One of the best ways to enjoy Singapore, aside from shopping and sightseeing, is indulging in its rich food culture. Its cuisine is so diverse because of Malay, Chinese, Indian, Indonesian, and Peranakan influences. Even neighboring regions like Japan, Korea, and Thailand have left their marks in the rich tapestry of Singaporean culinary traditions.
The best time to indulge on an SG food tour is during the annual Singapore Food Festival which highlights the Lion City’s hidden culinary gems. The festival, now on its 29th year, runs until September 11. But of course you can always eat your way around Singapore anytime you want.
Here are 10 classic Singaporean favorites to include in your must-tries—and where to find an excellent version of it in the city.
1 Black pepper crabs
You may have seen Chili Crabs on many lists of “best Singaporean dishes to try.” And we agree it's among the best the country has to offer. But do try the Black Pepper Crabs, too, especially when you head over to KEK (Keng Eng Kee), one of the popular local Chinese eateries in Singapore.
The combination of dried shrimps and curry leaves give this local dish different layers of flavors. The intense peppery kick explodes in your mouth and makes you hanker for more. We suggest you also order some steamed buns to go with it and an ice cold water chestnut drink to cool things down.
Where to find it: KEK or Keng Eng Kee is located at 124 Bukit Merah Lane, right in the middle of a semi-industrial park.
2 Signature Moonlight Horfun
It’s a flavorful rice noodle dish with Chinese sausages, octopus, and prawns. The mung bean sprouts add a delightful crunch to it. The flat rice noodles, which are supposed to resemble a shimmering river, are served with a raw egg yolk on top representing a brightly lit full moon; the dish’s Chinese name translates to “moon lit river.” You’re supposed to break the raw egg and stir it into the mixture as soon as the dish is served so the remaining heat of the noodles cooks the egg.
Where to find it: Also at KEK
3 Brinjal Delight
These are thinly sliced eggplant that’s double-fried to a crispy texture and served in a sauce that has kaffir lime leaves, curry leaves, lime juice, and dried red chili. So imagine all that sweet, sour, and spicy flavors in your mouth—which makes it so addictive. It is a great appetizer or can be paired with your favorite boozy drink.
Where to find it: New Ubin Seafood, which has branches at Chijmes (30 Victoria St.), MYMCA Stevens (60 Stevens Road), Zhingshan Park (16 A Hood Road)
If you’re thinking of going out for drinks in Singapore, we suggest you include some satay in the itinerary. And you can’t go wrong when you head over to Singapore’s “Satay Strip.” It’s an al fresco dining area with a row of hawkers serving a variety of grilled delights on sticks with delicious dipping sauces. We tried a set that has chicken, beef and mutton—that’s 120 skewers for 101 Singapore dollars. The meats, which are served with sliced onions, cucumbers and a rich peanut sauce, are moist, chewy and tasty. You may choose to order some rice cakes for a complete meal.
Where to find it: Boon Tat Street, behind Lau Pa Sat hawker center.
5 Beef Rendang
Fork tender meat slathered in rich, aromatic flavors of a special coconut sauce—it’s divine. We suggest you try the Rendang Sapi (beef rendang) of Michelin star restaurant True Blue Cuisine, which is known for its Peranakan dishes. It definitely goes well with rice. Or you can enjoy it with their Chap Chye (cabbage stewed with glass vermicelli and mushrooms) and date tea.
Where to find it: True Blue Cuisine located at Armenian Street, beside the Peranakan Museum.
6 Fried carrot cake
Fried carrot cake is actually a famous Hawker-style street food in Singapore but it has no carrot in it. It’s just a savory dish usually eaten for breakfast. Why is it called carrot cake then? The thing is, the Singaporeans have no word for white radish so the vegetable was loosely called a carrot. The carrot cake (glutinous rice flour cake cut into cubes) is pan-fried with eggs like an omelet and served with two kinds of sauces, sweet and salty.
Where to find it: Super Mummy at Chinatown Complex Food Centre
7 Fish ball noodle
Looks can be deceiving. When a bowl of soup with eight pieces of fish balls, sprinkled with scallions arrived on our table, we didn’t think much of it. But when we took one sip of the broth and a bite of a ball, we were just blown away. It’s like our favorite lola just gave us a warm hug. The taste is clean and comforting. Trivia: according to this establishment’s Instagram, their 75-year-old fish ball recipe doesn’t have any starch, so yes it’s a far cry from our local fish balls.
Where to find it: Ming Fa Fish Ball Noodle at Chinatown Complex Food Centre
8 Hakka Thunder Tea Rice
Want fried rice minus the guilt? This is the dish for you. This bowlful of goodness has rice at the bottom (can be brown, white or puff) and then topped with an assortment of herbs like coriander, green tea, celery, mint leaves, basil, wormwood. It also has sesame seeds and peanuts which adds that necessary crunch. Mix all of those ingredients together and eat as is, or drench first with some tea soup.
Where to find it: Hakka Fun HamCha & Yong Tou Fu at Chinatown Complex Hawker Centre
9 Tau Kwa Pau
Tau Kwa means bean curd, and Pau means bun or dumpling. This is like fried tokwa but with a twist. The fried bean curd is cut up to create a space for the filling, which consists of chopped up ingredients—fried fish ball, boiled egg, prawn fritter crisps, and chopped cucumber. It’s served with braised duck soy sauce and chili sauce on the side. To complement this delightful snack, order white soya bean milk with black grass jelly. They call this drink “Michael Jackson” because it’s got two colors, “black and white,” a nod to the King of Pop’s popular track. It’s their version of our sago’t gulaman and is a favorite among locals and tourists alike.
Where to find it: Sey Seng Famous Tau Kwa Pau, Dunman Food Centre at 271 Onan Rd
If you’re in the mood for something spicy, order a bowl of laksa at the famed 328 Katong Laksa. It has a creamy, curry, coconutty broth, with thick vermicelli noodles. They won’t give you chopsticks, and that’s okay, because the noodles are already cut up for you to conveniently enjoy with the broth, fish cakes, prawns, and cockles just using a spoon.
Where to find it: 328 Katong Laksa along Ceylon Road