Some would say that the best way to acquaint yourself with a new country would be through its local cuisine. Singapore is no exception to that belief. The food paradise offers a plethora of cuisines spanning from almost every country in the world is found on this island. From local delicacies served in hawker centres to Michelin-starred restaurants fronted by some of the world’s famous chefs, Singapore is a food destination that even the most seasoned and intrepid foodie can’t ignore.
Much of Singapore’s cuisine is comprised of a variety of worldwide influences, this is one of the main reasons why you would be spoilt for choice when it comes to food. Singapore is home to dishes from almost every country in South East Asia, including Malaysia, the Philippines, Indonesia, and other countries’ like China, India, Germany and French. The food choices in Singapore goes beyond eclectic Asian dishes and presents a range of European and Western dishes that would satisfy even the pickiest eater. However, at the same time, Singapore is noted for combining different cooking styles to create uniquely Singaporean dishes. For instance, the Hainanese chicken rice in Singapore isn’t actually a recipe from Hainan Island, but it is the country’s very own interpretation of the dish, which consists of both Singaporean and Hainanese influences. Additionally, dishes like laksa, Hokkien mee, and roti prata are prepared in a way that is only distinct in the country.
Must-Try Local Food for Newcomers
Known as an eclectic mix in colloquial Malay, the dish is an amalgamation of dough fritters, fruits and local vegetables, all of which are covered generously with a sweet black sauce before it is garnished with finely-cut fragrant ginger flowers and chopped peanuts. The dish whets your appetite with its culmination of sour, sweet and spicy flavours. Some of the ingredients used in this dish are young mangoes, sliced pineapple, toasted beancurd, fried dough fritters, Chinese turnip and crunchy raw cucumber.
Another local favourite is laksa. This tangy dish spicy coconut milk-based noodle soup was first inspired by the Peranakans. Laksa is the culmination of a spicy soup stock that is flavoured with coconut milk, dried shrimp and garnished with ingredients such as prawns, fishcake and cockles. The most distinctive aspect about this dish is the thick vermicelli that goes along very well with the whole concoction. It’s helpful to note that there are different versions of this dish, from the Penang laksa to the Sarawak laksa. However, it is noted that none is more popular than the local Katong laksa.
Roti prata, when done right, sports a crispy exterior while staying soft and moist on the inside. The South-Indian flatbread is typically made by frying stretched dough that is flavoured with ghee, a type of butter. The bread in itself goes well with most curries and is extremely versatile. Although the classic version of the roti prata is served plain, there are different variations to this flatbread, some of which include egg, onion, cheese, ice-cream and chocolate prata.
Noted to be one of Singapore’s national dishes, it goes without saying that chicken rice is one of Singapore’s most beloved dishes. Chicken rice might sound simple enough, with just two ingredients making up the entire dish. However, much like roti prata, there are different variations to this dish. Particularly in the way the chicken is cooked. When you order chicken rice from a stall in a hawker centre, you might notice that there are different options that you can choose from such as steamed and roasted chicken rice. Interestingly enough, there are stalls that sell a speciality called soya sauce chicken, which is basically braised soya sauce.
Nasi lemak is a dish that is anything but humble. The traditional dish is comprised of rice that’s infused with pandan leaves and coconut milk along with a number of ingredients including chicken wings, otah (grilled fish paste), deep-fried fish, cucumber slices, eggs, peanuts, fried ikan bilis and sambal (spicy chilli paste). Needless to say, this hearty meal isn’t something you should be eating regularly if you are looking to lose or maintain your weight. Like the other foods on this list, there are also different versions of nasi lemak, in some places, you will be allowed to mix and match ingredients. There’s also a Chinese version of nasi lemak, which can be customised to your liking.
Much of Singapore’s culture is so entrenched in its love for food, so much so that there are festivals dedicated to the sole celebration of food. The Singapore Food Festival, 50 Cents Fest, STREAT, Oktoberfest Asia, the Great Food Festival and the Singapore Cocktail Festival will tantalise your palate with a myriad of dishes cooked up by the best of the best in the culinary scene. Attending these festivals is one of the best ways to acquaint yourself with the local dishes that make Singapore unique.