Forget Universal Studios or the Singapore Zoo. There’s only one essential tourist activity in Singapore: eating. Welcome to my Singapore food guide.
Singapore’s food is delicious and varied thanks to the country’s diverse ethnic makeup. Chinese, Indian and Malay dishes flood the streets in an irresistible wave. It’s a contender for the best food in the Asian region.
However, unlike other Southeast Asian countries, street-food in Singapore is non-existent. Instead, Singapore has a unique system of hawker centres. These are just street-food stalls in an open-air food court.
Eating at hawker centres is the best way to enjoy the local experience. There’s plenty of choice and the food is inexpensive at around $4 a meal. The hardest part is deciding what to eat. That’s why I’ve written this Singapore food guide of my favourite 12 dishes.
1. Char kway teow
Char kway teow is my favourite fried noodle dish. At first glance, it looks similar to pad thai. However, it has no peanuts, and is cooked with dark soy sauce, prawns, de-shelled blood cockles and bean sprouts.
The best versions are cooked at a high heat, which imparts a wonderful smoky-charcoal flavour. Char kway teow is dangerously addictive, and with a high saturated fat content, it can be dangerous to you. Don’t let that stop you eating it; just try not to have three helpings a day.
2. Wonton mee
Wonton mee is barbecued pork and wontons with noodles. It can be served dry, or as a hot soup. I prefer the soup version as it feels more substantial.
It’s a relatively plain meal, like meat and potatoes. However, it’s a solid choice that will always quell your hunger.
3. Hokkien mee
Hokkien mee came as a total surprise. Prior to trying it, I wasn’t crazy about seafood noodles. This dish changed that.
From the photo below, it looks like plain noodles with prawns and squid. What’s hidden is the fragrant stock made from prawn heads, clams and dried fish. This makes the noodles burst with flavour and becomes even better when garnished with lime and spicy sambal.
Laksa is a famous noodle-soup, a combination of Chinese and Malay cuisine. It comes in countless varieties, with the style I tried being of the Katong type. Mine had a rich coconut curry-soup with fish cakes, prawns and cockles. It was totally different to any laksa I’ve had in New Zealand.
5. Carrot cake
Confusingly, Singaporean carrot cake has no carrot. It’s actually a savoury cake made from radish and rice-flour which is then stir-fried with egg, garlic and spring onions.
The highlight is the cake’s texture, which is soft and satisfyingly chewy. It comes in either white or black flavours, depending on the amount of soy sauce added. A tough choice, but the black version won it for me.
6. Hainanese curry rice
Hainanese curry rice is one of the most satisfying meals I’ve ever eaten. It’s a plate of rice topped with items of your choosing, which is then drizzled in a thick, gooey curry sauce.
I picked fried egg, chicken, tofu and dried anchovies. It looked a mess, but the taste was unbelievably good. Indeed, everytime I walked past the shop, the line reached out the door (even at 10pm). That’s a sure sign of quality.
7. Mee goreng
Mee goreng is a simple and tasty dish that always satisfies. It was the first meal I ate in Singapore — the perfect comfort food. Fortunately, the noodles I was served were a million miles from the instant-variety I’d had back in New Zealand.
Biryani is a mixed-rice dish that’s easily found in Little India. The rice is flavoured with curry and spices and is heaped on top of a piece of tender mutton. Designed to be eaten without utensils, it’s the perfect reason to get your hands dirty.
9. Curry masala
Effortlessly delicious, this was one meal I could never get enough of. The chicken was drenched in red curry and accompanied by vibrant green vegetables and a cup of dhal. The only thing richer than the colour was the flavour.
Rojak is a salad of assorted fruit and vegetables. The Indian version is pictured below and was my favourite. Potatoes, eggs, tofu, dough fritters and prawns were fried in batter and then served with some sweet and spicy chili sauce. It beats a Caesar salad hands down.
It’s impossible to visit Singapore without having satay. I had it with pork. The meat was perfectly barbecued and accompanied by a generous helpings of peanut sauce. It was so satisfying.
12. BBQ chicken wings
BBQ chicken wings doesn’t sound very Singaporean. Indeed, when the plate arrived at the table, I was skeptical. My friend squeeze lime juice over the chicken, then told me to take a piece.
I was blown away by the taste. The chicken was juicy and tender, yet the skin was delightfully crunchy. It had been coated in spices and cooked just enough to leave a satisfying burnt taste. I’d only taken one bite and I already regretted that we hadn’t ordered more.
Singapore food guide
Singapore’s food is clean and delicious. It’s also very affordable, coming in at 3-5 dollars per meal. From my experience, it’s the easiest place in Asia to order food, as the menus are in English and have transparent pricing. I hope my Singapore food guide was useful, but no matter what you choose, you won’t be disappointed.
Was my Singapore food guide helpful? Maybe you’ve eaten Singapore’s food? Should I be crucified for leaving out chili crab? Leave a comment below
Ah Dan, so tempting, so mouth watering. Reading this just before dinner was totally the wrong time. Makes our steak and veg look and sound so boring!! Your tastes will be so further enhanced by the time you return home.
Thanks for the blog Dan. Love you.
To say this makes me crave being back in Singapore is an understatement – what a great catalogue of photos capturing amazing food! I had the same scepticism about hokkien mee – even when it arrived at the table it didn’t look very appetising, but it became one of my favourite dishes (I agree that char kway teow probably wins though).
If you can believe it, the char kway teow is even better in Penang (although I’m sure some people would disagree with me). It’s almost worth the trip there just to eat it!