There is no denying that Singapore is a food lover's paradise. Singapore may be known as a luxury travel and holiday destination, but the real beauty and charm lie in exploring the streets dotted with numerous hawkers selling all kinds of things, including the most delicious food.
From its famed chili crabs and Chicken Rice to the more local dishes such as char kway teow and bak chor mee, there are a plethora of vibrantly delicious yet affordable dishes you can enjoy on the streets of Singapore. Ever since the 1800s, Singapore has had a thriving culture of hawkers and street vendors showcasing their cooking skills and serving scrumptious food.
Due to rapid urbanization, the government had to eventually start setting up markets with dedicated hawker centers, offering a variety of permanent food stalls with shared tables and seats.
But such food is not just limited to these hawker food stalls - you get to enjoy these at open-air coffee shops (called kopitams), canteens and food courts. All these places are easily accessible by foot or you can buy a bus ticket online and go on a food tour around Singapore.
1. Bak Chor Mee
Bak Chor Mee is a rustic street food of Singapore, comprising dry noodles, minced pork (sometimes tender pork slices and liver slices), pork balls and braised mushroom tossed in a vinegar-based sauce and a feisty chili paste. The soup version has gotten quite popular as well. With the rise in tourism, the dish has come under the spotlight for its robust flavors.
Where to Try: Hill Street Tai Hwa Pork Noodles at Crawford Lane
Popiah is a very local Singaporean dish and it's rare to find this preparation elsewhere. It is basically a Fujianese/Teochew-style spring roll wrapped with radish and carrot fillings and paired with a light and sweet sauce. Tastes fresh and moist in every bite. If you get the chance, watch these Popiah being made from scratch, including the skin. It is an art that requires skill and one that will have you fascinated.
Where to Try: Ann Chin Popiah 安珍
3. Mala Xiang Guo
A few years ago, this dish was a rarity to find, even in Singapore but recently it has been revived and made popular to an extent that almost every second hawker seems to be selling. It is a staple at food courts, coffee shops and restaurants too. Mala Xiang Guo is a variety of ingredients (such as sliced meats, spam, mushroom, vegetables to instant noodles) that have been wok-fried in high heat together with the tongue-numbing sauce. Here, the customer gets to pick the ingredients but more ingredients mean the dish will be more expensive. Customers can pick from "Xiao La" (little spicy), "Zhong La" (medium spicy), to "Da La" (very spicy).
Where to eat: People's Park Food Centre.
4. Kaya Toast
Bringing together the Chinese and Malay cultures to create an authentic and beloved dish of Singapore - Kaya Toast. Kaya Toast, kopi (coffee) and soft boiled eggs topped with dark soya sauce is a staple breakfast in Singapore. Kaya is basically made with coconut milk, sugar, eggs and fragrant pandan. Some places sell kaya spread which most tourists love to take back home with them. Kopitiams are easily accessible by bus so make sure you have the right bus ticket to take you everywhere.
Where to eat: Ya Kun Kaya Toast in Far East Square, Tong Ah Kopitiam at 35 Keong Saik Road, Chin Mee Chin Confectionery at 204 E Coast Road
5. Hainanese Chicken Rice
If there is one dish that is synonymous with Singapore, it is the Hainanese Chicken Rice. It consists of poached chicken and fluffy rice (cooked with chicken stock, pandan leaf, ginger and garlic), served with cucumber slices, minced garlic, chili sauce and dark sauce. Everybody has a different version of what the perfect bowl of Chicken Rice tastes like - some like it spicy, some like it gingery and salty, some like the dish to be flavored with sauces - either way, this is a must-have in Singapore.
Where to eat: Tian Tian Chicken Rice Maxwell Food Centre, Wee Nam Kee in United Square, Uncle Chicken Rice at Bedok Place, Hup Hong Chicken Rice at Yuhua Village Market & Food Centre, Yet Con at 25 Purvis Street
6. Ban Mian
Ban Mian looks like a simple and basic dish but is punching with flavors. Consisting of handmade noodles (generally cooked in a light and clear broth) and then ingredients such as minced pork, anchovies, mushrooms, spinach and more interesting choices.
Where to eat: Whampoa Food Centre
7. Fish Bee Hoon Soup
Sliced Fish Soup Bee Hoon or Fish Head Bee Hoon, is served hot usually with thick white vermicelli noodles (Bee Hoon) in a cloudy, milky soup which is made with fish and fish bones, an array of vegetables and herbs. This broth (or soup) is flavorsome and delicious. Customers can order sliced fish, deep-fried dish, or a mixture of both (some stalls call it the "yuan yang").
Where to eat: Road Fish Head Bee Hoon at Whampoa Food Centre, Jing Hua Sliced Fish Bee Hoon at Maxwell Food Centre
8. Bak Kut Teh
Talk about Singapore's most iconic dishes, and Bak Kut Teh (Pork Rib Soup) has to be on the list. Teh means tea and while most people believe it refers to the pork ribs being cooked in tea but in reality, it is the hot Chinese tea that is served with the dish to wash down the grease. There are generally three main styles of Bak Kut Teh in Singapore - the dark, soy sauce Hokkien soup base; the less commonly seen herbal Cantonese style; and the peppery garlic Teochew style.
Where to eat: Song Fa Bak Kut Teh (with the main outlet at New Bridge Road), Outram Park Yahua Rou Gu Cha
Cendol (or "Chendol") is a sweet iced dessert that is best known for its interesting mix of ingredients such as the signature green rice flour jelly, coconut milk and palm sugar (Gula Melaka). Some add in other ingredients such as red bean, sweet corn and attap chee are added too. The Gula Melaka is thick, flavorful and mildly sticky, almost like glue sticking on top of the mini-hill which adds an intense and rich flavor.
Where to eat: Jin Jin Hot/Cold Dessert at ABC Brickworks Food Centre
10. Char Kway Teow
These are stir-fried noodles made with rice noodles, shrimp paste, egg, dark soya sauce, bean sprouts, Chinese sausage slices and deep-fried cubes of lard (optional). These are made fresh so every plate tastes different. It is a common dish served by street vendors since it is loved by locals and international visitors.
Where to eat: Outram Park Fried Kway Teow Mee at Hong Lim Food Centre, Hill Street Fried Kway Teow at Bedok South Road
One of the best things about Singapore is how well-connected everything is. These food courts and hawker food stands are easily accessible. When it comes to traveling around Singapore to taste these wonderful dishes, public transportation such as buses are your best option. You can purchase your bus ticket from any online portal (website or mobile app) and travel around with ease.