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Singapore Food Culture: 21 Must Eat Food in Singapore

Last Updated on May 16, 2022 by queenie mak

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

I’ve been to Singapore several times in the past few years and I’ve been eating my way around the city. I put together a list of must-eat food in Singapore for anyone who wants to sample some of the best food in the city.

So if you are travelling to Singapore for the first time or wondering what and where to eat in Singapore, then keep reading; I’ll show you exactly what to eat in Singapore, where you can find these specialities and how you can experience the food culture in Singapore.

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What you need to know before experiencing food culture in Singapore

Before you experience the food culture 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 are ready to dive into the food culture in Singapore:

  • You can find many Michelin street 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 in Singapore 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.

Singapore food culture: where to eat in Singapore

Hawker Centres are synonymous with the Singapore food culture. You can get delicious local food for very little money. Most dishes range from SGD$2 to $5. Like 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 Singapore traditional 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: 21 must eat food in Singapore

If this is your first time travelling solo to Singapore, I would imagine trying delicious food in Singapore is high on your priority list!

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.

Below is a list of my favourite Singaporean local food. Take a look!

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.

No matter where you go to Singapore, you can find this Singapore national dish anywhere. Try it at a hawker centre and a restaurant specializing in this Singaporean dish. Hainanese chicken rice is a simple dish and yet so satisfying. It is absolutely one of my favourites in Singapore!

Where to eat chicken rice in Singapore

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).

This is the most unique flavour I ever came across in Singapore food culture. I think it’s the combination of ingredients that makes the noodle so tasty. And it is also the vinegary base that makes it tastes so good.

Where to eat bak chor mee in Singapore

  • 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 ($) – if you are near Boat Quay, try a bowl of bak chor mee
  • Ang Seng Teochew Noodle ($) – upgrade your bak chor mee with an abalone at this Michelin-level hawker stall at Albert Centre

3. Wanton Mee

I’m familiar with wonton noodles because I grew up in Hong Kong. So when I was introduced to Singapore’s version of wanton mee, I was very curious of what it tastes like.

They both have the thin egg noodle and wontons (obviously). But in Singaporean wanton mee, sliced char siew (barbecue pork), boiled vegetables and fried wontons are added to the bowl. The whole thing is served dry ie. with soup on the side.

I definitely prefer the dry version of the noodle dish because it is too hot to eat a bowl of soup noodle in Singapore. And the flavours are on point.

Where to eat wanton mee in Singapore

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). More on Peranakan cuisine later.

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 in Singapore

5. 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 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 in Singapore

6. 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, this Singaporean food 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 in Singapore

7. 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). Make sure to squeeze a bit of lime juice in the noodles. The citrus completely changes the flavour profile.

Where to eat Hokkien mee in Singapore

8. 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 food in Singapore.

Many seafood restaurants and touristy restaurants along Boat Quay and Clarke Quay serves this dish but it can be quite expensive. And alternate choice is eat chilli crab at one of the hawker centres. It is super messy to eat it but well worth the effort.

Where to eat chilli crab in Singapore

  • 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
  • Alliance Seafood ($) – the chili crab at this Michelin-level hawker stall serves a saucy crab and it’s not that expensive compared to restaurants. A must-try at Newton Food Centre.

9. Sambal Stingray

If you have never had stingray before, it is a must eat food in Singapore.

The dish starts with a filet of stingray, covered with sambal sauce (a local chili sauce) and then placed on a banana leaf for grilling. Before you eat it, squeeze some calamansi lime on top to give it a bit of citrus freshness.

The fish filet itself is very meaty and doesn’t have a lot of bones. And you can taste flavours of garlic, shallots, ginger and lemongrass.

This Singaporean local dish can be quite spicy so eat at your own risk.

Where to eat sambal stingray in Singapore

  • Alliance Seafood ($) – you can choose the size of the stingray so order a small so you can try other Michelin-level seafood at this hawker stall

10. Fried Carrot Cake

At first I thought carrot cake must be some type of dessert in Singapore. But I was so wrong! It literally has nothing to do with carrot or cake.

Singaporean fried carrot cake is a savoury dish made with cubes of white raddish rice flour “cake”. The “cake” is wok-fried until it is crispy. Then either prawns, oysters, or egg omelette are added to the wok.

There are two types of fried carrot cake: white or black. Basically, the black version uses a sweet dark soy sauce which adds flavour and gives it a different appearance.

Where to eat fried carrot cake in Singapore

  • Heng ($) – try their Michelin-level carrot cake with prawn, black carrot cake, fried oyster omelette or oyster egg. I ordered the carrot cake with prawn (see photo above)
  • Song Kee Fried Oyster ($) – try their version of carrot cake with fried oysters

11. Satay

While satays are popular in Malaysia and Indonesia, they are also one of the top must eat food in Singapore.

Satays are 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 in Singapore

12. Popiah

Everyone loves spring rolls, right? Popiah is similar to spring rolls except it is made with a thin crepe roll instead of a fried crunchy wrapper. It is also stuffed like a spring roll and typically it has sliced vegetables like turnip, carrot and bean sprout.

And sometimes (depending on the vendor), they might add a bit of protein like small prawns, egg and/or Chinese sausage.

This Singapore local food is the perfect snack if you are feeling a bit peckish.

Where to eat popiah in Singapore

  • Ann Chin Popiah ($) – for $2 you can try their Michelin-level popiah (on the right side in the photo)
  • Rojak Popiah & Cockle ($) – order a Michelin-rated popiah as a snack or an appetizer

13. Rojak

Rojak is an Asian salad made with cucumber, pineapple, jicama, dough fritter and beancurd. A tangy sweet sauce is poured on top and tossed until each ingredient is covered. Then, crushed peanut is sprinkled on top.

However, rojak doesn’t photograph well. It looks like…well, like this. But I promise this Singapore must eat dish tastes better than it looks. Once you try it, you’ll want more!

Where to eat rajah in Singapore

14. 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, which is exactly what Singapore food culture is all about.

And 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 in Singapore

15. Thunder Tea Rice

Thunder tea rice got its name from the direct translation from its Chinese name, Lei Cha (thunder tea). Pretty brilliant!

But what is more amazing is how good this vegetarian dish tastes. This Hakka dish starts with rice in a bowl, then different ingredients (tofu, long bean, radish, peanut, etc) are added on top. It comes with a bright green soup that is made with herbs such as basil, mint, coriander and mugwort.

Scoop a few spoonful of soup into the rice and bon appetite! It is one of the most wholesome and healthy Singaporean food that you will ever try.

Where to eat thunder tea rice in Singapore

16. 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 this delicious Singaporean food in hawker centres and small local restaurants.

Where to eat prawn noodles in Singapore

17. Bak Kut Teh

Bak Kut Teh means “meat bone tea” when you translate it to 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 Singaporean food 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 in Singapore

  • Kota Zheng Zong Bak Kut Teh ($) – the restaurant in Holland Village make many kinds of bak kut teh including the herbal clay pot that goes really well with fried dough
  • Joo Siah Bak Koot Teh ($) – try their Michelin-level pork belly soy sauce based bak kut Teh
  • Song Fa Bak Kut Teh ($) – the Michelin Bib Gourmand recommended Singaporean bak kut teh has many locations in Singapore
  • Hokkien Street Bak Kut Teh ($$) – order a dark herbally Michelin level bak kut teh at Hong Lim Food Centre
  • Hua Xing Bak Kut Teh ($) – a local favourite serving bak kut teh and steamed fish at Yuhua Market & Hawker Centre
  • Old Street Bak Kut Teh ($$) – an excellent restaurant serving Singaporean bak kut teh and laksa bak kut teh

18. Peranakan or Nyonya Cuisine

A huge part of the food culture in Singapore is Peranakan or Nyonya cuisine. This type of cuisine comes from Peranakans (descendants from early Chinese immigrants from Malacca, Singapore and Indonesia, who married local Malays).

You’ll catch a bit of flavour from each of these cultures in their delicious food. Generally speaking, Nyonya food is rich in flavour and can be quite spicy.

Some of the best traditional Peranakan food includes kueh pie tee (shrimps and vegetables stuffed into crispy shell), beef rendang (coconut beef stew), ayam buah keluak (chicken and buah keluak nuts in a tamarind sauce) and laksa which is already mentioned in this post.

Where to eat Peranakan food in Singapore

  • True Blue ($$$) – the restaurant has the most beautiful Peranakan decor. And the food is awesome too. Just look at the kueh pie tee and beef rendang!
  • The Blue Ginger ($$$) – delicious Peranakan food in a well-designed restaurant. Everything tasted fantastic, including beef rendang, and ayam buah keluak. And if you are a fan of durian, try the durian chendol for dessert
  • Tingkat PeraMakan ($) – either order from the a la carte menu or the set meal menu. There are 6 locations in the city

19. Kaya Toast

Kaya is a creamy sweet coconut jam made with coconut milk, eggs and sugar. It is best eaten with a slab of butter on a slice of toast.

A traditional Singaporean breakfast consists of Kaya Toast and soft-boiled eggs. First, add soy sauce and white pepper to the eggs and mix it all up. Then you dunk the Kaya Toast into the runny egg mixture.

I still have trouble with the dunking part so I spoon the egg mixture onto the toast. Probably not the proper way to do it but hey, it works!

Breakfast is typically served with toasted bread. But you can also get French toast with kaya or steamed bread with kaya at several of the places I mentioned below.

Where to eat kaya toast in Singapore

  • Ya Kun Kaya Toast ($) – many locations around Singapore serving typical Singaporean breakfast all day 
  • Tong Ah Eating House ($) – get one of the combo breakfast meals and see if you like soft-boiled eggs
  • Fun Toast ($) – like Ya Kun, there are many locations around Singapore
  • Power Coffeehouse ($) – try their power toast set which includes almond kaya with maple drizzle, soft-boiled eggs and a kopi latte or teh latte

20. Kopi

Coffee is a big part of Singapore food culture and there are many ways of enjoying the caffeinated beverage.

Kopi, or Singapore coffee is typically served with condensed milk. Other variations include Kopi O, which is black coffee with sugar, and Kopi C, which is black coffee with condensed milk and evaporated milk. And there are many many more variations…

But my favourite has to be Yuan Yang (means a pair of two unlikely items), where you get coffee and tea with condensed milk in the same cup. This tea and coffee combo is popular and is also a big part of Hong Kong food culture.

Where to drink kopi in Singapore

  • Nanyang Old Coffee ($) – try one of many types of Singaporean coffees at this location. There is also a coffee museum on the second floor
  • Ya Kun Kaya Toast ($) – besides serving breakfast, Ya Kun also makes excellent coffee
  • Fun Toast ($) – another good spot for local Singaporean coffee

21. Cendol

My list of must eat food in Singapore is not complete unless I included something sweet. 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 in Singapore

Other must eat food in Singapore

There are many more Singaporean must eat dishes that you should try. Here are some of the must eat food in Singapore:

  • 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
  • Duck Rice – duck with rice drizzled with braised sauce
  • Chwee Kway – water rice cake for breakfast
  • Paper Dosa – crispy “pancake” filled with curry potatoes
  • Roti Prata – fried flour-based pancake, may include egg, cheese, mushroom, onion
  • 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:

Singapore food culture: which Singaporean food are you going to try?

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

After all, food culture in Singapore is all about a delicious mix of flavours from different cultures. 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. Same goes for Michelin level food!

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

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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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