Street Food of Singapore
Singapore is a country passionate about food. Chances are that during your time in Singapore you will get a recommendation from a random local about what to eat and where to eat it. This could be your Uber driver, hotel concierge or somebody you meet on the street whilst asking for directions!
Singapore has a host of fine dining options with quite a few restaurants listed in Asia’s top 50. However to truly immerse yourself in the Singaporean food culture, you have to hit the hawker centres to hunt out street food.
Singaporean food culture is a glorious melting pot of the Chinese, Malay, Indian, Indonesian, Portuguese and English culinary traditions. The beauty of Singaporean cuisine is how each ethnic group has subtly tweaked their cuisine to suit the climate and the Singaporean palate.
Start your day at a Kopitiam (a traditional coffee house) for Singaporean coffee, known as Kopi. It is served black and sweet! To accompany your morning caffeinated beverage Kaya toast is the perfect choice. It is charcoal grilled white bread (no crusts) spread with Kaya jam. This is a coconut and pandan jam made with eggs and sugar. Kaya toast is usually served with salted butter and runny soft boiled eggs. You can add a dash of soy sauce and white pepper to season the eggs.
This is a Chinese dish that is popular in Singapore and Malaysia. A thin wheat crepe is filled with bean sprouts, French beans, tofu, Chinese sausage, lettuce, carrot, shallots. This fresh spring roll is then dipped into a sauce of your choice. The best thing about this dish is that it can be made vegetarian.
This is a salad of vegetables and fruit with crunchy dough fritters. All the ingredients are covered in a sticky black sauce with peanuts and ginger flowers. It is a combination of sweet, sour and spicy – a perfect mix for the hot weather.
This is a very popular dish in Singapore, it is a savoury dish which does not contain any carrots! The dish is actually made using rice flour and radish. This mixture is steamed and cut into cubes before being stir fried with egg, garlic and preserved radish. It can be ordered black (with dark soya sauce) or white (original). It’s like eating stir fried turnip cake!
This is the ubiquitous noodle soup dish of the region. The nyonya style laksa involves two different types of egg noodles, fish cakes, cockles and may include chicken. The noodles are mixed into a simmered coconut curry and are presented with fried tofu. It’s a hearty, dish. If you can’t get your hands on a Curry Laksa you can order a Curry Mee, which is a similar dish.
Char Kway Teow
Another noodle dish and possibly the iconic dish of Singapore and Malaysia. Stir fried rice and egg noodles are mixed with soy sauce, egg, Chinese sausage and cockles. The stir frying of the noodles is a serious art and imparts a roasted flavour from the wok. To truly enjoy this dish go for the spicy version.
A noodle soup made with prawn stock. This delicately flavoured soup is served with egg noodles, prawns, fish cake and pork. It’s a refreshing, delicate noodle soup that is perfect for the hot weather. The restaurant we went to also served fresh lime juice which was fantastic for the hot, humid day.
This is one of Singapore’s famous dishes. Mud crabs are stir fried in a sweet and savoury tomato and chilli sauce. The dish isn’t actually very spicy. It has a sweet and savoury taste with a fluffy texture. You can order the dish with some fried bread buns to sop up the thick sauce. Eating this can be messy although lots of fun. If you are not into chilli you can opt for the salted egg crab. Jumbo’s is renowned as one of the best child crab restaurants in Singapore. Although you can also get lots of different versions at hawker centres.
The fins of stingray are wrapped in banana leaves and barbecued. Once they have been cooked a thick sambal paste is applied. The meat is a little more gamey then other white fish. It’s tastes quite similar to Barramundi, although has a slightly different texture.
Fish head curry
This dish is unique to Singapore. It is a mix of the culinary practices of south India with its spicy curries and the Chinese delicacy of fish head. A red snapper fish head is set in a spicy gravy with a mix of vegetables like okra and egg plant. The curry can vary and may include tamarind for sourness or coconut milk for creaminess.
A flaky roti bread that is made by stretching the dough and then flavouring with ghee. Watching the prata maker create the bread is a fantastic treat as well. The prata can be served plain or you can add various toppings including mushroom, cheese, chocolate and sugar. It is typically eaten with daal, fish or mutton curry. Prata is the Singaporean term for Roti Canai.
This is a South Indian dish which is a savoury pancake made with fermented rice flour and ground lentil. It is crispy on the edges and soft in the middle, it is generally served with a spicy chilli chutney, coconut chutney and lentil curry or sambar. Dosa in Singapore can also be made with cheese, sugar and chocolate.
Bone marrow curry
One of the many culinary creations by the Muslim Tamil Indians who are also known as mamaks. Soup tulang: a lamb bone marrow curry was invented in the Arab quarter. It’s curry dish that is blood red in colour with large mutton bones, served with bread. The best way to eat this is to eat the tender meat left on the bones and then to slurp up the marrow using a straw. The gravy can be sopped up using the bread.
Hainanese chicken rice
Singapore’s National dish. Poached chicken that is served cold on a bed of rice cooked in chicken stock. This is accompanied by a variety of condiments including sambal, soya sauce and pickles. And some chicken soup. The beauty of this dish is its delicate and simple flavour. The chicken melts in the mouth and the subtle flavours of the rice only enhance it.
This a dessert made from shaved ice and beans. It is then topped with various different ingredients including red beans, sweet corn, grass jelly and cubes of agar agar. This is commonly topped with condensed milk and is the perfect sweet and cold dish for the humid weather. You can eat this as a dessert or drink it as a sweet drink.
This famous cocktail was first created at the Long Bar in the Raffles Hotel. It is a gin based fruity drink that is perfect for the hot humid Singaporen climate. Its possible to purchase a Singapore sling from any bar in Singapore. Although it is a special experience to visit the original home of the iconic drink – the Long Bar at the Raffles Hotel. The cocktails here are on the expensive side however the experience more than makes up for the hit to your pocket. There are hessian bags full of peanuts on every table, the tradition goes that once you are done with them you can sweep the shells on to the floor of the bar!
There are so many amazing street food options available in Singapore and the above listed are just a few. The best way to truly experience them is to find a hawker centre and try as many as you can. Happy eating!
Don’t fear though if you are only flying through Singapore’s Changi Airport. The upper level of terminal 2 at the airport has a hawker village dedicated to serving some of Singapore’s famous street food. Every time I fly through Changi airport there is always something new to discover here.