10 Foods You Must Eat in Singapore

One of the things I love about Singapore is the diversity of food flavours from around the world. In no particular order, these 10 foods should definitely be on your list to eat in Singapore the next time you’re here, they might not be traditional but they’ll definitely leave your tastebuds tingling…

Carrot Cake from Bukit Merah

When I first heard that Carrot Cake is something famous to eat in Singapore I thought how odd it seemed that a cake would be found in Hawker Centres, they’re mostly all about the Noodles or Laksa or Chicken Rice. And then I saw the pictures that revealed Carrot Cake is nothing like the Carrot Cake we have in Melbourne with a cup of coffee. What’s more, it doesn’t even have carrots in it! Bizarre I know. Googling revealed that Bukit Merah was the place to go for this famous dish so that’s what I did one day recently. The ‘cake’ is actually radish cake and it is made with rice flour, water and white radish (daikon or Malaysian radish). It’s diced and  stir fried with eggs, preserved radish, garlic, spring onions and seasonings to produce something a little like an omelette but much more hearty. The ‘cake’ is soft and white (it’s the white colour you can see in the picture above) and has no strong flavour to speak of. The texture is soft and a little mushy, but the crispy bits of eggy, garlic mixture adds a good contrast. There is also a black version that incorporates a sweet black sauce. Recipes vary but my advice is to try Carrot Cake where you see a big line of people waiting for it – they’re usually on the mark! A small serving of Carrot Cake (pictured) will set you back a whole $2.50 – outstanding value.
Bukit Merah View Hawker Centre
115 Bukit Merah View, Singapore, 151115

Pastries and Cakes at Tiong Bahru Bakery

Discovering Tiong Bahru was a turning point in my Singapore experience. It’s where I learnt that shopping isn’t all about high rise malls, that culture exists in plentiful supply if you just know where to look and ‘Aunties’ will smile appreciatively when you are curious about the sometimes strange products you find in the market. Tiong Bahru offers one of the most diverse collections of food and independent shopping around Singapore. The Tiong Bahru Bakery is helmed by Gontran Cherrier, a Parisienne baker, and the delights found in his bakery will indeed make you feel as if you’ve been transported to Paris. I couldn’t possibly go into detail about all of the pastries, tarts and cakes that will make your mouth salivate with delight and your mind race to decide which treat you will choose. I often don’t get past a simple croissant and coffee. The croissants at TBB are light and fluffy, the crispy exterior yielding to a soft and buttery inner, that is not greasy or oily but melts in your mouth. The thought is making me hungry as I type. TBB also make a damn good flat white. Pastries and croissants will set you back between $3 and $5 each.
Tiong Bahru Bakery
56 Eng Hoon Street, Singapore, 160056
8am to 8pm daily
*There’s also a branch of TBB at Raffles City

A Burger from The Market Grill

I know it’s a long way from a ‘typical’ food to eat in Singapore but in the last 12 months or so there has been an explosion in openings of burger joints around the island. The best one I’ve had yet was the Blue Cheese Burger from The Market Grill. My preference for medium-rare cooking was done perfect justice with the tender and succulent meat that laid the perfect groundwork for my burger. Added to that was some excellent blue cheese, salty but not too strong, a sweet but not too sweet onion marmalade, crispy bacon and the perfect top and tail, a walnut raisin bun. My misgivings about the bun were swiftly cast aside as I bit into the perfectly balanced flavours and happily enjoyed the combination. The Blue Cheese Burger is $22 excluding tax.
The Market Grill
208 Telok Ayer Street, Singapore, 068642
Phone +65 6221 3323

Chicken Murtabak near Arab Street

The Arab Street area of Singapore brings a whole new dimension to the city’s food sensation. As you would expect, the area thrives with eateries and shops of Middle Eastern-Arabic descent. One of my favourite weekend treats is to head over to Tasneem and start the day with a tasty Chicken Murtabak from this friendly corner shop. This is not a leisurely eating experience, the orders are served quickly, the food arrives fresh from the grill and the plastic tableware can survive anything a three year old could throw at it. Chicken Murtabak is essentially a Roti Pratha dough that is layered around chunks of tender chicken, onioin, egg and seasonings and cooked as one folded parcel. It is eaten with a curry gravy and will give you a rich and filling start to your day. A Murtabak will cost between $3 and $6 depending on your filling.
Al Tasneem
709 North Bridge Raod, Singapore, 198681

Fish Head Curry

Fish Head Curry is the dish that sits in my memory as the authentic taste of Peranakan cooking. Peranakan food is the authentic food of the Singapore and Malay peninsula. Peranakan culture derives from the intermarriages between indigenous Malays and Chinese settlers back in the 19th century. The combination of ingredients and cooking styles from the different cultures has created a distinct cuisine that is unique, spicy and aromatic. The flavours are really the best of everything in Asia, spicy but not too spicy, salty but not too salty, interesting textures and ingredients like galangal, candlenuts, tamarind, chilli pastes and Indonesian Keluak nuts. Fish Head Curry includes a good sized portion of Red Snapper, mixed with okra (lady fingers) and eggplant in a luscious soup with spice and flavour that will keep you dipping in for more. The Blue Ginger Restaurant do an awesome Fish Head Curry for $28.50 and it’s a hefty portion size, enough to share between 6 along with other mains. Many hawker centres also do Fish Head Curry but be warned that sometimes it can be super spicey!
The Blue Ginger Restaurant
97 Tanjong Pagar Road, Singapore, 088518
Phone +65 6222 3928

Dumplings from Din Tai Fung

This choice will come as a surprise to many who know me because Din Tai Fung is a massive chain in Singapore, there must be 20 outlets across town. But I confess I have fallen in love with the pork dumplings (xiao long baos). I could eat these tasty morsels once a week (although I do try to resist so as not to end up looking like a dumpling myself!) The thing about the dumplings is, they’re beautifully created with a delicate casing that is dense enough to hold the juicy soup inside, but is not sticky or chewy to bite into. The pork dumplings are the standard and still my favourite. They are best eaten in one mouthful, the soup explosion mixes with the tender meat and the combination is marvelous. Just don’t eat them too quickly or you will certainly suffer a scalded mouth! You should also try the Stir Fried Dou Miao with Shrimp, this green vegetable dish looks a little like grass, but on your first mouthful you’ll discover delicious crunchiness like that you find in bean sprouts. A tray of dumplings will cost you between $8 and $12.
Din Tai Fung
Click the link above for the store locator

Beetroot Salad at Esquina

Another random choice for food to eat in Singapore it may seem. But Esquina in many ways sums up the new wave of trendy type restaurants to hit Singapore in the last couple of years. Located in the vibrant area between Chinatown and Tanjong Pagar, perched on a corner and serving only around 20 or 25 diners at once, Esquina has launched itself firmly into Singapore’s dining scene.
The open kitchen is a highlight in itself and one can sit happily watching the Executive Chef, Andrew Walsh, painstakingly prepare each and every dish so that it will not only leave your tastebuds tickled, but you’ll also appreciate the beauty of food as art. The kitchen activity is intense all the same, and this is no place for leisurely or refined dining. Soak up the atmosphere whilst deciding which of the fabulous tapas options take your fancy. I always order the beetroot salad, the combination of marinated beetroot, smooth and silky burrata and crispy pinenut crumble is a magnificent match. As is everything I’ve ever tried. The slow cooked egg is also well renowned. This is not the place for a big dinner either, just a snack or two before heading out, unless you want to get caught with quite a hefty bill. Tapas are around $25 each.
Esquina
16 Jiak Chuan Road, Singapore, 089267
Phone +65 6222 1616 (no reservations)

Butter Chicken from Laagna

Butter Chicken is the dish by which I measure all Indian food. I know it’s a little pedestrian, it’s not even spicy usually, but it’s my Indian comfort food and the dish I order almost every time I eat Indian. Laagna Barefoot Dining is a unique restaurant set in the small street of Upper Dickson Road in Little India. Owner and chef Kaesavan, along with front of house Shanti, put together an interesting menu that features monthly specials that they delightfully choose with help from their patrons. The specials are always unique and provide great alternatives to the standard menu. The Butter Chicken though is always a crowd pleaser and when you dip your naan in the rich gravy and savour the tomatoey, almond and creamy taste, you’ll know why I love it so much.
Laagna Barefoot Dining
6 Upper Dickson Road, Singapore, 207466
Phone +65 6296 1215

Satays from Lau Pa Sat

Whatever the locals say about Lau Pa Sat (it’s touristy and too expensive), this street food experience is one you should’t miss when planning what to eat in Singapore. It’s not just about the food, it’s the whole atmosphere; the stall owners spruiking their credentials of, “we have the best satays in Singapore!” and the cooks fanning flames madly to get just the right amount of charcoal to sear the delicious satays to perfection. All of this adds a dimension that is hard to beat elsewhere. Granted, you will be sitting on plastic chairs, using plastic cutlery and probably getting nudged by your dining neighbour or street food vendor, but you’ll sit happily for 45 minutes or so whilst your steaming food is brought to your table and you watch the action all around. Expect to pay $12 for 20 satay sticks, $8 to $12 for a plate of steaming Kai-Lan in oyster sauce and $17.50 for a jug of beer.
Lau Pa Sat
Corner Boon Tat Road and Raffles Quay
*Follow the signs from Raffles Place MRT

Shish Taouk at Artichoke

One of the many things I didn’t know about Singapore until I arrived here was the existence of a significant Middle Eastern influence. Although most of the Middle Eastern inspired food can be found around the Arab Street area, possibly the best Middle Eastern restaurant in Singapore can be found in Sculpture Square, just off Middle Road. Artichoke is nestled in a small courtyard and is home to authentic Middle Eastern cooking, prepared with love by chef Bjorn Shen and his team. The Shish Taouk, chicken skewers that have been marinated and seasoned, are char grilled and served with a garlic source that will possibly put hairs on your chest. It’s worth the sacrifice though, the chicken is tender and fills your mouth with flavour. Find out more…
Artichoke
161 Middle Road, Singapore, +65 6336 6949
*It’s off the main road in Sculpture Square

Although this list is long, it is by no means exhaustive. One of the great things about Singapore are the different foods you find during celebrations of various multi cultural events at different times of year: Moon Cake Festival in Autumn; Rice Dumplings for Dragon Boat Festival; Indian Diwali; Hari Raya (the end of Ramadan) and the list goes on. So keep an eye out if you are visiting, there’s sure to be some sort of food related event to keep you from going hungry.

Note: All prices quoted are in Singapore dollars (SGD). To convert to your local currency click here

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