Selecting 10 ‘national dishes’ representative of Singapore is a tough and contentious one. While many of these dishes may not have originated from Singapore, they represent our colourful blend of cultures and varieties of flavours.
What cannot be denied is Singaporeans love our food, and it’s not difficult to find affordable and delicious food all around here.
Chilli and Black Pepper Crabs
Why we are so proud of these two dishes – the Chilli and Black Pepper Crabs can be said to have originated from Singapore, created by different restaurants in East Coast during the 1950s.
What makes the Chilli Crab distinct is the thickened sweet savoury sauce, tasting somewhat like a cross of chilli and tomato sauces. Don’t worry, it’s not too spicy. Scoop the sauce with crab claw or deep fried mantou, and you will understand why we love it so much. Hot fleshy crabs and iced cold sparkling Coke – yes, they can go well together.
Where to get: No Signboard Seafood (414 Geylang Road), Long Beach Seafood (1202 East Coast Parkway), House of Seafood (Punggol Settlement), Mellben Seafood (232 Ang Mo Kio Ave 3), Jumbo Seafood (East Coast Seafood Centre), Redhouse Seafood (East Coast Seafood Centre), Eng Seng Restaurant (247 Joo Chiat Place)
Hainanese Chicken Rice
The definitive Singapore National Dish. Adapted from the early Chinese immigrants from Hainan Island, we love this deceptively simple dish for many reasons – the aromatic rice cooked in chicken stock, tender juicy white chicken, and ‘power’ chili sauce along with dark soy sauce.
One of the favourite stalls to get Hainanese Chicken Rice is from Tian Tian at Maxwell. Anthony Bourdain loves it, Gordon Ramsey ‘lost’ a competition to it. Purvis Street is also full of Hainanese restaurants which serve it the old good way.
Where to get: Tian Tian (Maxwell Food Centre), Boon Tong Kee (399 Balestier Road), Sin Kee (Mei Chin Road Market), Five Star (191 East Coast Road), Heng Ji (Chinatown Complex), Chatterbox (Meritus Mandarin Hotel), Wee Nam Kee (United Square), Yet Con (Purvis Street)
Char Kway Tiao
In the good old days, food peddlers used leftovers from meals to whip up this dish also known as ‘stir-fried rice noodles’ with multiple ingredients.
While Char Kway Tiao is not exactly photogenic by looking black and oily, the dish is extremely delicious, fried in dark soy sauce, complimented by ingredients of egg, Chinese sausages, beansprout and cockles. A test of a good plate – it has ‘wok hei’, an indescribable ‘heat’ which you would feel as you take your first bite.
Where to get: No 18 Fried Kway Tiao (Zion Road Riverside Food Centre), Hill Street Fried Kway Teow (Bedok South Market and Food Centre), Outram Park Fried Kway Teow Mee (Hong Lim Food Centre0, Tiong Bahru Fried Kway Tiao (Tiong Bahru Market), 91 Fried Kway Teow Mee (Golden Mile Food Centre), Day Night Fried Kway Tiao (Bukit Merah Central Food Centre), Lao Fu Zi (Old Airport Road Food Centre)
Bak Kut Teh
Many international celebrities love having Bak Kut Teh for supper in Singapore. You can spot them when you notice someone in shades having supper with an entourage.
There are many versions of the’ pork rib tea’. The Hokkiens have a stronger version with dark soy sauce added, the Cantonese with more medicinal herbs, whereas the Teochews like them peppery. I enjoy both the claypot herbal types and those with peppery soup bases. Best enjoyed on a cooling night, with tender ribs dipped into dark soy sauce, and crispy ‘you tiao’ dunked in hot steamy broth.
Where to get: Ng Ah Sio (208 Rangoon Road), Outram Park Ya Hua (PSA Tanjong Pagar Complex), Sin Heng (439 Joo Chiat), Founder (347 Balestier Road, 154 Rangoon Road), Hong Ji (Ang Mo Kio Ave 4)
One of my favourite guility pleasures, Laksa is noodles or thick vemicilli cooked in rich and creamy spicy coconut milk gravy. The famous ones are found in Katong, where some shops DO NOT serve them with chopsticks. You have to slurp the noodles off the soup.
Where to get: 328 Katong Laksa (216 East Coast Road), Min Ji Laksa (Bendemeer Road Market and Food Centre), Depot Road Zhen Shan Met (Alexandra Food Village), Terry Katong Laksa (Bt Timah Market and Food Centre), 48 Roxy Laksa (East Coast Lagoon Food Village)
Interestingly, Singaporeans love Roti Prata both as a breakfast and supper dish. Evolved from a pancake recipe from Pakistan and India, the crispy fluffy ‘flat bread’ is commonly served with curry, or some love them with a spoonful of sugar.
Watching the cook make prata with flips and tosses in the air is always fun. The variety of pratas in Singapore also just gets more and more exciting, from the initial egg, onions and cheese, we have seen fillings from fruits such as durian and banana, ice cream to chocolate. I am sticking to my crispy egg prata.
Where to get: Casuarina Curry Restaurant (136 Casuarina Road), Thasevi Famous Jalan Kayu Prata (235 Jalan Kayu), The Roti Prata House (246M Upper Thomson Road)
Considered as one of the most popular Malay dish in Singapore, these skewered meat comes with choices of chicken, mutton, beef (some stalls offer more such as prawns and duck), barbecued over charcoal. The outer glazed layer is slightly charred, while the meat is sweetish and tasty.
Most often ordered in 5s or 10s, the sticks come with rice dumpling (called ‘ketupat’), onions and cucumber, all can be dipped in spicy-sweet peanut sauce. An occasional stall, usually the Chinese ones, may mix pineapple pulp within the sauce.
Where to get: Alhambra Padang (Makansutra Gluttons Bay), Chuan Kee Satay (Old Airport Road Food Centre), Fang Yuan Staya (Toa Payoh Lor 5 Food Centre), Old Punggol Satay (Kaki Bukit Food Centre), Warong Sudi Mampir (Haig Road Food Centre), Satay By The Bay (Gardens By The Bay)
Bak Chor Mee
While hawker centres and coffeeshops in Singapore offer many types of noodles, the Bak Chor Mee has somehow been considered most uniquely Singaporean. This is especially so for the ‘mee pok’, which can be considered the local version of fettucine.
Affectionally known as BCM, this noodle dish is usually ordered dry, coming with pork slices, pork liver, minced meat, stewed sliced mushroom, fried sole fish and an occasional fishball. We love it tossed in a sauce made with homemade chili sauce, vinegar and pork lard oil.
Where to get: High Street Tai Hwa (Blk 466 Crawford Lane), Xin Ji Rou Cuo Mian (Blk 85 Fengshan Centre), Ah Kow Mushroom Minced Pork Mee (Hong Lim Food Centre)
Some foreigners may find it weird that Singaporeans can have rice wrapped in banana leaf for breakfast. Yes, the Nasi Lemak, which is coconut rice, can be savoured anytime of the day.
The Malay version can contain fried ikan bilis, nuts, fried fish, egg, cucumber, not forgetting a quintessential sambal chilli sauce. The Chinese version sometime includes other ingredients such as chicken wings, pork chop and otah otah. Some versions can get slightly dry, and and will taste great with a cool refreshing can of Coke.
Where to get: Selera Rasa Adam Road No 1 (Adam Road Food Centre), International Muslim Food Stall (Changi Village Food Centre), Haji Maksah Barkat (Boon Lay Place Food Village), Ponggol Nasi Lemak (965 Upper Serangoon Road), Chong Pang Nasi Lemak (447 Sembawang Road)
‘Rojak’ is such a special food in Singapore, its name has been used as an adjective in Singlish. Case in point, “Your dressing is very rojak”, “What you speak is very rojak”, and “Singapore has a rojak culture”, which briefly means ‘mixed’.
The usual type would include fried dough fritters, taupok, sliced pineapple, cucumber, radish and beansprouts mixed in a dark thick sweet sauce with peanuts. Some varieties include fruits such as green apple and raw mangos. The Indian rojak is variably different, containing food such as potatoes and egg deep fried in batter. So many varieties, that’s why it’s so ‘rojak’!
Where to get: Balestier Road Hoover Rojak (Whampoa Food Centre), Brothers Rojak (Clementi Ave 3 See Lam Hern Coffeeshop), Eat May Know (Bendemeer Road Food Centr), Lau Hong Ser Famous Rojak (Dunman Food Centre), Toa Payoh Rojak (Old Airport Road Food Centre)
What is your Idea of Singapore’s National Food?
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