Singapore is a melting pot of diverse cultures and cuisines, a reflection of its multi-cultural history with the Chinese, Malays, Indians, and other ethnicities. Foodies will have a tummy filling trip in this island state whose local dishes cater to every palate and budget. If you plan on visiting Singapore but don’t want to break the bank, fret not, check out this budget guide to Singapore we made just for you.
If you only have time for five dishes or so to eat in Singapore, the following foods are the ones to go for! Here are the five best Singapore foods to try for a gastronomic treat!
If you love spicy food, laksa might become your new favorite dish. Laksa is a super flavorful bowl of noodles (usually rice noodles) in spicy soup topped with protein pieces like egg, meat, tahu pok, cockles, prawns, or fishcakes. It is thought to be a blending of Chinese and Malay cuisines and is served in many of Singapore’s hawker centers and casual restaurants. Hawker centers are open-air complexes where you can find the most affordable dishes served in stalls by “hawkers” (the person in charge of the stall).
Like many popular meals, laksa comes in many variants. The Sarawak style has curry-like features, while the Penang version is seasoned with asam (tamarind) giving it a sweet tangy flavor. Singapore’s own local variation of laksa is called Katong Laksa, which features short rice noodles in creamy coconut-based soup.
One of Singapore’s most revered cuisines, laksa can be eaten from breakfast to dinner. Its right balance of spice and coconut milk or tangy tamarind makes it a perfect comfort food for rainy days.
2. Chicken Rice
Widely acknowledged as Singapore’s national dish, chicken rice is definitely a must-try for every tourist. The dish traces its roots from a mix of Hainanese and Cantonese cuisines.
Chicken rice can be found at almost every dining spot including hawker food stalls across Singapore. The dish is made of boiled rice and chicken poached in broth, served with soy sauce and chilli garlic dip. The sauces come in different styles – spicy, gingery, or salty – so tourists can choose depending on their palate, or mood. Usually, the dish is also garnished with cucumber.
Delectable in its simplicity, it’s hard not to love Singapore’s chicken rice.
3. Nasi Lemak
A trip to Singapore wouldn’t be complete without a taste of Nasi Lemak. Nasi Lemak translates to “rice in cream” in Malay, from which the dish also traces its roots. It is named such because the rice is cooked in coconut milk.
It is easy to spot this dish in a hawker center because of its signature aroma that is enough to whet someone’s appetite. Coconut milk and pandan leaves give Nasi Lemak such a distinctive fragrance. To complete the dish, homemade sambal, which is chilli paste made from blending chillies, belacan (shrimp paste), garlic, and other spices, is added to it. It is also usually served with side garnishes.
Traditionally, Nasi Lemak is wrapped in banana leaves and eaten as breakfast. Nowadays, it is a ubiquitous dish in every hawker food center and can be eaten just about any time of the day.
4. Chilli Crab
Arguably the king of all crab dishes in Singapore, chili crab is well-loved by tourists and locals alike. Locally invented by street food hawker Cher Yam Tian in the 1950s, chili crab has been a source of national pride in the Lion City.
This iconic dish is sweet, slightly spicy, and savory, it is simply impossible not to lick up the sauce that gets on the fingers while cracking the crab shells. Its sauce, which is a concoction of tomato and chili, tastes like no other. And oh, it is best eaten with mantou, which is fried or steamed buns. You can dip these Mantous in the delicious gravy to soak it up.
Chilli crab is best consumed with a companion and is a popular family meal. It is easily available in most seafood restaurants in Singapore, as well as zi char joints on the island.
5. Kaya toast
Considered a breakfast staple in Singapore, kaya toast is another dish that tourists should be careful not to miss. Kaya toast is made of two slices of toast with a generous portion of butter and kaya (coconut jam).
The warm, toasty bread slices stuffed with smooth, silky butter and kaya are simply addictive. The bread melts in the mouth and is best served with a milky kopi (coffee) or teh (tea). It can also either come as soft and fluffy or crunchy and charcoal grilled to golden perfection. The dish is also often paired with eggs. Although typically consumed for breakfast, it can be eaten as a snack at any time of the day.
Kaya toast is widely available in coffee shops in Singapore as well as most food chains.
Singapore is home to diverse culinary options that choosing which to eat might sometimes get overwhelming, especially for first-time travelers. We recommend the above-mentioned dishes to save you the trouble. Sought after by local and overseas gastronomes alike, they are five of the best must-try food in Singapore. Their unique and diverse flavors also reflect the dynamic and vibrant culture of the Lion City. And, if you still are looking for which places to stay in the country, check out these three best accommodations in Singapore for budget travelers.