Tagines in Morocco, Pastel de Nata’s in Portugal, Pizzas and pastas in Italy, every country has it’s signature dish, the one thing that it’s renowned for. But Singapore is a tricky little beast, home to a melting pot of cultures, Chinese, Malay and Indian and a vast variety of expats from all over the world, there’s not so much as one highlight of a dish but hundreds!
But we don’t have time for hundreds so we’ll just talk about a few, here are my top 10 of all the interesting dishes there are to try in Singapore!
In 10th place is the Roti Prata or Roti Canai, a flakey pastry style take on the Indian Paratha but much softer and richer. Served with a curry sauce, it’s just crying out to be dunked thoroughly in that sauce for that finger lickin’ feeling.
In 9th place, it’s Mee Siam. Rarely seen outside the confines of a hawker centre, it’s thin rice noodles served up in a rich sauce that’s spicy, sweet and sour all rolled into one. It usually comes topped with a boiled egg and is another one of those slobbery messy affairs that Singapore does oh so well.
I’m cheating a little with 8th place as Nasi Padang is really another name for a medley of dishes that come served with rice (Nasi). It’s pretty easy to compile your own version, any of the Malay food stalls in Singapore will have an array of dishes heaped with meats, fishes and vegetables and all you have to do is just point at what you want and they’ll make it up for you!
Chicken Rice probably doesn’t need a lot of introductions if you’re familiar with Singaporean food, it’s pretty much one of the national dishes. The award for Singapore’s best Chicken Rice is a fiercely fought one and it’s always at the top of my culinary hit list.
I’ve tried out a pricey version at Mandarin Oriental but my favourite is just down the road from my parents house in Killiney Rd, but to be honest, I’ve never really ever had a bad Chicken Rice!
Char Kuey Teow is another food court favourite of mine, it’s quite simple but in the right hands is extremely flavoursome. Prawns, bean sprouts, some sweet chinese sausage all stir fried into a big plate of noodles. Throw in some chilli oil on the side and you’re talking a winner.
It might surprise you that only one dessert features on my top Singapore hit list, there’s no denying it, Asian desserts are very unlike Western ones. Those hailing from the Indian subcontinent tend to be very sweet and the ones from South East Asia tend to be less sweet and rely a lot on coconut milk.
Ice Kacang is shaved ice on top of jelly, red beans, fruit and sweetcorn (Yes I know, weird right) decorated with coloured sugar syrups. Yep it’s a funny old one but it’s delish!
In fourth place is a Malay breakfast classic, Nasi Lemak. Coconut rice served up with some curry, a bit of sambal, an egg, cucumber and an anchovy & peanut mixture, it is addictive and delectable and once you have this, you won’t be able to have plain old toast again.
Despite growing up in Asia, I’ve only just discovered the Cereal Prawn. It is a lot like the description on the tin, prawns coated in an oaty cereal mixture. What this deceptively simple description hides is a satisfying crunch followed by the juicy meatiness of a fat tiger prawn. Can I get a mmmmmmmmmmm??!
We’re heading closer to no. 1 now and to introduce you to the runner up, Laksa, I’ll tell you a little story. It was 1995, I was a young un’ of 12 and after school was having a bowl of Laksa. It was so spicy my eyes were watering, my nose was running but I kept on going, in between huge glugs of my Fanta Grape. I must have really worried the lady running the stall as she came over to tell me I could order something else if I wanted, but I refused. Yes I was suffering, but it was a good sort of suffering.
Over the years, my spice tolerance has grown but I can’t have a bowl of Laksa without a pang of memory at my young self. In the last few years, I’ve been introduced to a more luxurious crab and lobster Laksa and wow, just wow. I won’t be able to go back to the more classic variety at all!
And finally, drum roll please, in the top spot is Black Pepper Crab. I know that Chilli Crab is considered to be the classic Singaporean dish but in my view, it’s Black Pepper Crab all the way. I always have Black Pepper crab at my favourite place in Singapore, Jumbo Seafood but on a recent visit we tried out Mellben seafood and I don’t know what they do with it that makes it so different, it’s a star. I’ll be going back there just purely for this dish, keep an eye out for a review coming soon!
Since my parents live in Singapore, it’s a place I visit often and I often tease them that they are just the fringe benefit of my visit and the main reason is all the amazing food! It’s truly one of the top places I think of when I think of a foodie break, I’ve yet to travel anywhere else that can compare with the sheer depth and breadth of all the choices out there.
What about you? Have you been to Singapore? Where’s your top foodie destination?