Eating is regarded as one of the national pastimes in Singapore, next to shopping. With an extensive variety of food available, even the locals are spoilt for choices at times. Singapore cuisine is a result of the convergence of diverse cultures, which is what makes it so beautiful (and delicious) at the same time.
A tiny city-state where people of different races, namely the Malays, Chinese, Indians, and Eurasians, live in harmony whilst sharing their culture and traditions.
It's not unusual for tourists to feel overwhelmed or lost at times, when visiting another country. We've all felt like that before; not knowing where to go, what to eat, or how to experience the country at its best.
Don't fret ! Below are the Top 5 Must-Try Foods of Singapore that is guaranteed to make you feel right at home and eating like a true blue Singaporean !
Number 1: Hainanese Chicken Rice
A definite icebreaker for people trying Singapore cuisine for the first time, it also serves as comfort food for many Singaporeans. An unbelievably simple-looking dish: rice and bite-sized pieces of chicken, garnished with slices of cucumbers. But don't underestimate the simplicity of it.
The chicken is boiled in a pot of assorted herbs for 30 minutes for it to be perfectly tender, while the rich broth that remains is used for preparing rice. The succulent white chicken is then chopped into bite-sized pieces and served with the flavorful rice. A drizzle of some light soy sauce and sesame oil is usually added to it, further enhancing the flavour of the dish. Dark soy sauce and chilli are always available at the counter, just in case you feel like spicing things up a bit.
A plate of chicken rice can easily be found in hawker centres all around Singapore at a price of SGD $4 (USD $3). Simple, tasty, yet affordable, who says you have to visit an expensive restaurant for good food ?
Number 2: Chilli Crab
Listed as number 35 of CNN Go's World's 50 Most Delicious Foods in 2011, the Chilli Crab is up next. It is a signature dish that cannot be found anywhere else, unlike noodles or dim sum, where a decent variation of those would taste almost the same as the real deal. Chilli Crab is the face of Singapore Cuisine.
The sauce is created with a perfect balance of chilli and tomato sauce that results in a semi-thick sweet-yet-savory concoction, bound to satisfy even the pickiest of eaters. The crabs are usually stir-fried together with the sauce until the crabs turn red with goodness. Among the various ingredients, egg is added to give the sauce a thick consistency.
This dish must be and will only be enjoyed by using your bare hands. Diners use a crab cracker to crack open the shell and suck on the crab to get the sauce-drenched meat out. Some restaurants would serve fried mantous for diners to mop up the remaining sauce on the plate.
The chilli crab is best eaten with your friends or loved ones, because what else could be more enjoyable (or fun) than sitting at a round table, fingers stained with sauces, and looking at them smashing crab legs ?
Prices could go up to as high as SGD $80 (USD $62), so it'd be wise to ask for the price before ordering.
Number 3: Katong Laksa
Ranked Number 1 of the 550 Things To Do In Singapore by the Lonely Planet Travellers, Laksa is a classic spicy noodle dish, invented by the Peranakans (the ethnic Chinese).
Thick rice noodles are served in a bowl of rich, spicy coconut curry broth together with shrimp, cockles, fish cake, and hard-boiled eggs. The special (or perhaps, best) thing about this dish is that the noodles of Katong Laksa* are cut up into pieces so small that it can be easily eaten with a spoon alone ! Gone are the days of having to use chopsticks for noodles, at least for this marvellous dish !
A bowl of Laksa typically costs around SGD $5 (USD $4).
*Katong Laksa is a variant of the traditional Laksa and is found in the Katong area of Singapore.
Number 4: Bah Kut Teh
Meat Bone Tea
Bah Kut Teh translates as the "tea" of meat bones (pork ribs). The history of this dish dates way back to the 19th century, where it first began as a breakfast dish. Multiple herbs are used in the cooking of this dish to supplement the poor, non-nutritional diet of the workers as well as to give them the energy for a whole day of hard labor.
Bah Kut Teh is a meaty pork ribs sitting in a unique broth of complex spices and herbs. There are two ways of making Bah Kut Teh - the Hokkien Chinese would add some soy sauce to the broth on top of the herb mixture, giving it a distinct flavor and a darker colour. The Teochew Chinese keeps their Bah Kut Teh clearer and lighter by only using salt and pepper. For Bah Kut Teh fans who love the herbal aroma of the broth, the Hokkien Chinese style is for them. But if you prefer a less herbal-tasting soup, you will surely enjoy the other style of cooking just as much.
A bowl of Bah Kut Teh costs SGD $7 (USD $5.50) and is usually served with steaming hot rice on the side.
Number 5: Kaya Toast
Kaya Toast is a popular breakfast item among most Singaporeans, the kaya is a sweet and fragrant jam made from coconut milk, eggs, sugar, and pandan leaves. It goes perfectly with a cup of warm Milo or Coffee and soft-boiled eggs - the best local breakfast. You would be surprised to know that it is almost impossible to find a coffeeshop that doesn't serve kaya toast.
A serving of Kaya Toast costs SGD $2 (USD $1.50) at the famous Ya Kun Kaya Toast shop.