Local Cuisine

Bakkwa  肉干

Bakkwa (Hokkien: 肉干;  bbāhgnuā), also known as rougan, is a Chinese salty-sweet dried meat product similar to jerky, made in the form of flat thin sheets. Bakkwa is made with a meat preservation and preparation technique from China. The general method for production have remained virtually unchanged throughout the centuries, but the techniques have been improved. It is often made with beef, pork, or mutton, which are prepared with spices, sugar, salt, and soy sauce, while dried on racks at around 50°C to 60°C. However, nowadays, products with a softer texture, lighter color, and less sugar are preferred.

Laksa

 

Laksa is a spicy Peranakan noodle soup dish that combines Chinese and Malay elements. Sometimes called Nyonya laksa, the noodle soup dish is easily available at many food outlets in Singapore. The secret that sets apart a great bowl of laksa from a good one lies in the gravy soup — it should have just the right amount of coconut milk to give it its characteristic mouth-watering aroma. Complete with blanched bean sprouts, thick white noodles and topped with cockles, eggs, prawns and sliced fish cake, laksa is an excellent dish to have at any time of the day. For those concerned about hygiene issues, it’s always possible to request the vendor to exclude cockles from the laksa. Many areas in Singapore claim to sell the ‘first’ original laksa in Singapore; the traditional ones are more likely to be found in the eastern side of Singapore, especially the Katong area.

Mee Siam

Mee Siam is a popular dish in Singapore and Malaysia.. A  dish of thin rice noodles(vermicelli) in spicy, sweet and sour light gravy. Mee Siam is often served with dried or fried bean curd, boiled egg, lime, sambal and garnish with Chinese chives and spring onion.

Satay Chicken

 

The satay, in all its humble glory, has won the hearts of many Singaporeans and others throughout South-east Asia. Basically consisting of diced-sized marinated meats like lamb or chicken skewered on thin wooden sticks and grilled over charcoal, this Malay-inspired dish often comes with generous servings of sweet and spicy peanut sauce that enhance the slight smoky flavour of the satay. But don’t throw away the wooden skewers after you’re done with the satay; the dish often comes with accompanying helpings of sliced onions, cucumbers and ketupat (rice wrapped in palm leaf). Use the skewers to dip the accompaniments in the sauce between bites of satay —something that everyone can enjoy together!

Satay Mutton

 

The satay, in all its humble glory, has won the hearts of many Singaporeans and others throughout South-east Asia. Basically consisting of diced-sized marinated meats like lamb or chicken skewered on thin wooden sticks and grilled over charcoal, this Malay-inspired dish often comes with generous servings of sweet and spicy peanut sauce that enhance the slight smoky flavour of the satay. But don’t throw away the wooden skewers after you’re done with the satay; the dish often comes with accompanying helpings of sliced onions, cucumbers and ketupat (rice wrapped in palm leaf). Use the skewers to dip the accompaniments in the sauce between bites of satay —something that everyone can enjoy together!

Fried Carrot Cake (Black)

 

Not to be confused with the Western version of carrot cake (sweet spiced cake), the Singapore fried carrot cake is more savoury than it is sweet, and is adored for its versatility as either a mid-day snack or a complete meal in itself. Far from having carrots inside, the Singapore fried carrot cake consists of small rectangular rice flour cakes, fried with white radish, scrambled eggs, chopped spring onions and chye poh. There are two ways to enjoy this popular local snack. You can order the ‘white’ variant, with its slightly charred crusty exterior to be fried together with extra chilli, or request for the ‘black’ version which is sweeter. More brownish-black in colour than the former, the ‘black’ fried carrot cake is fried with sweet black soy sauce to give it a more distinct, caramelised taste.

Fried Carrot Cake (White)

Not to be confused with the Western version of carrot cake (sweet spiced cake), the Singapore fried carrot cake is more savoury than it is sweet, and is adored for its versatility as either a mid-day snack or a complete meal in itself. Far from having carrots inside, the Singapore fried carrot cake consists of small rectangular rice flour cakes, fried with white radish, scrambled eggs, chopped spring onions and chye poh. There are two ways to enjoy this popular local snack. You can order the ‘white’ variant, with its slightly charred crusty exterior to be fried together with extra chilli, or request for the ‘black’ version which is sweeter. More brownish-black in colour than the former, the ‘black’ fried carrot cake is fried with sweet black soy sauce to give it a more distinct, caramelised taste.

Chilli Crab

Perhaps no other dish has the distinction of being considered as Singapore’s national dish as what chilli crab has come to embody. Away with the forks, knives and etiquette; using your fingers and making a bit of a mess is all part of the enjoyment when it comes to having chilli crab. Sri Lankan hard shell crabs are often used to prepare this dish, and the chilli paste that it comes deliciously covered in comes from a tantalising array of ingredients: onions, garlic, black rice vinegar, fresh ground chilli, tomato paste and so forth. Some places also provide side orders of man tou (Chinese steamed bun) — simply dip the man tou into the thick gravy for that added enjoyment. Do remember to try other popular local variations of this national dish, including the famous black pepper crab that is easily found in various seafood restaurants around Singapore.

Char Kway Teow

One of Singapore’s signature dishes, char kway teow is an absolute must-try. Step into any hawker centre and you’re likely to find a stall or two selling the popular fried flat noodle dish. Its distinct slightly-sweet caramelised fragrance is often a crowd-puller; such is the attraction of a dish once known for its humble beginnings as a simple meal for labourers, comprising just flat rice noodles fried with dark sauce and pork lard. Now you’ll find a myriad of other ingredients like cockles, prawns, bean sprouts and eggs added to the fried noodles, together with a generous helping of sweet dark sauce, giving the dish its famed appeal and characteristic brown-black colour. Some may find the slight sweetness off-putting; in which it’s possible to request to have less sweet sauce included, as Singapore-style char kway teow tends to be relatively sweet.

Bak Kut Teh

 

Bak kut teh, or literally ‘pork bone tea’, is a popular Chinese soup-based dish found in Singapore. It’s well-loved among many locals for its light consistency and flavourful, peppery taste. Despite its fairly simple presentation, creating bak kut teh from the basic ingredients is no simple task — it takes hours to boil meaty pork ribs with fresh ingredients like garlic, white peppercorns, star anise, soy sauce and so forth to form the soup base. You will probably find several variants of bak kut teh in Singapore. The Hokkiens like theirs with an extra dose of soy sauce to achieve a darker colour, while the Cantonese prefer a combination of five to six herbs for that added herbal flavour. Recommended with a steaming hot bowl of rice, or simply dip some freshly-made yu char kway (fried Chinese dough sticks) into the soup for a perfect start to your day.

Roti Prata

Roti Prata is perhaps one of the most ubiquitous Indian dishes in Singapore, yet it’s also greatly loved by both Singaporeans and foreigners alike. Watching this local delight being prepared can be almost as enjoyable as the eating experience itself. Made from a combination of water and wheat flour, the dough is skilfully stretched, flipped and folded by the vendor to form a flat square. It’s then tossed onto a flat griddle coated with hot oil until it turns a delicate golden brown. Roti prata is often served alongside spicy curry gravy, although sugar is also an excellent alternative. Modern spin-offs of the traditional versions can be found in various outlets in Singapore. Ranging from the ordinary like egg prata (egg added inside the dough) to the oddly named tissue prata (fried with butter, rolled into a cone shape and sprinkled with sugar), this is certainly one dish you wouldn’t want to miss.

Hainanese Chicken Rice

Don’t let the name mislead you; Hainanese chicken rice is often considered as one of Singapore’s flagship dishes. Its widespread availability throughout the country underscores its popularity among locals and overseas visitors. The magic, as they say, lies in the precision needed to prepare this seemingly straightforward local fare — from the complexity of the rice (usually prepared with stock) to the exact temperature needed to cook the chicken to perfect tenderness. Devotees of this local dish will swear by the accompanying chilli sauce, usually made from a special blend of chilli, garlic and ginger that goes exceedingly well with the succulent chicken slices. You can also dip the chicken into the dark soy sauce and garlic sauce, and eat it with a hearty helping of rice to fully appreciate this delightful dish. Other versions include the roasted chicken rice, which comprise slices of juicy roasted chicken as opposed to the usual steamed version.

Fish Head Curry

The Singapore fish head curry is a local creation that bears both Indian and Chinese cuisine characteristics. Those who consider themselves true ‘connoisseurs’ of the dish – often comprising a single fish head from a large garoupa or snapper – will gladly devote themselves to eating everything on the fish head, including the eye balls and lip. Served in spicy gravy made from curry powder, fresh whole tomatoes, belachan, tamarind and so forth, with just the right hints of sweetness balanced against tanginess, the meat from the fish head should have an exceedingly smooth texture and taste. Okra and brinjals are sometimes added into the curry as well. A steaming bowl of white rice is also recommended to go along with the fish head curry.

Rojak

Rojak is so popular in Singapore that the local dish, best described as a sort of fruit and vegetable salad, has even entered the local conversational lingo. Don’t be surprised to hear Singaporeans speaking of something as being ‘rojak’ — a colloquial expression referring to something of an eclectic mix. The rojak, with its Indonesian origins, has been given a Chinese-style twist here in Singapore and can be found in most hawker centres or food courts. A basic rojak is made from turnip, pineapple, cucumber, tau kwa (fried tofu), bean sprouts and yu char kway, all tossed together with a sweet, prawn paste-based dressing that adds a delightful, mouth-watering eclectic element to the humble dish. Some locals prefer to have theirs spicy; in which a spicy chilli paste is added into the rojak for that added kick in flavour. Alternatively, some places include green mangoes to create a tangier taste.

Kambing Soup

Kambing soup or sup kambing is a spicy broth of mutton soup, traditionally made of goat meat that is cut into bite-sized chunks and stewed in spices, then served hot with toasted bread on the side. This dish is associated with the Indian Muslim community and is believed to have evolved in Singapore.