From lesser known gems to the weird and wonderful, sink your teeth into a whole new realm of local cuisine.
Think you’re a bona fide Singaporean just because you’ve tried every popular local dish under the sun? Think again! Living in a society obsessed with food, there’s always something new and strange to sample. Whether it’s a peculiar, unconventional meal or not-so-famous dishes that get buried by the likes of laksa and chilli crab, here’s a list of underrated local food you should try at least once!
Unique and underrated local food in Singapore
What it is: A huge mollusc you can find resting suspiciously in the tanks of most Chinese seafood restaurants (though it’s actually native to North America!). Yeah, we know what it looks like but trust us, the meat on the inside looks much more appealing. Once shelled, the crunchy flesh that’s exposed is sweet and briny, and can even be eaten raw like sashimi.
Satay Bee Hoon
What it is: No beating around the bush. The moniker describes exactly what you get – rice vermicelli (bee hoon) drenched in a sweet and spicy peanut gravy (satay sauce). This fusion dish is said to be the amalgamation of Teochew and Malay cuisine and is served with bean sprouts, cuttlefish, prawns, cockles, kang kong and pork slices.
Where you can find it: Bak Kee Satay Bee Hoon, Redhill Market, 85 Redhill Lane, Singapore 150085; Sin Chew Satay Beehoon, #02-162, Bukit Timah Market & Food Centre, 51 Upper Bukit Timah Road, Singapore 588172
What it is: A perfect accompaniment to a rainy day, kambing soup is essentially mutton soup with fork-tender goat meat in a thick, hearty broth. It’s usually served with French bread. Dunk the fluffy bread into the broth to enjoy all the spices from the soup in one flavour-packed bite.
Where you can find it: Soup Kambing Haji M. Abdul Razak, #01-03, Upper Boon Keng Market & Food Centre, 17 Upper Boon Keng Road, Singapore 380017; Bahrakath Mutton Soup King, #01-10, Adam Road Food Centre, 2 Adam Road, Singapore 289876
What it is: This sinful bowl of bite-sized rice cakes is bathed in a spicy coconut vegetable stew and topped with sambal and toasted desiccated coconut.
Where you can find it: Warong Wak Nakem, Marine Terrace Market, 50A Marine Terrace, Singapore 441050; Nusa & Tara, #01-22, ABC Brickworks Food Centre, Blk 6 Jalan Bukit Merah, Singapore 150006
What it is: This is nothing like the rojak with sweet peanut sauce but it adopts the same concept of mixing everything together. A combination of prawn fritters, potato, tofu, fish cake, sotong and hot dog is deep-fried, chopped into bite-sized pieces and served with a sweet-spicy red gravy. It’s the perfect side dish to share with big groups.
Where you can find it: Haji Johan Indian Muslim Food, #01-254, Tekka Centre, 665 Buffalo Rd, Singapore 210665; Ministry of Rojak, #B2-02/08, Northpoint City, 930 Yishun Avenue 2, Singapore 769098
What it is: The Hokkien hawker noodle dish is raved about for its thick, starchy and viscous gravy that’s perfectly balanced with vinegar, chilli and garlic. It’s usually served with noodles and a hard boiled egg, plus fish cake, pork slices, fried wontons, ngoh hiang (meat rolls) and prawns, just to name a few.
Where you can find it: Xin Mei Xiang Zheng Zong Lor Mee, #01-116, Old Airport Road Food Centre & Shopping Mall, 51 Old Airport Road, Singapore 390051; Lor Mee 178, #02-23, Tiong Bahru Food Centre, 30 Seng Poh Road, Singapore 168898
What it is: Also known as orh luak, this eggy, starchy dish is dotted with plump, briny oysters. The rubrics of a good omelette has to be the freshness of the oysters, the firmness of the omelette and, not to forget, the tangy chilli sauce.
Where you can find it: Ah Chuan Fried Oyster Omelette, #01-25, Kim Keat Palm Market & Food Centre, 22D Lor 7 Toa Payoh, Singapore 314022; Huat Heng Fried Oyster, #01-26, Whampoa Makan Place, 90 Whampoa Drive, Singapore 320090
What it is: Before you diss frog meat, we’re here to say that it tastes just like chicken but with a springy texture and lesser bones. There are two types of claypot frog porridge styles – one cooked with congee and the other served as a side dish in a thick, gooey gravy with dried chilli and spring onions.
Where you can find it: Geylang Lor 9 Fresh Frog Porridge, 235 Geylang Road, Lorong 9 Geylang, Singapore 389294; Eminent Frog Porridge, 323 Geylang Road, Singapore 389359
What it is: This savoury crepe stands out for its bright yellow colour (from turmeric powder) and cool net design (apparently inspired by the nets of Malaysian fishermen). It’s usually served with potato, chicken, fish or mutton curry.
Where you can find it: The Malayan Council, multiple locations including Bussorah, Winstedt and Dunlop; Warung Yes Boss, #02-141, Geylang Serai Market & Food Centre, 1 Geylang Serai, Singapore 402001
What it is: Often eaten for breakfast, it’s a fermented rice batter pancake with crispy edges and a soft, fluffy centre. While it’s good with curry, we like it dipped in coconut milk and some orange sugar.
Where you can find it: Ananda Bhavan Restaurant, multiple locations including Syed Alwi Road and Serangoon Road; Deen’s Food Stall Appam Specialist, #01-273, Tekka Market and Food Centre, 665 Buffalo Road, Singapore 210665
Seafood White Bee Hoon
What it is: We’re unsure of its origins, but there’s no need to ponder too much when this plate of goodness is in front of you. The dish is served with a medley of seafood – think clams, prawns, crayfish and squid, plus egg, veggies and even fried lard. But the secret is in the rich seafood broth and tangy chilli sauce.
Where you can find it: White Restaurant, multiple locations including Sembawang, Punggol and Suntec City; East Seafood White MeeHoon, #01-06, Toa Payoh Lor 8 Market, Blk 210 Toa Payoh Lorong 8, Singapore 310210
What it is: Beef or mutton bones stewed in a sweet-spicy, red soup of mutton stock, infused with cumin, coriander, ground chilli paste and other spices. Get your hands dirty while devouring the fatty meat that slides off the bone. And you’ll need a straw to suck out the gooey, buttery marrow from the bone. Tip: Save your white top for another day.
Where you can find it: Haji Kadir Food Chains, #B1-13/14, Golden Mile Food Centre, Golden Mile Food Centre, 505 Beach Road, Singapore 199583; Tash Tish Tosh, 50 Kandahar Street, Singapore 198900
What it is: A Teochew dish of braised pig organs like kidneys and intestines, alongside fatty pork strips, tau pok, tofu and eggs in a black sauce. Usually served with flat noodles.
Where you can find it: Garden Street Kway Chap, #01-21, Serangoon Garden Market & Food Centre, 49A Serangoon Garden Way, Singapore 555945; 284 Kway Chap, Blk 284, Bishan Street 22, Singapore 570284
What it is: A Chinese herbal broth that’s boiled with the gelatinous and tender meat of soft-shelled tortoises, then mixed with herbs and ingredients like watercress and wolfberries. Consumed for its medicinal value, turtle soup is said to be beneficial for its cooling properties. Your conscience will be (mostly) clear too, as these turtles are purely bred as food, conforming to government guidelines.
Where you can find it: Tan Ser Seng Herbs (Turtle) Restaurant, 29 Lorong Bachok, Singapore 387791; Kent Thong Turtle Soup, #02-188, Chinatown Complex Food Centre, 335 Smith Street, Singapore 050335
What it is: The soft, meaty part of the reptile that is considered a delicacy in some Chinese restaurants. Like turtles, crocodile meat is also lauded for its low saturated fat and cholesterol content. Before you ask, there are crocodile breeding farms in Singapore that ensure ethical supply of the meat as well.
Where you can find it: Imperial Restaurant, multiple locations including Four Points by Sheraton Singapore, Riverview and Great World City; Very Lucky Turtle Soup, Berseh Food Centre, 166 Jalan Berseh, Singapore 208877
Bird’s Nest Soup
What it is: A tonic made using bird’s nest, constructed naturally from the dried and hardened saliva of birds. Yum. Before you gag, take note that this sought-after TCM tonic is said to help promote overall immunity, enhance complexion, and even improve sexual performance. Want another round?
Where you can find it: Eu Yan Sang, multiple locations including Jewel Changi Airport and Chinatown Point
What it is: A soup – normally served as a Chinese dessert – that uses the dried fatty tissue found near the fallopian tubes of frogs. Also known as ‘snow jelly’. Bizarre, we know. However, it’s believed to improve kidney and lung function, enhance memory, and even stabilise hormonal levels during menopausal periods.
Whaddya say, game to try these underrated local dishes in Singapore?