Visitors may ask, ‘If Singapore is such a food paradise, why aren’t there more reports of obese Singaporeans in the same proportion as obese Americans?‘ That’s because Singapore is a walking city. With all the shopping and sauntering to and from public transports, offices, and residences, Singaporeans not only burn off the calories from their last meal, they also get appetites for their next.
If you ever visit Singapore, find out for yourself why this island-nation acquired the reputation of being a food paradise, with the following must-try dishes.
Fried carrot cake – This isn’t your mom’s carrot cake (well, unless your mom is Singaporean). Itâ€™s rice flour and ‘white carrot’ (radish) quick-fried with eggs, garlic, and chai poh (pickled radish). You have the option to have the ‘black’ version (sweet, black soy sauce added) or the ‘white’ version (no soy sauce).
Laksa - Thick rice noodles in a rich spicy yellow coconut gravy, served with beansprouts, cockles, prawns, and fishcake slices. Try the Laksa in Rockery, Bugis Junction, which comes with a spoonful of chili paste and chopped onion leaves. It tastes great with their iced beverages.
Kaya - Sweet coconut custard jam, best eaten as breakfast with thick toast. Try the kaya and several other kinds of jams at Toastbox, which serve it with half-boiled eggs and some thick soy sauce and pepper for taste. I enjoyed it so much while staring at the scenery along Orchard Road in the Food Republic, Wisma Atria, I dragged my friends along the next morning for the experience. They also relished it.
Nasi Lemak – traditional breakfast composed of coconut milk-flavored rice, a slice of omelette, anchovies, a bit of cucumber, and some chili paste. The whole meal is wrapped in a banana leaf or brown paper. Toastbox also has this in the menu.
Roti Prata – It is a thin, multi-layered wheat flour pancake that is repeatedly stretched and tossed like croissant before being fried on a hot gridle. Delicious and affordable, Prata is served at all hours of the day with curry gravy or sugar.
Teh Tarik – a potent tea brew that is ‘pulled’ (poured repeatedly between glass and serving dish) to create a foamy, well-aerated concoction.
Bak Kwa – Grilled sweet savoury meat slices, traditionally barbequed pork. The ones at Bee Cheng Hiang in Chinatown are the best. There’s even a guy flipping fresh pork slices over a grill to the delight of visitors.
Char Kway Teow – Stir-fried noodles tossed with cockles, fishcakes, eggs, and garlic. The most sought-after street dish yet also the most cholesterol-laden. Try this noodle dish at the food court in Suntec City.
Bak Kut Teh – an aromatic soup brewed from pork ribs, spices, pepper and garlic, served with a bowl of steamed rice and slices of red chillies in dark soy sauce. It roughly means, “Pork Rib Tea” and can be accompanied by Chinese tea to heighten its flavor.
Satay - Barbecued meat on sticks served with rice cakes, spice peanut sauce, onion and cucumber slices. The Kopi Tiam branch near Orchard Road sells these for SGD .50 per stick, but there’s a minimum of 10 sticks per order.
Rojak - A salad dish of fruits, vegetables, crispy dough fritters and fried stuffed beancurd in a tangy prawn-paste dressing. Your mouth will experience different textures and flavors every time you chew. The food vendors inside Bugis Street Market sells an excellent version of this salad.
Singapore Chilli Crab – Crabs with a rich tomato-based sauce loaded with chili garlic and spices and stir-fried to seal in the flavor. Newton Circus near Newton MRT has this and other delicious seafood meals in the menu.
Hainanese Chicken Rice - This is Singapore’s unofficial national dish; steamed or roasted chicken on top of a cub of rice cooked in chicken stock. The dish comes with chili sauce, ground ginger, and dark soy.
Fish Head Curry – A whole fish head cooked with okra, eggplant, and tomatoes in a spicy curry. Like chitlin and haggis, this is a peasant dish that makes do with undervalued meat parts. The broth may be thin and clear or dense and syrupy, and the meal is best served with steamed white rice and ice-cold calamansi (lime variant) juice.
Don’t forget to walk in-between meal destinations to get a full Singaporean workout. How else are you going to get an appetite for the next delectable course? You might want to schedule your visit to Singapore on July when the Singapore Food Festival is held yearly for even more food, events and contests.