This dish has become Singapore’s national dish of sorts, with almost every restaurant and hawker centre serving their own versions. The name is deceptively simple, but the Hainanese cooking technique is anything but. It involves steeping an old, plump chicken into a sub-boiling chicken and pork bone broth until it’s cooked. Because the broth is warm, the chicken takes a bit longer to cook fully so the oils and flavors really seep into the meat.
A popular variant of the dish is “baiji,” where the cooked chicken is quickly dipped in ice to give the skin a soft, supple feel. Meanwhile, the rice used in the dish is usually cooked using a separate chicken stock, along with garlic and ginger.
Char Kway Teow is a delicious and popular noodle dish which can also be found in Malaysia and Thailand. It’s a national favourite in Singapore, and translated it literally means stir fried rice cake strips; derived from Hokkien, “char” means fried, while “kway teow” are the “flat rice noodles”.
The flat rice noodles are stir-fried over a very large heat, light and dark soy sauce are added along with beansprouts, garlic, chives, eggs and either seafood or meat.
It was originally a cheap, high fat dish consumed by labourers, farmers, fishermen and cockle-pickers, but has evolved into one of the most famous and popular dishes. The beauty of this dish is you can see it cooked in front of you at markets and hawker centres.
Laksa is a marriage of Chinese and Malay cuisine, also known as Peranakan. In Singapore, the more predominant version of laksa is curry laksa, as opposed to assam laksa that’s famous in Malaysia. Curry laksa features a creamy coconut milk sauce, vermicelli noodles, and fried tau pok (beancurd puffs).
Depending on where you eat, you may also see fish, shrimp, and cockles included in the dish. You’ll also find Katong laksa in the Katong district, where they cut the vermicelli into small pieces.
No visit to Singapore is complete without a visit to Chinatown. Not only will you find some amazing street art, but there is a large hawker centre where you can try authentic Singaporean dishes. Start your food trip sampling bak kut the, the literal translation of this dish’s name is less than appealing: meat bone tea. Bak kut teh is not really tea, it’s an aromatic pork ribs soup made by boiling pork ribs in a carefully blended herbal broth with plenty of garlic, pepper, and star anise. Other spices like cinnamon, cloves, and fennel are used to fine-tune the taste, whilst tofu and mushrooms add texture.
Bak kut teh is often served with oolong tea that’s supposed to help dissolve the pork fat.
There is a popular style to cooking hard-shelled mud crabs in Singapore: in a thick, sweet-spicy chili and tomato sauce. For the best results, the crabs are first boiled to prevent the meat from sticking to the shells, then stir-fried with your chosen sauce. Boiling the crabs also helps “open” the meat to allow it to absorb the flavors better.
The chili crabs are usually served with fried buns (called mantou) that are dipped into the same sweet-spicy sauce.
More cooking styles have developed over the years including black pepper crab, but chilli crab is a must-try if you want the authentic experience.
After eating plenty of savory dishes, you might want to give your taste buds a break with a sweet dessert like tau hua. If you’ve been to other Southeast Asian countries, you’ve probably encountered something similar like the Philippines’ taho or Thailand’s taohuai.
In Singapore, tau hua or tau huay is flavoured with a sweet syrup infused with pandan leaves. Popular toppings include tang yuan (glutinous rice balls), ginkgo seeds, and grass jelly. Depending on your preferences, you can eat tau hua hot or cold.
Known as the “King of Fruits,” durian is Singapore’s national fruit. Its pungent odor (durian is banned in enclosed public spaces in Singapore) might be a turn-off, but you should definitely try the variety of desserts made with durian. From cakes and tarts to candies and even snow ice, you’ll certainly learn to love the unique flavor of the durian. Of course, if you can withstand the smell, you should also give the fruit’s mildly sweet flesh a try.
Trying out different foods and delicacies is a big part of a memorable travel experience. Indeed, there are some people who travel for the express purpose of trying out different cuisines. In Singapore, you’re certainly going to find a wide variety of culinary delights that will make you want to come back again and again.
Wondering what to pack for your next trip? Let us help you with the essentials in our Ultimate Packing List for Worldwide Travel (tried and tested!)
Free: If you want to stay for free in Singapore, check out Couchsurfing! There are a few people you can contact, and Couchsurfing is a fantastic way of getting to know Singapore like a local.
Budget: If Couchsurfing isn't for you and you are on a budget, we stayed in Hotel 81 Premiere Star in Geylang which is part of a chain. The nearest MRT is Aljunied.
Mid Range: Hotel Bencoolen, Fairmount Singapore, Swissotel Merchant Court
Blow the budget: Three luxury hotels overlook the river, Marina Bay Sands, Mandarin Oriental and The Fullerton Hotel.
- Singapore was voted the safest City in the world in 2018.
- Officially known as the Republic of Singapore, it is both a city and country.
- Singapore is a year round destination, with an average temperate of 27°C (81°F). Peak times are November - January, June and July.
- It is one of only three City-States in the world, the other two being The Vatican City and Monaco.
- There are 63 smaller islands around Singapore.
- The currency is Singapore dollar.
- Although English is widely spoken, there are four other languages, Malay, Mandarin, Tamil and unofficially Singlish, a creole which is a mixture of Singapore’s four official languages, and is something the Government wish to phase out.
- The name Singapore comes from the Malay words “Singa” for lion and “Pura” for City
- Singapore was once a British Colony. In 1819 Lieutenant General Sir Stamford Raffles came to the City State to establish a trading station which shaped modern day Singapore.
- Plug sockets are the same as UK – 3 pinned.
- Singapore in the Guinness World Records for many things, including the biggest game of pass the parcel, longest human domino chain, and the most number of people participating in a line dance (11,967).
- Singaporeans are polite people thanks to a Government backed campaign teaching ethics and mannerisms since 1970.
- The five stars in the national flag represent democracy, peace, progress, justice and equality. Red signifies brotherhood, white represents purity.
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