The Anatomy of Eating in Singapore

You can say that eating is Singapore’s national past time and with so many delicious foods to have, it’s easy to see why. Singaporean cuisine has a mixture of influences, primarily from Chinese, Malay, and Indian cultures where the dominant spices often include chili and curry. Street food is also ubiquitous in Singapore. Hawker food centres are the Singaporean equivalent to a mall, but occupied solely by food vendors. In addition to curry and spice, Singaporeans are also nuts about their sweets. Here’s your Singapore food guide, the varieties range from something as simple as a sweetened bean curd to a tropical fruit mousse.

Singapore Food Guide

A Mixture of Cuisines

Singapore Food Guide: Fried Jokkien Mee via Flickr by Necopunch / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
Fried Hokkien Mee via Flickr by Necopunch / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Singaporean dishes derive their flavors from three predominant cultures. The majority comes from the Chinese, particularly those from the southern provinces. Their influence is obvious with dishes like bak kut or pork rib soup and Hokkien Mee, a type of fried noodle with prawn toppings, and laksa, a rich noodle soup with spicy coconut milk broth and thick rice noodles usually topped with bean curd, fish cakes, and hard boiled eggs. Then there’s the Malay influence, which is a mix of Malaysian and Indonesian cuisines. Favorites like bakso, a type of noodle soup with meatballs, satay, grilled meat skewers served with spicy peanut sauce, and epok-epok, a flaky pastry stuffed with curry chicken, diced potatoes, and hard-boiled egg have Malay roots. Finally, you have the Indian influence, both from the country’s northern and southern regions, seen from well-known dishes like tandoori and snacks like roti prata.

The Dominant Spices

Singapore Food Guide: Curry Powder and Chili via Flickr by Tracy Benjamin / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
Curry Powder and Chili via Flickr by Tracy Benjamin / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Most Southeast Asian countries crave spicy food and Singaporeans do so as well. Most of their famous dishes include some form of chili. The most popular example of this is the chili crab. Many tourists that stay in Singapore associate the messy deliciousness of stir-fried crab drowned in a tomato and chili based sauce with the country itself. Another is the Hainanese chicken and rice, a dish that’s truly unique to eating in the Singapore food guide. It’s made up of poached chicken in ginger stock, served with chili sauce. Locals consider this their national dish. Then there’s the taste of curry, favored especially on cuisines with Indian and Malayan origins. The Singapore chow mei fun, a stir fried vermicelli sprinkled with curry powder and topped with roasted pork, shrimp, and slices of chili peppers, and the fish head curry dish are prime examples.

Street Food Galore

Singapore Food Guide: Prata and Tau Huay via Flickr by Karen / CC BY-SA 2.0
Wanton Mee via Flickr by Charles Haynes / CC BY-SA 2.0

Nowhere else in the world is street food more prevalent than in Singapore. So much so that the city created designated Singapore food guide locations more commonly known as hawker food centers. These centers often contain dozens of stalls selling cooked food delivered in cafeteria-style manner. Some of the famous ones include West Market Food Centre where you can get a bowl of lao sim, a type of noodle soup with shredded chicken and fish dumpling that’s very popular with the locals and RedHill Lane Food Centre where you can get one of the best fu ming shu shi, a Singaporean staple snack made with grated turnip, rice, and tapioca flours, steamed, then stir fried with scrambled egg and garlic. Most Westerners know it as carrot cake. There’s also Maxwell Road Hawker Centre, a historic pre-war hawker center in the heart of Chinatown that has over 100 stalls including the famous.

The Sweeter Things

Singapore Food Guide: Kaya Toast, Eggs, and Coffee via Flickr by Katrina.Alana / CC BY-ND 2.0
Kaya Toast, Eggs, and Coffee via Flickr by Katrina.Alana / CC BY-ND 2.0

Though there are plenty of western-influenced patisseries and bakeshops in Singapore, the locals usually prefer to eat something simpler. One of the most popular desserts is tau huay. A concoction made up of sweetened soybean milk in pudding form. It’s generally eaten plain, served either hot or cold, but variations include adding syrup, red beans or grass jelly. The dessert is available everywhere but many consider the bowl from Ronchor Beancurd House in Geylang Road one of the best. For breakfast, most Singaporeans enjoy a bit of kaya toast, a common breakfast food made up of toast and a pandan-flavored coconut jam, butter and soft-boiled eggs on the side. Get it at one of the Kun Kaya Toast locations. Another classic dessert favored by locals is the Durian Pengat, a durian mousse made with durian pulp and coconut milk. Sample a cup full of this tropical mousse at Dessert Bowl.

Singapore might be a destination for foodies but there’s certainly more to this Southeast Asian gem than just food. Visit Your Singapore for more Singapore food guide and information on attractions, activities, and hotels in Singapore.

About Iris A


Born in the Philippines, but grew up in Texas, Iris has been traveling and writing about her experiences for well over a decade. Her work has been published on well-known travel sites like Hipmunk (#hipmunkcitylove) and D Magazine Online Travel Club. She has been all over Europe, the US, and has recently started exploring Latin America. She loves trying local cuisine and visiting UNESCO deemed World Heritage sites. Her favourite city is New York, with London, following a close 2nd. You can follow her on Twitter @sundeeiris or through her travel blog, Traveling With Iris.

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2 Responses

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