Singapore is the place to eat. The small island city-state is a wonderful collision of food cultures from surrounding Asian countries, where locals have an insatiable hunger for trying new flavors and eating out on the regular. Singapore has a strong population of high-net-worth individuals, and it’s an ideal breeding ground for creative culinary innovation. And yet, the country is also teeming with accessible dishes for even the thinnest of wallets and those looking to try traditional dishes. There really is no better place to get a big taste of South Asian gastronomy, and to dive into the latest marvels of a truly hybrid cuisine.
Trendsetters of Global Cuisine & More
Singaporeans are undeniable trendsetters. Such a diverse population of creatives with big disposable incomes has opened up the country to change and innovation, and an insatiable thirst for the next best thing. Take sustainability, for example. The country is making huge efforts to care for the planet, which you can see in their green skyscrapers and their “City in a Garden” dream of becoming eco-friendly, and keeping nature close and accessible. This level of innovation and openness reaches far and wide, even into their global cuisine.
Singaporeans are quite enthusiastic about trying new flavors and cooking methods, and they love to eat out. In fact, an average of two restaurants open every day in Singapore to cater to their insatiable appetites; they’re always hungry for more, and you’ll feel the same when you start opening up menus and inhaling the intoxicating aromas of the city.
The International Mix
Spend a few minutes walking around the country’s best eateries and you’ll notice the vibrant mix of food cultures that permeates Singapore. With such ethnic diversity, the heart of Singaporean food culture involves a spectacular mélange of ingredients and cooking styles from around the globe, from Malaysian soups to Indonesian noodles. There’s a neighborhood known as Little India, a Chinatown, and even a slew of Australian-style brunch shops popular amongst locals. Singaporeans even have a specific word for the blend of Chinese, Malay, Indonesian, and Indian cooking, called “Peranakan” cuisine
Hawker Centers Define Culinary Trends
Hawker centers are the backbone of Singapore’s dining scene. The government opened up these open-air food courts to properly manage the sanitation practices of the many unlicensed street stall carts flooding the city in the 1950s. Today, over 100 hawker centers around the island feed people from all walks of life, producing everything from affordable and homemade dishes, to gourmet offerings for tourists and locals alike. If you’re looking for a foodie haven in Singapore, this is for you.
Signature Dishes of Singapore
To distill Singapore down to just a few dishes would be impossible. But check out a few popular dishes you’ll see gracing menus all over town and you’ll get a good taste of the rich cultural identities that make up the Lion City.
You simply cannot eat in Singapore without trying chili crab. One of the country’s signature dishes (some consider it the national dish), this perfectly sweet and spicy crustacean is coated and cooked in a combination of chili, tomato paste, garlic, and egg, and is often served over noodles, or sopped up with fried, donut-like buns.
Laksa is a deeply flavorful coconut curry seafood soup hailing from Malaysia, and you’re bound to find it all over town. Think lots of lemongrass and galangal, whirled into the creamiest of broths and fixed up with juicy shrimp and slippery noodles. It’s commonly topped with a dollop of a ruby-red sambal chili paste that happily opens up your sinuses and keeps you begging for more.
Chicken rice, or Hainan chicken rice, may sound mundane in comparison to the rest of the county’s cuisine, but a well-prepared serving will prove you wrong. This dish, brought over by immigrants from the Chinese province of Hainan, involves poaching chicken with a bit of ginger and cooking the rice in the gelatinous poaching liquid. It’s often accompanied by regional condiments like dark soy sauce or ginger-garlic sauce.
Fish Head Curry
An Indian-influenced plate of fish head curry is a visually shocking dish that’s bound to surprise you. The spicy flavors of southern India, combined with the Chinese penchant for fish head (usually succulent red snapper), and yes, gelatinous eyeballs worth trying, are the perfect showcase of Singapore’s delicious cultural mashup.
Whether it’s breakfast or dinner you’re after, roti prata is always a tasty bet. This South-Indian dish is made by folding dough between layers of gee into a flaky, paper-thin flatbread, and frying it on a griddle until it gets crispy and golden. Try it with sugar for breakfast or a rich curry sauce for dinner.
The simple art of grilling skewers of marinated and spiced meat over blazing charcoal has been adapted all throughout Singapore, Indonesia, and Malaysia. Whether it’s chicken, lamb, or beef, try satay with a nutty peanut sauce or more modern, local interpretations involving a tangy pineapple puree.
With such a wide range of cultures and vast food traditions, and an insatiable desire to eat well, it’s no surprise that Singaporeans are welcoming fresh and upcoming food trends. They’re openness to new ideas and innovation makes it a hot city to visit and of course, taste the next best flavors, including planet-first creations like cultivated meat from Aleph Farms.
Head to the hawkers or gourmet restaurants and you’re bound to find chefs working their magic to push the world of food innovations forward. Singapore—bathed in flavors from all over the globe— is the best place to taste it.