Roti Prata and Kopi for breakfast, Nasi Biryani for lunch, Ice Kachang for dessert – this Singapore food guide covers 14 must-try dishes.
A diverse melting pot of cultures and cuisines, Singapore’s food has as mixed a heritage as its people, drawing influences from Chinese, Indonesian, Indian and Malaysia dishes. Today, it’s quickly gaining an international reputation as a culinary powerhouse – and it’s not hard to see why. To help you understand and navigate through the city’s ever-evolving foodscape, we’ve curated this list of Singapore’s 14 most famous must-eat dishes – and where to find them.
A Brief History of Singapore Food
Founded in 1819 by Sir Stamford Raffles, modern Singapore has long been revered for its rich multi-ethnic culture and heritage and is home to some of the world’s most exciting and vibrant street foods. Hawker centres, or open air food courts, have come to define Singaporean food culture, offering up a huge variety of local dishes at inexpensive prices.
Today there are more than 100 government-run public hawker centres on this island, serving up everything from chicken rice and laksa to chilli crab and kaya toast. The origins of Singapore’s famed hawker culture can be traced back to the mid-1800s, when food peddlers roamed the city armed with pots tied to pushcarts or bicycles (or even balanced on shoulder-poles) for at least 12 to 15 hours every day, feeding the ever-increasing population by delivering delicious meals door to door.
It wasn’t until 1968-1986 (3 years after Singapore’s independence) that the government took its first steps in legalising hawkers, licensing and resettling street hawkers into purpose-built hawker centres and markets which today make up the city’s national identity.
Today, Singapore food clearly reflects the city’s melting pot of cultures and ethnicities, serving up dishes that span Chinese, Malay and Indian culinary traditions.
#1 Bak Kut Teh (肉骨茶/Pork Bone Tea)
A Chinese-Malaysian soup dish that’s a popular comfort food across Southeast Asia, bak kut teh typically combines juicy pork ribs with pepper and garlic to create an extremely flavourful and herbal broth, which usually simmers away for hours. There are three main styles of bak kut teh: the Hoklo (Hokkien) incorporates a variety of herbs and soy sauce and has a more fragrant, darker broth; the Teochew style consists of pepper and garlic and is lighter in colour; the Cantonese style uses medicinal herbs to create a stronger flavoured soup base. Usually eaten at breakfast, bak kut teh is best served hot with rice, a side of mustard greens, tofu and hot Chinese tea.
Best Restaurants for Bak Kut Teh
11 New Bridge Rd, #01-01, Singapore 059383
Price: Starts at SGD 6
Ng Ah Sio Bak Kut Teh
Address: 208 Rangoon Rd, Hong Building, Singapore 218453
Price: Starts at SGD 7.80
#2 Kaya Toast
A well-known snack and breakfast staple in both Singapore and Malaysia, Kaya toast is made of kaya (a rich and aromatic Malaysian coconut egg jam), crispy bread, and butter. Normally served in kopitiams (traditional coffee shops), this dish tastes even better when paired with soft-boiled eggs, sprinkled with soy sauce & white pepper, and served alongside a hot cup of kopi (coffee with condensed milk).
Best Restaurants for Kaya Toast
#3 Mee Siam (暹罗面)
Originating from Southeast Asia, mee siam (‘Siamese Noodles’ in Malay) consists of bee hoon (thin rice vermicelli) soaked in both sweet and spicy flavours such as tamarind, dried shrimp and tau cheo (fermented soy beans) to create a tangy soup base. Famous for its light, sweet, savoury and slightly sour taste, mee siam is typically garnished with tau pok (beancurd puffs), egg, scallions and lime wedges, and is believed to have been inspired by Thai cuisine and flavours.
Best Restaurants for Mee Siam
Jia Xiang Mee Siam
Address: 85 Redhill Ln, #01-35, Singapore 150085
Price: Starts at SGD 3
Rojak (“mixture” in Malay) is a traditional fruit and vegetable salad dish eaten in Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia. While the exact mixture varies by hawker, the local salad typically involves liberally tossing the fruit and vegetables in a thick, brown gravy which is nearly equal parts salty and tangy, spicy and sweet, and soft and crunchy. The two most popular styles of Rojak in Singapore are the more traditional Chinese rojak, which typically consists of chilli, tamarind, lime, and prawn paste, finished off with crushed roasted peanuts; and the Indian rojak, which tends to be more savoury in nature and does not revolve around fruits and vegetables.
Best Restaurants for Rojak
Balestier Road Hoover Rojak
Address: Whampoa Dr, #01-06 Makan Place, Block 90, Singapore 320090
Price: Starts from SGD 3
Singapore Famous Rojak
Address: 270 Queen St, #01-45, Singapore 180270
Price: Starts from SGD 2
#5 Nasi Biryani (Nasi Briyani)
A dinner staple in Singapore, Nasi Biryani is a mixed rice dish of Indian-Muslim origin that’s usually accompanied by meat, vegetables and a curry or gravy. The basmati rice (long, slender-grained rice) is flavoured with a mix of aromatic spices such as nutmeg, cloves, cinnamon and bay leaves, as well as rose or kewra water. The spiced rice is then served with either chicken, mutton or fish curry. Commonly found in one of Singapore’s most colourful neighbourhoods, Little India, this delectable fusion of Indian and Malay Cuisines is definitely one to eat on an empty stomach.
Best Restaurants for Nasi Biryani
Address: 665 Buffalo Rd, #01-229, Tekka Food Centre, Singapore
Price: Starts at SGD 6
#6 Ice Kacang (Ais Kacang)
Widely available at hawker centres, food courts and dessert stalls, this melt-in-your-mouth shaved ice dish is perhaps Singapore’s most classic cold dessert option. At the bottom of your ice kacang (“bean ice”) bowl, you can expect to find a combination of different jellies, palm nuts, raisins and red beans, which are then topped with a mountain of shaved ice and sprinkled with red rose syrup, condensed milk and sweet cream corn. This thirst-quenching dessert dish is definitely a treat in scorching Singapore, a must-try for any visitor passing by!
Best Restaurants for Ice Kacang
Jin Jin Hot / Cold Dessert
Address: 6 Jalan Bukit Merah, #01-21 ABC Brickworks Market Food Centre, Singapore 150006
Price: Starts at SGD 3
Mei Heong Yuen Dessert
Address: No. 63-67 Temple Street, Singapore 058611
Price: Starts at SGD 2.90
#7 Roti Prata
Sinful but extremely delicious, Roti Prata (or “paratha”) is a buttery and flaky flatbread that’s quickly gained a reputation as one of Singapore’s most beloved midday snacks. Crispy on the outside, chewy on the inside, this savoury South-Indian flatbread is normally served with a meat or vegetable-based curry side dip. All you have to do is tear up slices of your prata and get dipping – we promise it’s worth the calories.
Best Restaurants for Roti Prata
Mr and Mrs Mohgan’s Super Crispy Roti Prata
Address: 300 Joo Chiat Road (besides Dunman Food Centre), Singapore 427551
Price: Starts at SGD 1
#8 Char Kway Teow (炒粿條)
No trip to Singapore would be complete without sampling a hot plate of Char Kway Teow (stir-fried noodles). A delectable combination of flat rice noodles topped with eggs, prawns, bean sprouts, Chinese chives, shrimp paste and dark chilli soy sauce, it can be hard to resist this truly epic noodle dish – and it’s the city’s hawker that stir them best. Want the whole experience? Pair your kway teow with another one of Singapore’s local favourites, otah (grilled fish cake).
Best Restaurants for Char Kway Teow
Hill Street Fried Kway Teow
Address: 335 Smith St, #02-32, Singapore 050335
Price: Starts at SGD 3
Meng Kee Fried Kway Teow
Address: 22A Havelock Rd, #01-07, Singapore 161022
Price: Starts at SGD 3
#9 Chilli Crab (辣椒螃蟹)
A Singapore classic, this iconic dish has been promoted by the Singapore Tourism Board as one of Singapore’s national dishes and was recently added to the World’s 50 Best Foods list. Typically deep-fried in a sweet, savoury and spicy gravy, chilli crab comes in two famous styles: chilli crab with spicy tomato, and chilli crab with black pepper sauce. This zesty dish can be found at almost every seafood ze char (Chinese food stall) around the city and is eaten with your fingers. To enjoy chilli crab like a local, be sure to soak up the remaining sauce with some fried or steamed buns (“mantou”).
Best Restaurants for Chilli Crab
Address: 232 Ang Mo Kio Avenue 3, St 22, #01-1222, Singapore 560232
Price: Starts at SGD 42
#10 Oyster Omelette (Orh Luak)
Another popular option at Singapore hawker centres is the famous Orh Luak. Highly-favoured by foreigners, this dish of Hokkien and Teochew origin consists of potato starch mixed with egg and fried oysters – and is finished off with a splash of sweet sauce, spicy chilli sauce and a sprinkle of lime. Trust us when we say that this heavy dish is certainly worth the cheat day calories.
Best Restaurants for Oyster Omelette
Hup Kee Fried Oyster Omelette
Address: 500 Clemenceau Ave N, Newton Circus, #01-73 Food Centre, Singapore 229495
Price: Starts at SGD 4
Ang Sa Lee Oyster Omelette
Address: 20 Kensington Park Rd, #01-33, Singapore 557269
Price: Starts at SGD 5
#11 Ice Cream Sandwich
Coming in a delightful array of colours and flavours are Singapore’s classic street snack, the famous ice cream sandwich. Strategically situated near schools and colleges, as well as on busy street corners, these IG-worthy concoctions are best described as a brick of ice cream wrapped in slices of rainbow-coloured bread. Boasting a wide range of exotic flavours such as red bean, sweet corn and durian, as well as the usual chocolate and strawberry, these multi-coloured sweet treats are absolutely worth your time and money.
Best Restaurants for Ice Cream Sandwich
Originating from Indonesia, satay skewers (different types of grilled meat) have become such a staple of Singaporean communal dining that Singapore even has its own street dedicated to the dish – Lau Pa Sat’s iconic Satay Street. A popular part of Singapore’s late-night hawker centre scene, satays are ordinarily served with a thick spread of bumbu kacang (peanut sauce), slices of cucumber and ketupat (rice dumpling) and are the perfect bite-sized snack to accompany any meal.
Best Restaurants for Satay
Lau Pa Sat Satay Street
Address: 18 Raffles Quay, Singapore 048582
Price: Starts at SGD 0.60 per stick
Chomp Chomp Food Centre
Address: 20 Kensington Park Rd, Singapore 557269
Price: Starts at SGD 4
#13 Chendol (Cendol)
Beat the Singapore heat with this iced sweet dessert! Named by CNN as one of the World’s 50 Best Desserts, Chendol is an exotic combination of green rice jelly, coconut milk, red beans, sweet corn and gula melaka (palm sugar), and is both chilly and sweet. A refreshing and affordable treat, Chendol is available at most food courts, hawker centres and seaside restaurants.
Best Restaurants for Chendol
Four Seasons Cendol
Address: 210 #01-07, Lor 8 Toa Payoh, Singapore 310210
Price: Starts at SGD 2
Old Amoy Chendol
Address: 335 Smith St, #02-008, Singapore 050335
Price: Bowls start at SGD 2
#14 Hainanese Chicken Rice (海南鸡饭)
Hainanese Chicken Rice is Singapore’s national dish and is widely available at every corner of the city-state. Succulent, simple and truly scrumptious, this local favourite originated in the Wencheng District of Hainan, an island on the south coast of China. A comforting dish and a favourite of Anthony Bourdain, this culinary staple features slow-poached chicken that’s served with both a chili sauce and a ginger-garlic sauce – and some perfectly seasoned rice.
Best Restaurants for Hainanese Chicken Rice
Tian Tian Chicken Rice
Address: 1 Kadayanallur St, #01-10/11 Maxwell Food Centre, Singapore 069184
Price: Starts at SGD 3.50
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