Singapore is a haven for foodies in search of big, bold flavours. Dishes in Singapore draw upon Chinese, Malay and Indian cuisine and the result is a mix of flavours well worth travelling for. From hawker centre classics like char kway teow to street food staples given a Michelin makeover and creative concoctions you won’t find anywhere else, there’s a stunning bite around every corner in Singapore.
Here are the dishes you have to eat next time you’re in the Lion City – and where to find them. Just remember to book ahead for popular restaurants and that offerings may change to reflect COVID-19 measures.
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1. Char Kway Teow at Lau Pa Sat Hawker Centre
Char kway teow is one of the city’s most popular carb fixes, and for good reason. The dish is simple but stunning: flat rice and yellow egg noodles are fried in a dark soy sauce with lap cheong Chinese sausages, bean sprouts and cockles. A great char kway teow is rich with pork lard and smoky with wok hei – the perfect end to a day exploring Singapore. Dig into one of the best at Lai Heng in Lau Pa Sat. Located just off Raffles Place, Lau Pa Sat is one of the most picturesque hawker centres in town, thanks to its octagonal roof and elaborate ironwork.
Stall 77, Lau Pa Sat Festival Market, 18 Raffles Quay
2. Rosemary Smoked Organic Egg at Odette
Three Michelin-starred Odette is recognised as one of Asia’s best restaurants, and chef Julien Royer’s signature rosemary smoked organic egg is now arguably one of the best dishes in Singapore. An egg carton arrives at the table, billowing with dry ice and filled with fresh sprigs of rosemary and sous-vide eggs served in the shell, and accompanied by a bowl of potato puree and chorizo. You’ll smell the dish long before the smoke clears – and then the flavours follow.
1 St Andrew’s Road, Singapore; +65 6385 0498
3. Sambal Stingray at Newton Food Centre
Each hawker centre is known for its speciality – and at the Newton Food Centre, it’s barbecue. Satays are one of Newton’s mainstays but you’ll find grilled and barbecued meats and seafood of every description. If you’re looking for something a little special, then go for the sambal stingray from Shop 66. This meaty fish is grilled whole and slathered in a tangy sambal chilli. Your meal would be incomplete without a side order of roti paratha to soak up all that sauce.
500 Clemenceau Avenue North
4. Black Pepper Crab at Long Beach Seafood
Chilli crab is one of the national dishes in Singapore: mud crabs wok-fried in a tomato and chilli sauce, served piping hot and best eaten by hands. However its cousin, the dry-fried black pepper crab, shouldn’t be forgotten. Check it out at Long Beach Seafood, the restaurant that invented the dish. Contrary to the name, neither chilli crab or black pepper crab are particularly spicy, making them great sharing dishes. A word of warning: don the bibs you’re given, as this finger food is equal parts moreish and messy.
Various outlets around the city
5. Local Wild Caught Crab at Labyrinth
You can find countless versions of chilli crab across the island, but few have reinvented it like chef Han Li Guang of Labyrinth. At this one-Michelin-starred restaurant, the name ‘local wild caught crab’ is a deceptively simple name for a dish that conceals an array of techniques, textures and flavours. Morsels of tender, sweet flower crab – no shelling necessary here – are served alongside salted fish powder, ribbons of egg white and the showstopper – a scoop of vivid orange chilli crab ice cream.
Esplanade Mall, 8 Raffles Avenue, Singapore; +65 62234098
6. Laksa at 328 Katong Laksa
Laksa lemak is one of the quintessential Peranakan – Straits Chinese – dishes in Singapore: noodles in a rich, spiced coconut broth, the kind to warm the heart even on a sweltering day. Toppings and noodle varieties vary, but ultimately it’s all about that sweet, spicy soup. You can’t walk the streets of Singapore for too long before stumbling across a bowl of laksa – but 328 Katong Laksa on the corner of East Coast and Ceylon Road serves one of the very best. Here the rice vermicelli noodles are cut up small, so all you need is a spoon. Order up a bowl and – depending on your appetite – a side of otah, mackerel cooked in banana leaf.
51 East Coast Road, Singapore; +65 9732 8163
7. Buah Keluak Ice Cream at Candlenut
Peranakan food is hardly limited to the cheap-and-cheerful classics. Singapore is home to the world’s first Michelin-starred Peranakan restaurant. Candlenut honours the cuisine by using fresh, seasonal produce and merging classic dishes in Singapore with contemporary cooking techniques. Take buah keluak: this indigenous nut, which is poisonous until safely prepared, is typically used in savoury cuisine, but at Candlenut its rich, intense flavour is used to balance dark chocolate tones in a house-made ice cream.
Block 15, 16, 17, 18 Dempsey Road, Singapore; +6518003042288
8. Kaya Toast at Tong Ah Eating House
As ubiquitous as jam on toast may be across much of the world, kaya toast is Singapore’s answer to breakfast on-the-go. A slice of thick, crustless white toast is the humble vessel for a hearty spread of kaya – a decadent jam made from eggs, pandan, sugar and coconut cream. It’s often served as a sandwich with a surprisingly large slab of butter in between. For a more substantial breakfast, head to the utterly photogenic Tong Ah Eating House and dip your kaya toast fingers in a side of soft-boiled eggs, seasoned tableside with soy sauce and white pepper.
35 Keong Saik Road, Singapore; +65 6223 5083
9. Spicy Oriental Bolognese at Birds of a Feather
Singapore’s reputation as a cultural melting pot is best illustrated through its food. Amoy Street, in the heart of Singapore’s Chinatown, is home to Birds of a Feather – a hip, greenery-packed bar and restaurant which blends classic Western fare with Sichuanese ingredients and spices. There are few better examples of this than the Spicy Oriental Bolognese, their take on the classic zhajiangmian – noodles with soybean paste. A rich pork ragù is peppered with lip-numbing Sichuan spices, served over a delicate angel hair pasta and topped with an onsen egg.
115 Amoy Street, Singapore; +65 97557115
10. Popiah at Old Long House
The humble spring roll might be Asia’s most ubiquitous fast snack, with as many variations as there are nations. Popiah are wafer-thin wheat sheets, crammed full of vegetables and an array of textural contrasts, rolled tight and sliced into bite-sized rolls. Get one of the best at Old Long House, which has served piping-hot popiah to hungry Singaporeans since 1930.
Block 22 Lorong 7 Toa Payoh, #01-03, Singapore; +65 9171 7157