The Singapore food scene is a spicy reflection of its multicultural heritage. Very much like Malaysia, the island nation has been a world-renowned trade hub for centuries. By the 400s A.D., Arabs, Chinese, Indian, Javanese, and also Malay merchants heavily trafficked its Straits.
Eleven centuries later, the arrival of colonial powers such as Portugal and Great Britain brought with it another wave of migrant workers–adding even more ingredients to the melting pot.
Given its history, I couldn’t wait to take a bite out of Singapore during one of my short stopovers this past summer. And so I enlisted the help of James from Culture Bites to introduce me not only to the most traditional dishes, but also its thriving contemporary foodie scene.
Below, my favorite foodie finds in the city!
Singapore Food Guide: Top Traditional Dishes and Spots
Janggut Laksa: #01-64, Roxy Square, 50 East Coast Road
This Chinese-Malay concoction is the quintessential Singaporean dish–and one of many delicious curry variations in Asia.
Fish cakes, eggs, shrimp, and chicken are boiled with rice noodles in a spicy coconut milk base.
What makes Singaporean Katong laksa truly stand out, however, are its cut-up noodles (usually considered bad luck by the Chinese!) and addition of tofu puffs and cockles.
Kway Guan Huat Joo Chiat Original Popiah & Kueh Pie Tee: 95 Joo Chiat Road
The Hokkien diaspora has spread the consumption of these thin, crêpe-like spring rolls all over Southeast Asia.
Particularly, popiah in Singapore and Malaysia is made by rubbing the batter onto a hot plate until thin. Then, it is stuffed.
Common ingredients include been sprouts, shredded omelette, peanuts, fried tofu, carrots–which are mixed with either soy sauce, shrimp paste, and/or spicy chili sauce.
Jumbo Seafood: 20 Upper Circular Road #B1-48, Riverwalk, Clarke Quay
Partly-opened crab, steamed, then stir-fried in a thick tomato chili gravy. What’s not to like?!
While somewhat intimidating to tourists with low heat tolerance like myself, I was pleasantly surprised to find that chilli crab is deliciously palatable. Must be the sweet ketchup, beautifully balancing the fiery chilies.
BBq Seafood: #03-178, Taman Jurong Market and Food Centre
Barbecue or sambal stingray is one of the most unique foods in Singapore. It is typically wrapped in a banana leaf, grilled until lightly charred.
More recently though, establishments have started to cook the rays on a hot plate until its shrimp-based chili spread (known as sambal belachan) is sizzling.
Don’t be put off by this traditional Singaporean street food: the stingray’s texture might remind you of lobster, lacking a ‘fishy’ aftertaste and no fine bones.
If your taste buds can handle the heat, try it!
Hokkien Prawn Mee
Come Daily Fried Hokkien Prawn Mee: #02-27, Blk 127 Toa Payoh Lor 1
You might recognize this name from my Malaysia foodie guide, but they are in fact two totally distinct dishes!
Unlike the soupy Penang Hokkien prawn mee, the Singaporean version refers to yellow noodles stirfried with soy sauce, garlic, prawns, squid, eggs, bean sprouts, and angel hair rice noodles. Sambal and lime are traditional tangy toppings as well.
Char Kway Teow
Hill Street Fried Kway Teow: #01-187, Blk 16, Bedok South Road
Char kway teow is another national dish shared by both Singapore and Malaysia.
The fatty dish consists of flat rice noodles, bean sprouts, prawns, Chinese sausage, fish cakes, and sometimes crispy pork lard. A salty helping of dark soy sauce and chilies bring all the ingredients together.
Another version of the dish is also popular in Indonesia, where it’s made sweeter, spicier, and without pork–an accommodation to its Muslim majority.
Singapore Food Guide: Contemporary Samplings and Hip Spots
Keong Saik Road and its vicinity have a dodgy background. In recent years, however, the area morphed into a shining star of Singapore’s contemporary foodie scene.
Posh restaurants, bars, and even boutique hotels now sprinkle the area.
As I scoured the streets with James, a few spots with imaginative cocktails and bites caught my attention.
I’ll gladly share the short list with you, but remember: menus change often!
Grand Theft Nacho Cocktail
The Library: 47 Keong Saik Road, Chinatown
Behind a password-protected liquor store door is a romantic, dim-lit speakeasy bursting with young, talented mixologists.
The Library offers a beautifully-crafted cocktail list, with one of the favorites being a Doritos-infused tequila cocktail.
The Mexican agave base is expertly mixed with spiced cherry tomato shrub, minty amaro Strega, dry sherry–garnished with Creole bitters, lime, and a side of nachos.
Pulled Pork Brioche Burger
Burnt Ends: 20 Teck Lim Road
Dave Pynt directs the daily roasting, smoking, grilling, and baking of meats in dreamy ways at Burnt Ends.
Their specialty? PORK. Particularly, their crunchy suckling pig and pulled pork brioche burger alone are worth the trip.
Smoked Pork Buns
Neon Pigeon: 1 Keong Saik Road, Chinatown
The name may not say much, but these smoked pork buns, topped with pickled daikon and ginger, are a memorable Asian fusion creation.
The cucumber goma-salar, smothered with peanuts, is another honorable mention at this hip Japanese-inspired F&B concept.
Hibiscus and Smoked Ice Cream
Burnt Ends: 20 Teck Lim Road
I could have never pictured smoking my ice cream and topping it with an aromatic flower, but Burnt Ends threw it out of the park again!
This delicate dessert was the perfect ending of my unique foodie walk in Singapore.
What’s your favorite food in Singapore? Share with me below!
Want to eat it all? Contact Culture Bites Singapore to book a food walk or a completely customized experience, like mine! Many thanks to James for the fabulous complimentary introduction to Singaporean cuisine, btw 😀