: 556 Balestier Road. Open 11am–11pm daily.

Thien Kee Steamboat Restaurant: 6001 Beach Road, #B1-20 Golden Mile Tower. Open 11am–9pm daily.

Xin Heng Feng Guo Tiao Tan: Blk 91 Whampoa Drive, Whampoa Market #01-14/15. Open Wed–Sun, 5pm–9.30pm.

 

  1. BAK KUT TEH

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A celebration of porky flavours.

This “meat bone tea” really isn’t a tea, but a peppery, garlicky pork rib broth flavoured with plenty of spices, suitable for any time of the day. This is nourishing food at its tastiest. After all, it is rumoured to be invented by a Chinese physician.

The pork ribs are best eaten by hand, like a drumstick. Before you bite, dip it in the chilli and dark soy sauce mix. If you’re an adventurous eater, make sure you order a side of pig intestines!

Try it at:

Song Fa Bak Kut Teh: Multiple outlets, including 11 New Bridge Road, #01-01. Open Tue–Sun, 9am–9.15pm.

Ng Ah Sio Bak Kut Teh: Multiple outlets, including 208 Rangoon Road. Open Tue–Sun, 7am–10pm.

Founder Bak Kut Teh: Multiple outlets, including 154 Rangoon Road. Open Thu–Tue, 9am–11pm.

 

SUPPER

  1. DURIAN

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Trust me, it tastes better than it smells. Or looks. Finger-licking good. (Photo by smelliemellie12)

From the thorny husk to the stinky flesh, the King of Fruits is King for a reason—you can love or hate it, but you can never ignore it. Top favourite among locals is the Mao Shan Wang, a premium cultivar that promises a rich and buttery taste that’s both sweet and bitter.

There are two important tips to heed when it comes to durians. The first is to eat at the right stalls. You don’t want to be overpaying for durians of a lousy grade. The second is to go early, or call to reserve your durians. The reputable stalls sell out quickly—yes, Singaporeans love their durians.

 

Try it at:

Combat Durian: 249 Balestier Road. Open daily 12pm–10pm. 9278 9928.

Sindy Durian: 89 Whampoa Drive, #01-835. Open 10am–10pm daily. 9710 2427.

Ah Seng Durian: Ghim Moh Market, #01-119 to #01-122. Open Mon–Fri, 12.30pm–8.30pm; Sat–Sun, 12.30pm–7pm. 9465 6160.

 

The truth is, these 16 dishes aren’t all that Singapore has to offer—she has a lot more in her wok. A truly exhaustive guide to eating in Singapore isn’t one that a local can finish eating, let alone visitors.

What you can be assured of, is that these dishes are very much the heart and soul of Singapore’s shared stomach, and are ideal if you’re prepared for an extremely high-calorie holiday.

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