Although Singapore is counted among the most expensive cities in the world, it has a thriving street food scene that offers an almost bewildering array of specialties at very reasonable prices.
The population of Singapore is mostly made up of a mix of ethnic Chinese, Malays and Indians, and you can expect to find food representing each of their respective communities – as well as unique creations that have arisen from a fusion of the three.
Laksa is a delicious dish of noodles served in a creamy coconut curry. This is a classic crossover dish with both Malay and Chinese influences, and ingredients you’re likely to find in your bowl include cockles, fish cakes, bean sprouts and more. If you are only in Singapore long enough to eat one meal, this is the one you should choose.
Noodle dishes are ubiquitous in Singapore, and another near the top of your list to try should be char kuay teow. Kuay teow is the Hokkien word for flat rice noodles, and this version sees them stir-fried with dark soy sauce, cockles and Chinese sausage. Available pretty much anywhere you find hawker stalls and something that’s likely to become one of your staples if you spend any amount of time in the city.
3. Bah Kut Teh
Bah kut teh, meaning “meat bone tea” is a culinary contribution from Singapore’s Chinese community. One story told to explain the origins of the strange name is that a shop keeper created a soup using leftover ingredients including meat bones to help a poor beggar, and the resulting broth had the color of tea. This simple dish has since gone on to become a hawker favorite and is one that shouldn’t be missed during your visit.
Sticks of meat served with an irresistible peanut sauce, this is a specialty that is popular throughout many countries in Southeast Asia, including Malaysia, Indonesia and Thailand. In Malaysia and Indonesia, you’re more likely to find it with chicken or mutton, but in Singapore, you will also have the option of pork. And whichever version you try, it’s sure to have you coming back for more.
5. Nasi Lemak
The unofficial national dish over the border in Malaysia and beloved of Singaporeans too, nasi lemak is a delicious serving of coconut rice, usually accompanied by egg, chicken or beef, fried anchovies and peanuts. Traditionally eaten for breakfast but just as delicious at any time of day.
A dish of skate served on the banana leaf on which it is grilled and covered in sambal, a Malay-style spicy sauce. It also comes with a topping of onions, garlic and coriander leaves. This dish is a Singaporean invention that is every bit as tasty as it sounds, and the type of food that is best enjoyed outside.
A classic Indian snack that’s widely available and hugely popular in Singapore. Stuffed with curried meat or vegetables, they’re a perfect choice whenever you need a quick snack between meals.
8. Curry Puff
A puff of pastry stuffed with a delicious curry filling, usually with chicken and egg – although, of course, this is an extremely versatile snack and there are almost infinite variations on the same theme. Easy to find, extremely inexpensive and ideal if you’re looking for a quick bite to eat.
9. Fried Rice
A go-to choice throughout East Asia, with fried rice you can never go wrong. You can have it just with egg or with meat – it’s perfect as an accompaniment to other dishes or on its own as a quick and inexpensive meal.
10. Roti Prata
A super-simple dish that is far more interesting than it sounds. A serving of roti, a type of unleavened bread that is covered in butter and fluffed up to make it light and flaky, usually accompanied by a small portion of curry to dip it in. Perfect in the morning with a cup of teh tarik, a Malay-style sweet tea.
Murtabak can be compared to a thick stuffed pancake and is a common snack in Singapore as well as in neighboring Malaysia. It has Indian origins, and it usually contains chicken, beef or mutton along with a generous dose of Indian spices. It’s a quick and easy food option that makes a perfect snack if you don’t have time to sit down for a meal.
12. Chili Crab
The original version of this dish is prepared with chili – although another version that replaces it with pepper is also common. Either way, it is wildly popular among the locals and is, without doubt, one of the most delectable treats you will find in Singapore, making it something that every visitor should seek out and try at the first opportunity.
A favorite in many Southeast Asian countries, Hainanese chicken was brought to Singapore by immigrants from China’s Hainan island where the dish originates. It consists of boiled chicken cut into strips and placed on a bed of rice so the juices drip down and flavor it. The chicken is juicy and succulent, and no visit to Singapore would be complete without sampling this local favorite.
14. Otak Otak
Baba-nyonya is the name given to the descendants of the immigrants to Singapore and Malaysia from the southern provinces of China, and otak otak is one of the distinctive dishes they created. Otak is actually the Malay word for “brain”, although in this case, it refers to the appearance of the dish rather than its ingredients. It’s a kind of fish cake with tapioca starches cooked in a banana leaf that’s perfect as a quick snack or as part of a larger meal.
A dish of eggs and oyster combined with starch and cooked into an omelet, oh-luak is another hawker classic in Singapore, where it’s always accompanied by a chili vinegar to drizzle over it. Originally from Taiwan, this yummy creation is now a regular feature in hawker centers throughout Singapore and comes highly recommended.
16. Tandoori Chicken
An Indian classic of chicken on the bone coated in delicious spices and roasted in a tandoor, a traditional clay oven. They come out with a bright red hue, and the meat is so tender that it falls apart in your mouth. You can order tandoori chicken as part of a meal or simply as a snack whenever you see it in being cooked on the street.
17. Kaya Toast
The quintessential Singaporean breakfast, kaya toast consists of slices of toasted bread covered in kaya, a kind of coconut jam, that are then dipped in a mixture of boiled egg and soy sauce. More or less accepted as Singapore’s national breakfast and best enjoyed in the morning with a cup of coffee sweetened with condensed milk.
18. Tropical Fruit
Lying as it does less than 100 miles north of the equator, Singapore is a fantastic place to sample a whole range of wonderfully exotic tropical fruits. Of course, you’ll find things like mangoes and papayas aplenty, but also look out for things like rambutan, mangosteen – and of course, durian, the foul-smelling but deliciously creamy “king of fruits”.
19. Fish Head Curry
Fish head curry is among the most popular dishes among Singapore’s Indian community – although the Chinese also have their own version. Some people might be put off seeing a large fish head poking out of their bowl, but once you get past that, the combination of curry with vegetables such as eggplant and okra make this a treat to savor.
A classic Indian dish of basmati rice with spices and meat, usually chicken or lamb – or sometimes fish. A meal by itself and even better when accompanied by a small dish of chutney.
21. Teh Halia
Teh halia is a type of ginger tea that’s sold by Indian vendors in Singapore and is a delicious drink with breakfast or at any other time of the day. Another type of tea to look out for is teh tarik, traditional Malay “pulled” tea that’s usually sweetened with a large dollop of condensed milk.
22. Ice Kacang
If you’re looking for something refreshing and sweet to cool you down in the sometimes punishing heat of a Singaporean day, look out for ice kacang, the local take on shaved ice. Expect it to come with a diverse range of brightly colored toppings that can include sweet beans, jellies, flavored syrups, condensed milk and much more. The result is beautiful to look at – and, of course, delicious to eat!
Another iced dessert, cendol includes green rice flour jelly, coconut milk and syrup, and you can sometimes also add other ingredients like pieces of fruit and sweet red beans. Singapore is a fantastic place to visit for those with a sweet tooth, and if that includes you, this is a treat you’re sure to love!
24. Fresh Coconut
Refreshing and healthy too, whenever you feel like a cool drink, look for a fresh coconut to quench your thirst. The vendor will cut open the top and give you a straw to drink the juice, and when you finish, you can also scrape out the soft flesh to eat.
25. Bak Chor Mee
Another dish from Singapore’s Chinese community, bak chor mee consists of egg noodles combined with slices of pork, pork liver, pork balls and slices of fish cake or salted fish all coated in an irresistible spicy vinegar sauce. There are plenty of noodle dishes to work your way through in Singapore, but this one should be among your priorities!
26. Wanton Mee
Served with thin egg noodles in a savory broth containing delicious pork and prawn wontons along with slices of pork and other tasty morsels, wanton mee is yet another noodle dish to look out for. Served up in countless hawker centers around Singapore, this Chinese classic is a simple dish you can always turn to when you don’t know what else to choose.
27. Hokkien Mee
With so many noodle dishes on our list, you might be forgiven for thinking it’s all Singaporeans eat! But while there are certainly lots of different types, there are so many variations that you’re unlikely to ever get bored of them. Another style to look out for is Hokkien mee, a fried noodle dish that’s served with ingredients like prawns, squid, oysters, spring onions and fresh lime, along with chili sauce if you like it spicy. It’s as good as it sounds, and another Singapore classic you need to try while you’re there.
28. Tau Huay
This one might seem a little unusual at first, but once you try it, you’ll quickly realize how yummy it is. Tau huay is a dessert made from soft tofu that’s sweetened with syrup and eaten either hot or cold. Often, you can also add extras like grass jelly, glutinous rice balls and sweet red beans to make it even more delicious.
Rojak is a curious mixture of ingredients including pieces of youtiao (Chinese fried dough stick), bean sprouts, radish, pineapple, cucumber, tofu puffs and more, all covered in a sticky soy-based sauce. The name “rojak” means “mix”, so it’s easy to see how this dish got its name!
An East Asian classic that’s readily available in many places in Singapore, these are rolls of pastry stuffed with fillings like prawn, meat or vegetables and cooked in a vat of boiling oil. Most people will have already tried spring rolls in their local Chinese or other Asian restaurants, but if you’re in Singapore, it’s worth sampling the Singaporean version.
31. Mee Rebus
And to finish, one more noodle dish – of course! This one consists of egg noodles served in a thick curry-like gravy along with ingredients such as hard-boiled egg, potatoes and occasionally beef. This is a hearty and filling dish that’s sure to hit the spot whenever you are in need of a good meal.
One of Asia’s hottest foodie destinations
Many places in Asia boast amazing food, but few places can match the variety of tasty morsels and delightful dishes on offer in Singapore. It is a place that is rightly proud of its street food culture, making it one of the hottest destinations in Asia – if not the whole world – to head if you’re serious about eating.