From hearty dishes to snacks and kueh, here’s your ultimate local food map to the real Singapore food you’ll find out there.
There’s plenty to be proud of Singapore about. From heritage buildings, to architectural gems, local labels to perhaps our finest offering: the food of course. We already have the lowdown on the best laksa, nasi lemak, nasi padang and more, but here we’ve dug up some must-tries that need to be on your menu. Here’s your culinary road map to the world’s food capital.
Arguably one of Singapore’s iconic local foods, you won’t have to look far to grab yourself a plate of chicken rice. Steamed, roasteYou might even find several stores selling chicken rice in one hawker centre. When we’re feeling adventurous enough to brave the sweltering afternoon heat, we head down to Maxwell for Tian Tian Hainanese Chicken Rice. Here’s our full guide to this heavenly dish.
Good for breakfast, lunch, dinner and supper, nasi lemak (meaning ‘rich rice) is definitely a versatile guilty pleasure. The star is the fragrant coconut rice loaded with various sides of your choice. Choose crispy fried chicken, fried prawns, a fried egg, and maybe some lady fingers or green beans for ‘balance’… it’s all up to you! From cheap versions at hawker stalls to $12 plates at the swish Coconut Club, we’re spoilt for choice here.
The genius who first thought to combine bread, butter, coconut, and egg is deserving of an award in our eyes. With a light sprinkling of white pepper and a splash of soy sauce, kaya toast is delicious and best enjoyed with a sweet, milky coffee at breakfast time. Our favourite fix is the original Killiney on Killiney Road, there’s no going past it.
Carbs? We’ll take ’em all. So it’s no surprise then that roti prata is the go-to comfort food for breakfast, supper – heck, any time of the day, really. Pretty much anywhere in Singapore serves up a decent rendition of this crispy Indian flatbread, but Mr. Prata on Evans Road is the place to go if you’re looking for a mind-boggling variety of flavours: egg, cheese, mushrooms, or even dessert-style with condensed milk, chocolate or strawberry jam. But in our opinion, nothing beats a classic crispy plain roti prata savoured with lashings of fish curry.
Yong Tau Fu
Topping our list of rainy day local foods is yong tau foo: a deviation from the traditional Hakka Chinese dish, served soup-style. At a typical yong tau foo stall, a varied selection of food items will be on display. All you have to do is grab a bowl and fill it up with items such as fried beancurd, lady’s fingers, fish balls and bitter gourd stuffed with meat. These will then be sliced, boiled in a clear broth and served with rice, noodles or on its own with a sweet chilli sauce. We recommend dumping loads of chilli into your bowl for maximum heat (and shiokness). For a slightly more swish yong tau fu experience, head down to Fu Lin Bar & Kitchen at Telok Ayer for a cheap and cheerful lunch with your colleagues.
Literally “boiled noodles” in Malay, mee rebus is a popular staple dish in Malaysia, Indonesia and Singapore. Made with yellow egg noodles dipped into a spicy yet sweet creamy gravy, the local version is topped with a hard boiled egg, limes, green chillies, bean sprouts and fried firm tofu, with a sprinkling of fried shallots. Sometimes served with beef slices, this is our go-to meal for when we’re flat out broke. Head to the aptly named Delicious at Tanjong Pagar Market for a taste of this rich comforting local dish.
It’d be silly to claim that skewered meat on a stick was a unique creation, but what makes local satay pure magic is the accompanying subtly sweet peanut sauce. More contemporary stalls add a dollop of pureed pineapple into the sauce, something that may offend staunch purists. What we look for in good satay is a generous amount of char, a chunky peanut sauce and lots of onions, rice cakes and diced cucumber on the side. The satay stall at Chomp Chomp ticks all the boxes for us.
Bak kut teh
Singapore’s a hot sweltering country, but that’s never stopped us from gulping down a hearty claypot bowl of bak kut teh. There has always been a rivalry between our local bak kut teh and the one. If you like your broth peppery – unlike the herbal rendition more commonly found in Malaysia – this Joo Chiat haunt serves free-flow servings of this rendition. As for the pork ribs, they’re so tender that they literally slide off the bone; dip these in chilli padi black sauce for pure heaven in your mouth. Order some juicy pig innards too if you’re not squeamish!
Sin Heng Claypot Bak Kut Teh, 439 Joo Chiat Road, Singapore 427652
A good wanton mee should be a medley of wildly contrasting textures. Firm springy noodles drenched in sauce, soft dumplings that fall apart in your mouth and thick char siu slices with a good bit of charring. Our top pick for this local food is Lucky Wanton Mee at Tanjong Pagar Market. Definitely worth braving the queue for.
After a short-lived retirement, the legendary Ah Hock of food haven Chomp Chomp returned, spatula in hand, wok at the ready. And thank goodness for that, because we wouldn’t want to live in a world without his flavour-packed seafood hokkien mee. If you like thinner noodles in your hokkien mee and a generous serving of seafood, this is your go-to stall if you live in the Serangoon area. And, we hear if he likes you enough, he might give you his number to order in advance and skip the queue.
Chomp Chomp Food Centre, 20 Kensington Park Road, Singapore 557269
The little Uncle Pancake stall comes with a variety of flavours to choose from such as coconut, cheese or chocolate. Our ultimate favourite is the peanut and corn combo; crunchy with the sweetness of the corn, just one isn’t enough. And the best part? It’s only a dollar a slice!
Uncle Pancake, Blk 20, #01-07 Marsiling Lane, Singapore 73002
Tauhuay (beancurd in syrup)
We’ve no shortage of 24-hour prata shops to sate our midnight hunger pangs, but if you’ve got the late night munchies for something a little sweeter, nothing hits the spot quite like a comforting bowl of tauhuay. We’re pretty old-school when it comes to tauhuay, so we opt for the classics like Selegie Soya Bean. Make sure you buy a couple of fried dough fritters (called you tiao) to dip into your beancurd!
Selegie Soya Bean, 247 Jalan Kayu, Singapore 799471
Ice kacang is essentially the Asian equivalent of a snow cone, or perhaps even a slurpee in a bowl. This mound of ice, dripping in sweet, coloured syrup hides within it treats such as red beans, sweet corn, grass jelly and of course, the much sought after atap chee (the immature fruit of the nipa palm). More than just a dessert, ice kacang is also a communal experience given how hot our climate is. Due to its simplicity, you can’t go far wrong at any hawker centre dessert store.
This rich, beefy dish is truly a labour of love, taking many hours of slow-cooking to achieve that thick, dry gravy. Find yourself at any Malay family celebration and there’s a good chance you’ll find a hearty pot of beef rendang as the centrepiece. If you’ve got a craving for it right now, head down to Rumah Makan Minang Indonesian Restaurant to sate your cravings.
Rumah Makan Minang Indonesian Restaurant, 18 Kandahar Street, Singapore 198884
Thick rice noodles in a rich, spicy broth and a generous serving of prawns and cockles? Sign us right up! While the dish has many regional renditions, we’ve got to show some love to our own local variation, Katong laksa. In this version, the noodles are cut into smaller pieces so you can eat the entire dish with just a spoon; perfect for those of you who haven’t mastered the art of using chopsticks. While many claim to be the original, we think 363 Katong Laksa is a stellar example of the dish, or you could always make your own…
363 Katong Laksa, 29 Lorong Liput, Singapore 277740
Kopi-O, kopi-c, kopi-siu dai… the list of permutations goes on. What all of them have in common is their robust flavour and, of course, that caffeine kick that you desperately need after a heavy lunch. So do yourself (and your wallet) a favour and ditch the $6 chain store coffees for this local treasure. Make sure you know how to order your kopi!
Any coffee shop (That’s the beauty of it!)
Or luak (oyster omelette)
Our oyster round-up is proof of our love of this beautiful bivalve, but we’re also fond of the unforgivingly-greasier, Singapore-style fried oyster omelette, aka or luak. Quit the calorie counting and order up a plate of this eggy, starchy dish dotted with plump, briny oysters. What makes this dish stand out is the freshness of the oysters (check!), the firmness of the omelette that isn’t too flaky, and the watery ‘chinchalok’ sauce that’s tangy and spicy.
Hougang Oyster Omelette & Fried Kway Teow, 435A Hougang Ave 8, Singapore 531435
Chye png (economy rice)
Depending on what you order, “economy rice” can be one of the cheapest ways to bag a cheap lunch. The concept is simple: choose from a massive variety of meat and vegetable dishes and get a serving of rice to go with it. Not fancy at all, but this is good honest blue-collar cuisine. The local dish is available at pretty much any and all food centres.
Tea-time here may not be as elaborate an affair as it is in England, but that’s not to say we skimp out on a darn good teatime treat like the pandan cake. Light, fluffy and with a heady dose of pandan sweetness, it pairs perfectly with a steaming mug of Milo. Best part? You can get really great ones from pretty much any Bengawan Solo outlet.
Bengawan Solo, various locations.
Traditional charcoal porridge
Porridge isn’t something that would come to mind for a meal – it’s always associated with being food for the sick but Ah Chiang’s Porridge is definitely comforting local food for the soul, and it operates ’til late. Painstakingly cooked over a charcoal stove, you’ll have a flavourful bowl of porridge with a smooth consistency unlike any other. Perfect for rainy days (and hangovers!), and located in the historic Tiong Bahru district.
Ah Chiang’s Porridge, Blk 65 Tiong Poh Road #01-38 Singapore 160065
Need a quick, filling snack on the go? Pick up this tasty, meaty, fusion dish that resembles a sandwich stuffed with eggs, cheese, mushrooms and sometimes mutton. Al-Azhar does a lip-smackingly good rendition with lots of meat and sauce.
Al-Azhar Eating Restaurant, 11 Cheong Chin Nam Road, Singapore 599736
Salted egg yolk chicken
Is salted egg yolk everything overrated? Yes, but if you stick to the classics, you’ll be fine. There aren’t many ingredients that can beat the richness, creaminess and saltiness of the salted egg yolk. Generously slathered over perfectly crisp deep fried chicken pieces and topped with a sunny side up, every bite brings a tiny piece of heaven to your soul; even the darkest of hearts will see enlightenment. Throw in a spoonful of chopped chilli padi for an extra kick.
Taste Good, 1 Rochor Canal Road, #02-04, Sim Lim Square, Singapore 188504
Think crispy prata and spicy curry can’t get any better? Murtabak takes that winning formula and supercharges it with a stuffing of spiced mutton, onions and a slathering of ketchup. We’ve been seeing more adventurous varieties, including the murtaburger: a mutton patty and cheese-stuffed version. Feeling adventurous? Hit up Springleaf Prata Place for more unique renditions of this meaty dish.
Springleaf Prata Place, various locations.
If there’s one place you need to check out for tahu telur, it’s Hajah Maimunah: the mecca of kampung-style Malay cuisine. Home to a huge range of delectable dishes (including the so-damn-good-it-hurts beef rendang), the restaurant’s version of tahu telur is extremely addictive, and a dish you MUST order up next to the usual fare of flavour-packed meats and fresh vegetables. Crispy on the outside, and delightfully soft on the inside, it’s served up with a generous dosage of heavenly sweet peanut sauce. Leave your skinny jeans at home for this one.
Hajah Maimunah, 11 Jalan Pisang, Singapore 199078
In the mood for a huge, carb-loaded feast? You’re looking for nasi padang: a miniature spread of rich meats, vegetables and spicy sauces with steamed rice as the base. Choose from a huge array of dishes, including ikan bakar (grilled fish in a spicy-sweet sauce), ayam lemak cili padi (chicken cooked in a chilli padi gravy) and fresh ulam (a type of Malaysian salad). If there are two tips we can offer for enjoying nasi padang, it’s a) order up a variety of meats and b) put on your baggy pants for this – expect major post-meal bloat. Calories well spent, if you ask us. Hit up our full guide by our resident nasi padang expert!
Few things channel warm and cosy like this spicy noodle dish. Its original – the Soto Ayam – is a spicy chicken broth, bursting with flavour (thanks to the heaps of powdered tumeric) and sliced lontong (rice cakes). Throw in yellow noodles, and you’ve got yourself a hearty bowl of Mee Soto. The best rendition includes slices of succulent chicken meat, a crispy begedil (a deep fried potato patty) and spoonfuls of sambal cili kicap (sweet and spicy soy sauce).
Be prepared to get your hands dirty when you’re feasting on this local delicacy. Consisting of sambal, vinegar, tomato paste and egg, it’s best mopped up with steamed or deep fried mantous (buns). The art of eating chilli crab lies in the ability to extract the fresh, firm meat from within the shells, savouring the crab roe, and dipping the fried mantous (essential side dish) in that thick, sweet chilli gravy. Take in the breeze and tuck into this delicacy at Red House Seafood Restaurant at Robertson Quay.
Red House Seafood, #01-14 The Quayside, 60 Robertson Quay, Singapore 238252
White pepper crab
Crab in Singapore is quite famous and can be found cooked in different sauces: chilli, black pepper, butter, and also white pepper. The white pepper crab recipe was originally created by Madam Ong in the Aljunied hawker center in the ’70s, but because the family couldn’t afford a sign on their stall, the place became famous known as “No Signboard”. That local hero story aside, the place is especially famous for its seafood in general, like the delicious cereal prawns, and of course, the crab. The best part is dipping the mantou (sweet soft bread) in the yummy, peppery sauce.
No Signboard Seafood, 414 Geylang Road, 389392
Commonly found in Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore, lontong actually refers to compressed rice cakes usually eaten in place of steamed rice. While it can be eaten with anything – like gado gado and rendang – the local term refers to these bite-sized rice cakes bathed in a spicy coconut vegetable stew, and topped with sambal and toasted desiccated coconut.
Calling all dessert fiends! Featuring the holy trinity – coconut cream, palm sugar and pandan leaves – Cendol’s main component of shaved ice is perfect for cooling off on a sweltering sunny day, AKA everyday. We especially love slurping up those green jelly noodles (made of rice flour) and accompanying mushy red beans. Warning: Cendol is usually cloyingly rich, so we suggest having it on its own or sharing with a friend. The Coconut Club serves up a delicious bowl…
The Coconut Club, 6 Ann Siang Hill, Singapore 069787
Despite hailing from Hong Kong, dim sum has a huge following in Singapore – we’d go as far as to say it’s on par with Sunday brunch. A style of Cantonese cuisine served up in bite-sized portions in tiny steamer baskets or plates, these were originally side dishes to a meal, but have now taken centre stage as a main course. Ones you must try include the har gau (shrimp dumplings), siew mai (open topped shrimp or pork dumplings) and liu sha bao (salted egg yolk custard buns). There’s no shortage of dim sum digs in Singapore so let us give you a primer.
There’s really no rules when it comes to popiah, a simple spring roll wrap that is popular here in Singapore. The important ingredients are julienned vegetables like turnip, carrots, and beansprouts. In some cases, there’s even egg, prawn, Chinese sausage or even cheese as add ons. We’ll take them all (even the minced garlic).
Perhaps the most iconic Eurasian dish, sugee cake is a dessert table staple for Christmas parties. It’s really a simple cake made with butter, almonds and semolina flour to give that grainy and slightly crunchy texture. Good on its own or topped with marzipan and fondant icing, who can wait that long to eat that slice of sugee cake for Christmas? You can find it at a couple of local bakeries in town.
While the true origin of the dish is uncertain, it’s said that this dish hails from North India. The local version is often referred to as nasi briyani, which is similar to Malay nasi minyak: a saffron coloured rice served with a curry gravy. The biryani rice is the fragrant Basmati grain, which cooks to a wonderfully light and fluffy texture. A chicken or mutton gravy (usually a big heaping) is served along with it, and acar, a sour yet spicy vegetable pickle made with carrots, cucumbers and pineapples. Our pick for this hearty dish is undoubtedly the venerable Islamic Restaurant on Arab Street. You can also try the novelty bamboo briyani which we heard is really good…
Islamic Restaurant, 745 North Bridge Road, Singapore 198713
Bak chor mee
When it comes to this flavoursome dish of flat noodles, minced pork, meatballs, liver, fried lard and vinegar, there’s no other place but BK Eating House. Need more meatballs or lard, they’ll gladly top it up for you. While far from being the healthiest dish ever, the throngs of revellers at the bak chor mee store at BK Eating House looking for post-party nosh can’t be wrong, can they?
BK Eating House, 32 South Bridge Road, Singapore 058667
Char kway teow
This fried rice noodle dish may not score major points for presentation, but we guarantee you that it’s darn tasty. What you’ll get is a plate of brown flat rice noodles, stir-fried with fish cake, egg, bean sprouts, and seafood like prawns and cockles, in sweet, dark soy sauce. It’s no secret that this dish doesn’t register high on the health-o-meter, but we just can’t resist digging into a plate of this local savoury sin at the much-lauded Armenian Street Char Kway Teow.
Armenian Street Char Kway Teow, 303 Anchorvale Link, Singapore 540303
Much like the previous dish, Singaporean style carrot cake won’t win any points with your doctor. It’s savoury, and its slightly sweet sauce paired with tender chunks of radish/carrot cake cubes is absolutely heavenly. We try to save this one for post-jogging treats, just so we don’t feel that guilty. Once again, we recommend Chomp Chomp (you lucky, lucky Serangoon dwellers) for the most calorie-worthy rendition of this dish.
Chomp Chomp Food Centre, 20 Kensington Park Road, Singapore 557269
Sliced fish soup
Moving on from the sinfully greasy local grub, the one dish that Singaporeans never seem to tire of is comforting sliced fish soup – with or without milk. Han Kee Fish Soup at Amoy Street Food Centre is, hands down, the most satisfying version we’ve had with generous portions of fresh, thickly-sliced fish in a clear yet fragrant broth. If you have enough time to spare during lunch hour, braving this stall’s snaking queue is worth it.
Han Kee Fish Soup, Amoy Street Food Centre, 7 Maxwell Rd, Singapore 069111
Stingray meat hasn’t really caught on in the West, but hey, more for us right? It’s a simple dish, so the devil really is in the details. Chomp Chomp BBQ serves up a stellar example of this dish that’s marinated in sambal much longer than most other stalls, so the strands of meat are soaked in spicy goodness.
Chomp Chomp Food Centre, 20 Kensington Park Road, Singapore 557269
Another Indian culinary gem, thosai is a thin, sometimes crispy rice batter and black lentil crepe. Have it plain or potato-stuffed, with dhaal or curry; but whatever you do, make sure you have it piping hot and fresh off the pan! We suggest the folks at Komala Vilas; they’ve been at it for years.
Komala Vilas, 12 Buffalo Road, Singapore 219785
This dish, originally from Kerala, India is one of Indian cuisine’s lesser-known gems. It’s a fermented rice batter pancake with crispy edges and a soft fluffy centre, often eaten for breakfast. While it’s good with curry (Kerala fish curry especially), try dipping it in coconut milk then dabbing it into a pile of orange sugar for a truly decadent breakfast. Our pick? Ananda Bhavan.
Ananda Bhavan, 58 Serangoon Road, Singapore 217964
Why go for the typical mee goreng (fried noodles) when you can have maggi goreng? A clever spin-off from the original dish, maggi goreng is basically mee goreng but using the instant Maggi noodles instead of the usual yellow noodles. Get the spicy savoury Indian maggi goreng, topped with a sunny side-up and accompanied with a plate of cucumbers drenched in tomato sauce – then you’ll experience the kick when devouring this uber delish dish. And to complete your meal, you should get a Milo Dinosaur to complement your plate of fiery tasty maggi goreng – nom nom!
Al-Azhar Eating Restaurant, 11 Cheong Chin Nam Rd, Singapore 599736
Indulge your sweet tooth without breaking the bank (or your seams) by picking up a couple of these colourful bite-sized, local sweets – from layered jellies and sweet sticky riceballs, to starchy coconut covered pieces of steamed tapioca. We love kueh and afternoon teh at the gorgeous Chong Wen Ge Cafe on Telok Ayer Street.
Chong Wen Ge Cafe, 168 Telok Ayer St, Singapore 068619
One of our hidden favourite spots for local treats is the little food court at the bottom of Roxy Square, where you’ll find one of the best rojaks in town. We’re now addicted to this salad of cucumber, guava, pineapple, fried tofu and dough fritters tossed in tamarind sauce, shrimp paste and chilli. It’s sweet, spicy, crispy and crunchy all at once – POW!
Roxy Square, 50 East Coast Road, Singapore 428769
Fish head curry
Legend has it that the dish was created by a man named MJ Gomez, who ran an Indian restaurant along Sophia Road and catered to his clientele of Chinese businessmen by adding fish heads to his spicy, tangy curry. Unlike regular ol’ curry, this iconic delicacy boasts robust, savoury flavours thanks to the ingenious addition of countless spices and a tamarind sourness that melds perfectly with the freshness of the fish head. Muthu’s Curry serves up an excellent rendition of this iconic dish.
Muthu’s Curry, various locations.
In addition to tasting extremely ‘shiok’, steamboat is a fun communal dining experience. At this stall in Whampoa market, you have a choice of fish head or sliced fish steamboat. It’s incredibly flavourful and comes chock-full of additional ingredients like vegetables, yam and seaweed. Don’t forget about the side dishes like braised egg, preserved fried veggies and beancurd skin.
Xin Heng Feng Guo Tiao Tan, Block 91 Whampoa Drive, Whampoa Market
Even before they won the Bib Gourmand, the curry puffs at the J2 Famous Crispy Curry Puff stall at Amoy Street Food Centre are by far one of the best we’ve tasted. Inside its delightfully crispy crust you’ll find fragrant spiced potatoes or sardines and a slice of hard boiled egg. Truly a classic local snack.
J2 Famous Crispy Curry Puff, Amoy Street Food Centre, Telok Ayer Street
Like Singaporean kopi, teh tarik is practically a symbol of the working class warrior. Ask any local, and chances are they’ve spent countless nights out with friends shooting the breeze over mugs of steaming teh tarik – definitely don’t stick your pinkies out for this one. If you’re looking to try the best, the legendary nameless stall on Bussorah Street will serve as divine introduction to the drink. Just look for the bearded man standing behind a giant metal hot water pot.
Love teh tarik but want a cuppa with a little more zing? The ginger-infused teh Halia will perk you right up. Again, we suggest hunting a certain nameless stall at Bussorah Street (the locals know it as Sarbat). That dude knows everything.
Condensed milk, rose syrup and lots of ice come together in this rich, sweet, neon pink beverage. It’s a hit with kids, but when we feel a hankering for this dessert-y beverage we prefer the stalls that don’t overwhelm with too much condensed milk. If you’re near the Arab Street area, pop by to Zam Zam for a taste.
697-699 North Bridge Road, Singapore 198675
It’s got meat, it’s got potatoes, it’s got spice. What more could we ask for? The rendition at Nusantara is our favourite addition to the occasional nasi padang lunch we enjoy here at Telok Ayer. You’ll struggle to just stop at one.
Nusantara, 171 Telok Ayer Street, Singapore 068621
Kuih bakar berlauk
You’ll spot them at most Malay kuih stalls: bright yellow, usually flower-shaped with minced meat and chilli on the top. Wonderfully savoury, these dough-y bite-sized cakes make the best snack – trust us, you won’t be stopping at one!
Beef hor fun
Though not the most iconic local dish you’ll find, this is a popular choice for the lunch crowds. The folks at Bee Kia Restaurant cook up the best version so far with the velvety kway teow noodles, thick and robust beef gravy and the tender beef slices.
Bee Kia Restaurant, 1 Thomson Road, Balestier Hill Shopping Centre, 301001
Probably the most fun on the list, the Milo Dinosaur is a giant of a drink. A uniquely local concoction, it is a cup of iced milo topped with a mountain of undissolved Milo powder, this beverage is the ultimate treat one gifts to themselves during a prata session. There’s even a supersized version of it called the Milo Godzilla…