The best way to learn about Singapore’s culture? Exploring Singapore’s local food. Here are some best traditional dishes you have to try on your next visit.
Imagine dipping sticks of crisp, glistening meat into a rich, spicy-sweet peanut sauce. That is the quintessential “satay experience,” which is loved by the locals so much that it gave birth to numerous open-air food centers dedicated to this dish in the past called “satay clubs.” Though those spaces no longer operate, you can still find delicious satay from hawker centers like Lau Pa Sat, Gluttons By The Bay and Chomp Chomp.
A local favorite (that even helped inspire a McDonald’s burger), Nasi Lemak has become a daily staple that can be eaten any time during the day (even an ice cream variation exists). There is something comforting about the dish – warm, fluffy coconut rice is served with fried fish (or chicken), eggs, anchovies, fresh cucumber slices and finished with a douse of sweet and spicy chili sambal.
A thick breakfast spread made from coconuts, jam and eggs, kaya can be described as Southeast Asia’s answer to dulche de leche. Served in both traditional coffee shops and chain restaurants, kaya toast is usually served with two soft boiled eggs and a strong dose of local coffee.
A tribute to Singapore’s rich Peranakan culture, Nonya Kueh consists of both savory and sweet snacks with recipes that date all the way back to its origins in Malacca. Get your dose of snacks like kueh salat, kueh kochi, ang ku kueh and kueh bingka at niche stores like Bengawan Solo or Chinta Manis.
A bowl of laksa might seem intimidating; its bright, amber-hued gravy might scare you into thinking it is spicy, but the popular dish is far from spicy. Dig deeper and you will find delicate strings of rice vermicelli noodles sitting amongst cockles, prawns, fishcakes and dried shrimp in a bowl of rich coconut gravy. Local hawkers tend to create different variations of this dish, some with more dried shrimp in its gravy and others opting for abalone as a highlight.
This is one worth going bananas for. Pisang Goreng (which is Malay for fried bananas) is a delicacy that, when done right, can make up for a bad day at work. It is comfort food at its best. Dipped in a light batter, small and ripe bananas are deep fried till crisp and golden. Though it is usually eaten on its own fresh from the wok, some may prefer it with a little hint of sweetness from honey or drenched in shredded cheese and chocolate sauce!
Paus are traditional Chinese steamed buns that can be found almost anywhere in Singapore. Because of the skin’s neutral flavour, you can find different variations of it from Tau Sar Pau (red bean-flavoured), Yam, Liu Sha Bao (salted egg yolk custard) and the Kong Bak Pau (filled with marinated pork belly). Whether it is sweet or savoury, Paus are best eaten eaten piping hot on a rainy day with a cup of hot tea.
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