Not only has Singapore transformed itself in the last 150 years from a fishing village to one of Asia's most dynamic cities, it's also a centre for some of the best food in South East Asia. Settlers and traders from China, India, Indonesia and Malaysia have helped make the cuisine the unique mix it is today along with a strong determination on the part of Singaporeans to eat very well.
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1 Jul 2008 - 9:00 AM  UPDATED 29 Nov 2016 - 9:12 PM

Food is viewed as central to the country’s cultural identity and is something of a national obsession. It’s a constant topic of conversation and, for many, eating out is an everyday affair, be it at the many hawker’s markets, malls or restaurants. 

Singapore is renowned for its hawker markets, the ultimate destination for experiencing the breadth and depth of the country’s cuisine. These are collections of small stalls often specialising in one or two signature dishes, from Chinese to Indian to Malaysian to Peranakan or Nonya style cooking.

Nonya cooking is a distinct cuisine that developed when local Malay women married Chinese merchants and labourers. It is the fusion of Chinese-Hokkien ingredients and Malay herbs and spices. The dishes are often hot and spicy and many dishes start with a rempah or spice paste made with a combination of chilli, spring onion, lemongrass, candlenuts, turmeric and belachan.

Eating is a communal activity, be it at home or out at a restaurant. Dishes will always be served all at once, with individual portions of rice served, and shared.

Singapore has many distinctive dishes; these include otak-otak (fish cooked with coconut milk, chilli paste, galangal, and herbs, wrapped in a banana leaf); a fresh crunchy salad called rojak; popiah (soft spring rolls); fish head curry, often eaten from a banana leaf; and the renowned Singapore chilli crab, stir fried with garlic, sugar, tomato sauce, soy sauce and chilli.

Tropical fruit is a great way to finish a Singaporean banquet, but a food-obsessed country has many of its own dessert recipes as well, including bubur cha-cha, a colourful mix of tapioca, sweet potato, beans and coconut milk.

 

View our Singaporean recipe collection here.

Singaporean Food Safari recipes
Food Safari's Hainanese chicken rice

A much-loved Chinese classic, this Singaporean recipe is an interpretation of chicken rice, using pandan, kecap manis and cucumber to complement the balance of flavours.

Singapore chilli crab

Potentially the most popular of all crab dishes, Singapore chilli crab is luxurious, rich and ever-so satisfying. Most recipes call for mud crab, which is traditionally preferred for its generous yield. Serve with either crusty bread, steamed buns or steamed rice. Whatever you choose, don’t forget crab crackers, finger bowls, and napkins.

Fried ikan bilis and peanuts

Ikan bilis, or dried anchovies, are a popular snack in Singapore. Combined with peanuts and chilli paste, it's just the thing to have with a cold Tiger beer (Singapore’s local brew) and the salty flavours make a great prelude to a meal. It can also be served with the famous nasi lemak.

Rojak

This is the freshest tasting salad – crunchy fruit and vegetables with fried tofu in a sweetly sticky, slightly sour dressing, sprinkled with roasted peanuts. It includes some unusual ingredients, but they can be found at Asian grocers. Yam bean (also called jicama) is a pale brown tuber with crisp white, slightly sweet flesh. Water spinach (called kang kong in Malay but common throughout Asia) is a crunchy, hollow-stemmed green with long pointed leaves. Fried dough sticks are deep-fried strips of unsweetened dough and are also known as Chinese doughnuts or crispy crullers. 

Bubur cha-cha

Many countries in Southeast Asia have a variation of this colourful and textural dessert and this recipe includes sago, sweet potato and taro. Taro are brown-skinned tubers covered in rough ridges – their flesh comes in various colours but is often white flecked with purple. You can find them at Asian grocery stores.

Tamarind fish (assam fish)

Sweetened with many shallots, the tangy tamarind-based sauce is a perfect match for thick cutlets of oily fish such as mackerel. The fish is dusted in turmeric-laced flour then fried and added to the sauce. A wonderful Singaporean recipe that is perfect as a main dish or shared as part of a banquet.

Singaporean essentials
Tips: Singaporean
These expert tips will help you achieve the perfect balance of flavours.
Utensils: Singaporean
Find out which special utensils you’ll need on hand during cooking.
Key ingredients: Singaporean
Make sure your kitchen is stocked with these essential ingredients to make cooking Singaporean at home a breeze.
Featured businesses: Singaporean
Contact the businesses featured in the Singaporean episode of Food Safari.