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Singapore Food Culture: Try 12 Must-eat Food in Singapore

Last Updated on September 15, 2020 by queenie mak

Singapore food culture is about bringing all the flavours from different cultures and create dishes that are unique and delicious. And the best part, many of these Singapore national foods are affordable and can be found anywhere in the city.

I put together a list of 12 must-eat food for anyone who wants to try all the best food of Singapore culture without breaking the bank. Keep reading and I’ll show you what to eat and where to eat in Singapore.

Related Post – 17 things to do alone in Singapore

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What you need to know before going to Singapore

Before you try all the must-eat food in Singapore, take a look at my post on my solo travel guide to Singapore. I included a lot of travel information including how to get around Singapore, where to stay in Singapore and suggestions on what to see.

Here are some tips for when you eat in Singapore (especially in Hawker Centres):

  • You can find many Michelin level food in hawker centres and it can cost as little as $5SGD
  • When you see a long queue for a particular food stall, it usually means it is very food. And if locals like it, then it must be good!
  • Be aware of the hours of operations. Many have different hours and they close when they are sold out of food.
  • The food portion is quite small (compared to food portions in western cultures). But typically, one portion is enough for each person.
  • There is no additional cost like tax and tips. Singaporeans eateries do not accept tips. But if you are in a high-end restaurant, services might be included in the bill.
  • Bring kleenex or tissue when you eat at hawker centres

Where to eat in Singapore

Hawker Centres are synonymous with the food culture in Singapore. You can get delicious local food for very little money. Most dishes range from SGD$2 to $5. Similar to a food court in the western world, food vendors are grouped in a marketplace type of environment, and many tables and chairs are placed in between. Most hawker centres look very basic but the best food comes out of hawker centres! 

The majority of my recommendations on where to eat in Singapore are in hawker centres. And I also included a few recommended restaurants around Singapore which you should consider trying as well.

What to eat in Singapore

If this is your first time travelling solo to Singapore, I would imagine trying new food is part of the travel itinerary.

And eating in Singapore doesn’t have to cost a lot. Between all the free things to do alone in Singapore, and spending minimally while trying all the best food in hawker centres, you won’t break your budget while having the best time in Singapore.

I’ve listed all the favourite Singaporean food below and in no particular order.

1. Hainanese Chicken Rice

Hainanese chicken rice is the quintessential Singaporean food. The dish starts with poached chicken and fragrant oily rice. Add a bit of red chilli and thick sweet soy sauce and you got yourself the perfect meal.

Depending on where you are eating chicken rice, you may get a bowl of clear chicken broth.

But no matter where you go in Singapore, try chicken rice at a hawker centre and also at one of the restaurants specializing in chicken rice. The dish is so simple and yet so satisfying. It is absolutely one of my favourite food in Singapore!

Where to eat chicken rice

  • Tian Tian Hainanese Chicken Rice ($) – famous chicken rice is Maxwell Food Centre is Michelin recommended. Even Anthony Bourdain approved!
  • Heng Heng Hainanese Chicken Rice ($) – when the queue is too long at Tian Tian, try Heng Heng in Maxwell Food Centre
  • Tiong Bahru Boneless Chicken Rice ($) – try their chicken rice and soup at one of the several locations in Singapore
  • Boon Tong Kee ($$) – with 11 locations in Singapore, there has to be one near you. Oh and order the crispy cereal prawns too! They are sooo good!
  • Loy Kee Best Chicken Rice ($) – order a Loy Kee special set with either steamed, roasted or soy sauce chicken
  • Liao Fan Hawker Chan ($) – not exactly the typical Hainanese chicken rice but this Michelin 1-star soy sauce chicken rice is worth trying as well

2. Bak Chor Mee

Bak Chor Mee is a bowl of flat yellow noodles with pork (minced pork, liver, meatball). It is garnished with dried fish, green onions, chilli paste and black vinegar. You can have the noodles in soup or dry (the soup is in a separate bowl).

I’ve never had noodles like this anywhere else in the world. I think its the combination of ingredients that makes the noodle so tasty. And it is also the vinegary base that makes it tastes so good. And I don’t typically like sour food but I really enjoyed bak chor mee. Try one and let me know if you like it.

Where to eat bak chor mee

  • Hill Street Tai Hwa Pork Noodle ($) – prepare for a long queue at this Michelin one-star bak chor mee food stall but a small bowl is only $5SGD
  • Tai Wah Pork Noodle ($) – this Michelin Bib Gourmand bak chor mee at Hong Lim Food Centre has a long queue too but worth the wait
  • Bedok Bak Chor Mee ($) – if you are near Boat Quay, try a bowl of bak chor mee at this restaurant

3. Char Kway Teow

There are many versions of char kway teow in Asia and particularly in China and Southeast Asia. And every country has its own version of this local fried rice noodle dish.

Singapore’s char kway teow has flat rice noodles, fish cakes, bean sprouts, green onions, egg, “lap cheong” (Chinese sausage), cockles and crispy pork skin. All the ingredients are stir-fried over high heat in a wok and condiments like dark soy sauce, garlic, and chilli are added to the stir-fried noodles.

Moreover, the noodle dish has this special charred flavour from the seasoned wok. Cantonese people call this flavour “wok hay”. “Hay” in Chinese means “energy”. If I translate it directly, it means the noodles absorbed the energy from the wok. Try it and see if you can taste the “wok hay” too!

Where to eat char kway teow

4. Laksa

There are several versions of laksa in Asia and the Singaporean Laksa is inspired by Peranakan cuisine or Nyonya cuisine (a mixture of Chinese and Malay origins).

In Singapore, a delicious bowl of laksa is all about the right balance of spice and coconut milky broth and the fresh ingredients (rice noodles, fishcake, prawns, and cockles). And the noodle is short enough that you can eat it with a spoon, almost like slurping a bowl of soup.

Where to eat laksa

5. Hokkien Mee

If you like saucy fried noodles, then you’ll have to try Hokkien Prawn Mee. This Chinese noodle dish starts with a mixture of yellow and white moodles. Prawns, squid and fishcake are added to the wok along with a rich prawn stock with pork fat.

The saucy noodle is very flavourful (thanks to the pork fat). So make sure to squeeze a bit of lime juice in the noodles. The citrus completely changes the flavour profile.

Where to eat Hokkien mee

6. Lor Mee

Lor Mee starts with a hearty bowl of flat yellow noodles with fried fish, braised pork belly and onsen egg. Then a thick gravy soup is added along with condiments like vinegar, minced garlic, and red chilli.

This Hokkien dish is one of the most distinctive dishes I tried in Singapore. The vinegary noodle in the thick gravy is one of the most unique foods I’ve tasted and you can’t eat this anywhere else. Give it a try because locals love this dish!

Where to eat lor mee

7. Chilli Crab

Mmmm…chilli crab! Singaporean chilli crab is stir-fried and smothered with a thick and savoury sauce made with sambal (chilli paste), tomato paste and egg. As one of the national dishes of Singapore, this is a must-eat while you are in Singapore.

However, chilli crab is not really that cheap. But you can find it at most seafood restaurants, touristy restaurants along Boat Quay and Clarke Quay. It is super messy to eat it but well worth the effort.

Where to eat chilli crab

  • Momma Kong’s ($$) – try different ways of preparing a crab including red chilli, black pepper, bee hoon, butter, laksa, white pepper, fresh steamed or grilled in this restaurant in Chinatown
  • Sin Hoi Sai Seafood Restaurant ($$) – Michelin recommended Singaporean restaurant serving excellent seafood including chilli crab
  • Holycrab ($$) – try the naked (shell-less) crab if you don’t want to get your hands dirty at this restaurant near Bugis MRT

8. Satay

While satays are popular in Malaysia and Indonesia, they are also one of the top foods to eat in Singapore. Marinated meat such as beef, chicken, lamb, mutton, and prawns are skewered and grilled over a charcoal fire. They are great as a snack or part of a meal.

But make sure to dip your skewers in the peanut sauce, also known as satay sauce. It makes the grilled meat taste even better!

Where to eat satay

9. Curry Chicken

I noticed there are many hawker centres and restaurants making different variations of curry chicken. And it makes sense because Singapore is a city-state with many different ethnic groups.

But one of my favourites is the Chinese curry chicken where the chicken is stewed with potato in coconut milk curry sauce. The curry is mild, flavourful and aromatic. The rich sauce is the perfect base for white rice and noodles. The curry chicken and rice or noodle combo is the perfect comfort food!

Where to eat curry chicken

10. Prawn Noodles

Similar to curry chicken, there are many ways to prepare prawn noodles. It starts with noodles and pork. Then big prawns (including the head) are added to the dish as well as a rich seafood-y broth that has been simmering for hours.

You can either eat prawn noodles in soup or dry (soup is on the side). And you can find at least one food stall in a hawker centre serving this Singaporean favourite.

Where to eat prawn noodles

11. Bak Kut Teh

Bak Kut Teh means “meat bone tea” when you translate it in English. The dish is made with pork ribs in a flavourful broth, but it does not have tea in it.

In Singapore, a typical bak kut teh is made with white pepper broth with garlic and herbs. Whereas its neighbour just north of the border makes this national specialty with dark soy sauce in an herbal-y broth.

Typically, you order the pork ribs with soup (doesn’t matter which soup base), a side of vegetables and either white rice or “you tiao” (fried dough).

You can try this pork dish at almost any hawker centres. And if you are trying it at a specialty restaurant, you can even pick different cuts of pork like prime spare ribs soup, premium loin ribs soup, pork tenderloin soup, and more.

Where to eat bak kut teh

  • Kota Zheng Zong Bak Kut Teh ($) – the restaurant in Holland Village make many kinds of bak kut teh including the herbal clay pot that goes really well with fried dough
  • Song Fa Bak Kut Teh ($) – the Michelin Bib Gourmand recommended Singaporean bak kut teh has many locations in Singapore
  • Hokkien Street Bak Kut Teh ($$) – order a dark herbally Michelin level bak kut teh at Hong Lim Food Centre

12. Cendol

My list of must-eat food in Singapore is not complete unless I included something sweet as well. And cendol is my go-to dessert in Singapore!

Cendol is an iced dessert made with shaved ice, red azuki beans, green rice flour jelly, coconut milk and palm sugar. The sweet treat is either served in a bowl or a cup. This ice dessert is popular in Southeast Asia including countries like Indonesia, Thailand and Vietnam.

Besides cendol, there are many other ice desserts in Singapore with different sweet toppings. Don’t leave Singapore without trying at least a few.

Where to eat cendol

Other Singaporean Dishes

There are many more Singaporean food to try. Here are more suggestions:

  • Mee Rebus – yellow noodles with thicker sauce, with peanut, dried shrimp and salted soybeans
  • Mee Siam – vermicelli flavoured with tamarind, and has dried shrimp and fermented bean paste. Comes with boiled egg, beansprout, beancurd puff
  • Nasi Lemak – coconut rice with peanut, egg and samba
  • BBQ Sambal Stingray – stingray cooked with sambal and lime
  • Fried Carrot Cake – egg, preserved radish, white radish flour cake
  • Duck Rice – duck with rice drizzled with braised sauce
  • Chwee Kway – water rice cake for breakfast
  • Popiah – thin wheat crepe wrap with small prawns, egg, Chinese sausage, lettuce, bean sprouts, cooked carrot and turnip strips in hoisin sauce
  • Rojak – a mix of dough fritters, bean sprouts, beancurd puffs, radish, pineapple cucumber, roast peanut mixed with a black, fermented prawn sauce
  • Paper Dosa – crispy “pancake” filled with curry potatoes
  • Roti Prata – fried flour-based pancake, may include egg, cheese, mushroom, onion
  • Kaya Toast and Soft-boiled Eggs – traditional Singaporean breakfast
  • Kopi – Singaporean coffee, which is coffee served with condensed milk
  • Ice Kacang – shaved ice with red bean, agar jelly, cendol, grass jelly, evaporated or condensed milk

Want to try Singaporean food with a tour? Check out one of these exciting tours:

Where are you staying in Singapore? Check out Lloyd’s Inn Singapore – the most affordable boutique hotel in Singapore

Which local Singaporean food are you going to try?

If you are travelling to Singapore for the first time and want to try the best of the best Singaporean cuisine, go to hawker centres and try a few of these top must-eat food.

The portion is not too big and it doesn’t cost a lot. Even though the city is rated as the most expensive city in the world, it doesn’t have to cost a lot to eat all the best food in the city.

If you are spending more than 2 days in Singapore, you can comfortably try all 12 food on my list. Let me know in the comments which one you like and if there are any other foods you tried and should be on the list as well.

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About Author

Hi, my name is Queenie, and I've been a solo traveller for 18+ years and currently based in Hong Kong. Follow me on my adventures through Instagram and my blog!

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