Asian cuisine is some of the hottest out there, with food-lovers seeking out once unknown countries and dishes for the first time... If you haven't explored the foods of Singapore, you're missing out. In the words of the late Anthony Bourdain "if you're looking for pound for pound the most food, best food, and most diverse selection of food maybe anywhere on the planet, you are most definitely talking about Singapore." This is the list of Singaporean dishes you need to try.
Coming in at #35 on the World’s 50 most delicious foods list created by CNN Go in 2011, this iconic Singaporean dish is a must try. It’s no surprise that this island has various dishes incorporating seafood and chilli crab is possibly the king of them. Stir-fried crab, coated in a sweet, savoury and a tad spicy tomato based sauce, this seafood dish stands out among the rest.
History of this dish can be traced back to the Arabs. Middle Eastern travellers would grill their meat on metal skewers and refer to the dish as kebabs, which we now know has many adaptations in various countries all over the world (check out our Turkish Kebabs Cooking Class). The Southeast Asian adaptation are satay – meat marinated in a delicious mixture of regional ingredients like garlic, lemongrass and ginger then placed on wooden skewers (rather than metal), grilled, and served with a peanut based dipping sauce. Locals say it’s the perfect snack to be paired with a cold beer. Learn how to make this flavour packed dish, compressed rice and pickled cucumber & pineapple salad in our Satay Cooking Class with Chef Paul Then.
CHAR KWAY TEOW
Char Kway Teow, sometimes called Fried Kway Teow, is a mixture of a handful of things but the most important and defining of the dish are the flat & wide rice noodles. The noodles are stir-fried at high heat with eggs, bean sprouts, prawns, clams, Chinese sausage and Chinese chives with chilies in light and dark soy sauce. Originally, the dish would have been fried with pork lard adding a different and more distinct flavour profile, although, in the more recent years vendors have started to use oil to replace lard. So if lard isn’t your thing don’t worry, you can definitely find Char Kway Teow fried in oil and even with extra veggies mixed in. So. Good.
If you ever fly out of Singapore, you’ll notice a surprising amount of passengers with chiffon cake shoved into their carry on. The pandan chiffon cake in particular seems to be the most popular flavour with its light green colour and beloved subtle yet sweet taste. Pandan leaves are used throughout South-east Asian cooking lending its soft aroma and hint of colour to anything from desserts and drinks to chicken and sticky rice. It’s a flavour that once you’ve tried it you’ll be able to identify it in any dish it’s used in. This super soft and light cake is great for anything from birthdays to the perfect pair with a cup of tea, the chiffon cake is seriously melt-in-your-mouth. Pandan juice and coconut milk are really the only variant ingredients from a standard cake but it’s the technique of whipping the eggs and folding in the rest of the ingredients making sure not to beat the air out of the batter. If you don’t try some during your stay in Singapore, at least grab some to try at the airport on your way home!
One of the many dishes influenced by the Indian culture on the island, you can enjoy roti prata at any time of the day in Singapore. In Hindi, roti means ‘bread’ and prata or paratha means ‘flat’, basically is a direct description of the dish. Although it can be served with various different add-ins like cheese, mushrooms, and even durian, the plain and base of all versions is a thin dough served crispy on the outside and fluffy and soft on the inside. Usually served alongside a savoury curry, roti prata is made by flipping a mixture of dough and ghee (Indian clarified butter) until it forms a thin layer and is then fried. Try to find a hawker stall where you can see the magic happen!
Another dish to make the World's 50 most delicious dishes created by CNN GO (updated in 2018) - Singapore Chicken Rice. Coming in at #45 this dish is also known as the National Dish of Singapore. It's savoury, spicy, salty, a little sweet with a touch of fragrance... and a heaping of delicious. If you haven't been lucky enough to visit Singapore to taste this - you're missing out, but you can master it at home in the Chicken Rice Cooking Class with Chef Paul Then.
Maybe not the most picturesque dish on this list but it’s one that should certainly not be overlooked. Don’t let the name fool you; this is not a cake you’d expect for dessert…well maybe, if that were your thing. Savoury, little pieces and usually not containing any orange carrots at all, this “carrot cake” pretty much consists of nothing what you would expect. Roots of this dish can be traced back to a dish origination from Southern China consisting of a simple fried starch cake (chao gao guo), although the popularized version you find today evolved in Singapore. White radish (some call white carrot) and rice starch are steamed, cut into cubes and fried with garlic, eggs and preserved radish called ‘chai poh’. Either served white (original) or black (fried with sweet dark soya sauce, pictured above) you’ll be in for a surprise with this dish.
Laksa is a popular noodle soup found throughout various countries including Malaysia, Indonesia and, of course, Singapore. Believed to have been born of a combination of Chinese cooking influences paired with regional flavours, like coconut milk, originating from Chinese merchants whom immigrated to these countries. Although you can find different types of laksa on the island, make sure to try Singapore’s homegrown version, Katong Laksa. This coconut-based soup with a vibrant red-orange colour consists of thick vermicelli noodles and is topped with prawns, fish cakes and other small seafood.
Singapore is hot and to combat the humid climate treats like cendol are enjoyed. Though it may look different than an ice cream cone don’t judge it without giving it a shot. This dessert consists of shaved ice topped with little green worm-shaped jellies (green rice flour jelly), coconut milk and palm sugar syrup, making it refreshing and slightly sweet. Most commonly served in a bowl in Singapore but can be found served as more of a drink in other southeast Asian countries like Vietnam, Indonesia and Thailand. Different toppings like sweetened red azuki beans, diced fruit, and even creamed corn can be added if you’re feeling adventurous.
Singaporean Cooking Classes
Video conference 2-starred Michelin chef, Chef Paul Then into your home. He'll teach you how to cook traditional Singaporean dishes (like some of the amazing ones in this list!) live from his home in Singapore - in a private cooking class.