Foodie's Guide To Eating Through Singapore

30 August 2015

Singapore's ethnic melting pot is reflected in its cooking pots. Centuries of Chinese, Malay, Indian and European influences have produced one of the most diverse national cuisines in Malaysia, and more recent immigration has added even more ingredients to the mix.

Singapore's eclectic menus don't just include the best of other countries, but also signature dishes that originated here. Try the spicy rojak and fish head curry for an authentic Singaporean experience, or pull up a chair at a local hawker centre, riverside restaurant or one of 20,000 other eateries across the island, with options to suit every travel budget.

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Unique Dining Experiences In Singapore

If you want to eat like the locals do, head to one of the many humble hawker centres dotted around the city.

These semi-enclosed buildings housing rows and rows of food stalls can be intimidating for first-timers, but you'll soon get the hang of it and could learn to love it as an affordable way to discover new favourite dishes. The best known hawker centres in Singapore are Maxwell Road and Chomp Chomp Food Centre.

When it's time for coffee, find more bargains and local flavours by swapping Starbucks for a kopitiam. These traditional Southeast Asian coffee shops are as much a social hangout as a place to get your caffeine fix.

 Some of the best food to be had is at the hawker markets (Image: Getty)

Multi-Cultural Cuisine

You owe it to your tastebuds to venture outside your comfort zone and try a wide selection of Singapore's cosmopolitan cuisine during your visit.

Malay food tends to be the least known of the major cuisine players internationally, but dishes such as nasi lemak and nasi padang deserve more recognition for their creative mix of herbs and spices tempered with coconut milk.

Chinese and Indian menus are also ubiquitous, showcasing the full culinary diversity of those countries, but for a uniquely Singaporean twist, try native Peranakan or Nonya dishes that fuse the best of local influences.

Must-Try Singapore Dishes

You won't have any trouble finding your favourite Asian and international food in Singapore, but make sure you explore the local fare too. These signature dishes are the essence of Singapore, with options to suit every diet – whether you're a fan of seafood, a vegetarian or watching your weight.

Chicken rice is considered the national dish of Singapore, and that's no surprise considering it's easily the most widely available item on menus.

 If Singapore has a signature dish it's Hainanese chicken rice (Image: Getty)

There's more involved in making chicken rice than just pairing rice with poultry. The chicken is lightly steamed or poached and chopped into bite-size pieces, served on fragrant rice and usually accompanied by fresh cucumber and ginger paste on the side for those who like it spicy.

The prize for the best budget chicken rice in Singapore goes to Tian Tian Hainanese Chicken Rice at the Maxwell Road Hawker Centre, with an upmarket alternative being the Mandarin Orchard Hotel's Chatterbox restaurant.


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A Seafood Lover's Paradise

For seafood fans, fried chilli crab is another Singaporean staple, with its distinctively sweet and fragrant sauce made from tomato and chilli with garlic and rice vinegar providing the aroma.

Head to the sea at East Coast Lagoon Food Village for the freshest and tastiest varieties served at eateries such as Jumbo Seafood, Long Beach Seafood and No Signboard Seafood Restaurant, or the Singapore Seafood Republic if you're staying on Sentosa.

If you're wondering what to do about breakfast, kaya toast – toast with a distinct Singaporean jam – is a national favourite. The kaya itself is a concoction of coconut, eggs, pandan leaves and sugar, and if you find yourself craving more, you can pick up a jar or two to take home at a Ya Kun Kaya Toast cafe when you order your all-day breakfast. Kaya toast is also widely available at coffee shops and food courts.

 Singapore chilli crab (Image Getty)

If you haven't explored Peranakan menus yet, laksa is a good meal to start with. The original Peranakans were Chinese emigrants who settled in Singapore and Malaysia, and this spicy broth of noodles, egg and seafood is a fixture on menus across the peninsula.

Popular Singaporean food court varieties include laksa lemak, made with a creamy coconut sauce, and assam laksa, cooked in a fish broth. Wash your Singaporean meals down with a soothing glass of teh tarik, Malay for 'pulled tea,' or hot, black and sweet kopio.


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