Food in Singapore isn’t just a passion – it’s a national obsession. This tropical city-state-island is home to some of the most varied, flavorful dishes in the world – thanks to its Indian, Chinese, Indonesian and Malaysian influences. Here are nine must-try dishes for when you visit (or, as we like to think of it, the nine best reasons to visit).
1) Chilli crab
Have you ever had crab if you haven’t had chilli crab? If you’re asking a Singaporean, the answer would be a resolute ‘no’. This dish consists of stir-fried crab cooked in a tomato-based sauce that manages to simultaneously be sweet, salty and spicy. It’s served with steamed or fried buns to help soak up the sauce.
2) Fried carrot cake
You might have thought you didn’t need fried carrot cake in your life, but once you try it, you’ll never want to live without it. Forget everything you know about the dessert: this version has eggs, preserved radish, and white-radish flour. Get it with molasses (the black version) or with a fried egg. Just try it. You won’t regret it.
3) Fragrant, spicy laksa
Perhaps the greatest example of culinary genius to ever exist. Curry laksa stars coconut milk, fish slices, shrimp and noodles; it’s a spicy, warming, rich orange bowl of hot deliciousness.
4) Hainanese chicken rice
This is practically Singapore’s national dish. A whole chicken is cooked in a pork and chicken stock so that the flavors seep into it; the rice is cooked in chicken stock, garlic and ginger. It’s served with chilli sauce and fresh ginger. A must-try here and found practically everywhere (for good reason).
5) Nasi lemak
One of the most popular dishes in Singapore, nasi lemak is rice cooked in coconut cream, served with several local sides. The key to this dish is the sauce: sambal is a red spicy paste made from shrimp paste, chilli peppers, garlic, ginger and sugar, and it is packed with flavor.
6) Soup dumplings
Known as ‘xiao long bao’, these pork dumplings are usually served with dim sum, a Chinese tradition involving several small plates. What makes these bites stand out is their hot soup filling; expect a flavor explosion when you bite into them. They’re piping hot, so be careful.
7) Curry puffs
Think Indian samosas, but with more exciting fillings that can range from chicken and potatoes to durian and sardines. Wrapped in puff pastry, these small savoury pockets are a great snack on the go.
8) Pineapple tarts
These festive desserts are usually eaten during Chinese New Year and can be found all over town, but you’ll definitely be able to pick a few up in Chinatown. Filled with dense pineapple jam and served either as balls or open-faced with a crumbly crust, these treats are so good, you should probably buy at least a dozen.
9) Ice kacang, aka the craziest, tallest best ice and fruit desserts
These must be seen (and eaten) to be believed. Think shaved ice, mango pudding and various fruits – all of it stacked as tall as your head. Grass jelly, red beans, aloe vera, peanuts, coconut milk – add what you want to create your own dream version. It’s especially refreshing in the signature Singaporean tropical temperatures.