Singapore is steadfastly gaining reputation as one of the more popular food destinations in Asia. Dishes that are distinctly Singaporean have made their way into the food hubs of other major Asian cities – always in demand and always talked about. As a nation built by migrants, Singapore’s dishes incorporate the style and essence of its multiracial cooking. The end result is a variety of foods that are proudly claimed to be uniquely Singaporean. Here, we introduce some of Singapore’s best food offerings.
Kaya is a sweet coconut and egg jam which is usually spread over toasted white bread with butter or margarine. A traditional breakfast dish, it is served with a cup of local coffee or tea and half-boiled eggs with dark soya sauce and ground white pepper.
A dish of marinated, skewered and grilled meat that is served with spicy peanut sauce, traditional offerings include chicken, mutton or beef. The meat is grilled over a wood or charcoal fire, imparting a smoky flavour that complements the side dishes of sliced raw onions, cucumbers and ketupat (cakes of steamed rice).
A flat bread that is said to have originated in Punjab, India, has been made all our own. Traditionally plain (kosong) with sugar or cooked with egg and dipped into curry; new variants with onion, cheese and mushroom fillings, or even ice cream and chocolate sauce toppings are widely available now.
Hainanese Chicken Rice
Based on the Hainanese wanchang chicken, Hainanese chicken rice was so named for the Chinese chefs who first created it on Singapore’s shores. Steamed chicken is served with rice that is first fried in chicken fat and then boiled in chicken broth, ensuring a rich, unforgettable flavour. A staple of the local food scene, Hainanese chicken rice can be found at hawker centres all across the island.
A Peranakan dish combining rice noodles, prawns, cockles and bean sprouts, laksa is a popular creamy curry-based dish. Piping hot bowls of this noodle dish are served with a spoonful of sambal chilli, garnished with laksa leaves and slices of barbequed fish cake.
Chilli crab is a local culinary invention that combines sweet and savoury flavours from ingredients such as chilli, tomatoes, vinegar, garlic and other herbs and spices. Don’t forget to dip fried buns called mantou into the delicious gravy for the full experience.
Fish Head Curry
A hybrid of Indian, Chinese and Malay influences, fish head curry is a true Singaporean dish. It is prepared by stewing the head of the red snapper in a spice-laden curry simmered with vegetables and tamarind. Chinese stalls serve fish head curry with bread, accompanies by smaller dishes of vegetables and meat, while Indian stalls usually serve it with rice, pappadams and Indian pickles.
Bak Kut Teh
Bak kut teh, which means ‘pork rib tea’ are meaty chunks of pork ribs boiled for hours with garlic, pepper, medicinal herbs and spices. The bak kut teh broth can be prepared in two ways – in a clear, peppery Teochew broth or in a darker, more herbal Hokkien stew. Enjoy it with you tiao (fried crullers), which are the perfect croutons for the soup.
This dish brings together seafood and spices in a delightful, mouth-watering blend. Sambal, a versatile chilli paste with spices, shallots, candlenuts and belachan (fermented shrimp paste) is coated over cuts of sting ray. The concoction is wrapped in banana leaves and grilled to smoky scrumptiousness.
DRINKS AND DESSERTS
A simple drink made by adding milk to rose cordial, this distinctive bright pink has been around since Singapore was a British colony. The cordial is easily available in supermarkets, for mixing up at home.
Beat the tropical heat by sinking into a bowl of ice kachang. A mound of colourful ice shavings flavoured with syrup hides a treasury of red beans, corn kernels, attap seeds and jelly cubes. These days, you will find ice kachang variations with novelty toppings such as ice cream, mango or even durian for those with adventurous palates.
Made with coconut milk, shaved ice, gula melaka (palm sugar) and sprinkled with greenish noodle bits and a dash of salt, this light green blend is the perfect dessert to beat the tropical Singapore heat. You can also top it with kidney beans, grass jelly cubes, creamed corn and vanilla ice cream if you wish to and zing to the taste.