Food is an important part of Singapore’s identity. The city-state is home to not only a diverse mix of cultures and languages but also cuisines.
Before moving to Singapore, I knew little about the country’s rich culinary history. Even today, after living here for almost a year and a half, I remain woefully ignorant regarding the names and unique ingredients that make up many of my favorite dishes. My food choices are often based on recommendations from friends and my own rather arbitrary sampling.
Many of my favorite Singapore dishes are from hawker centers. These outdoor food courts offer a wide variety of food options at very reasonable prices. Over the last few days, I’ve tried to document a few of the meals I eat during any given week (at hawker centers or otherwise). I do not profess to be a food critic, or to even be an exceptionally picky eater, I just know what I like (most Singaporean cuisine) and more importantly, what I do not like (see pig liver and durian). But in general, I will try most things at least once.
The list below, in chronological order, represents a few food highlights from the last week. Hope you enjoy.
Monday lunch – Fried fish in a spicy tom yam soup with yee mee egg noodles.
Hot fish soups, in various forms, are popular dishes in Singapore. It can take a while to get used to eating hot soup in the blazing Singaporean heat. But for those willing to sweat a bit (or a lot), it can be well worth the effort. My favorite variant is a simple sliced fish soup bee hoon. This rice noodle soup contains a broth made with a small amount of milk and lightly cooked sliced white fish. In contrast, the soup below was made with fried white fish, egg noodles and a spicy, Thai influenced, tom yam broth.
This is from a very small hawker center / coffee shop on Boon Tat street near the Telok Ayer MRT. The queue was long but well worth the wait. In Singapore, a long line generally means one of two things: either the food is very good; or the food is very cheap. It is rare to find both. At S$4.00, this dish was actually near the more expensive end of the spectrum. Very cheap hawker food can run for as little as S$2.50.
Tuesday lunch – Chicken rice from one of my favorite hawker centers, Golden Shoe
This popular downtown hawker center is one of my go-to lunch options. I particularly like this chicken rice stall on the second floor.
This is labeled boneless chicken rice, but it is still good to ask for no bones. The juice from the chicken at this stall is unbeatable.
My large portion was S$4.50. The rice is cooked in the chicken stock and the chicken is steamed (the other method, more palatable to some, is a roasted variant). The black sauce on the side is a dark soya sauce. Next to it is a red chili sauce that adds a nice kick. Both are great complements to any chicken rice meal.
Wednesday lunch – Indian food at Shenton House
With a population that is approximately 10% Indian, Singapore has no shortage of good Indian restaurants. Hawker centers downtown are an especially good place to find quality Indian food at reasonable prices (Indian food is generally a bit more expensive than its Chinese and Malaysian counterparts). This Indian restaurant is located in Shenton House, a commercial high-rise building with a popular food center on the second floor.
I opted to go for an à la carte option that was more expensive than some of the pre-set meals.
I had butter naan, a cauliflower and green bean vegetable and a spicy chicken dish (not butter chicken). It tasted great but at S$9.50, it was a bit pricey, especially when a nearby hawker center also offers high-quality Indian food at much better prices. You may be paying a bit of a premium here to eat indoors.
Thursday lunch – Chicken and noodles from Chinatown
This was possibly my favorite meal of the week. The soya chicken was perfect – juicy and plump. The noodles were also great. I was with a large group of friends so we ordered a whole chicken.
The chicken went fast.
We got to the restaurant early to avoid the lunch rush.
My friends ordered in Chinese so I’m not sure what other foods are offered at the restaurant. However, I will definitely go back for the soya chicken. The meal was about S$6.00 per person, including drinks.
Sunday dinner – Crab Bee Hoon Soup
Amy and I went out to a famous Singapore crab restaurant, Mellben Seafood, which is about a 15 minute walk from our apartment.
The wait was about an hour but we were rewarded with a delicious, although messy meal of the restaurant’s famous crab soup.
We also ordered a medium, salted egg crab (think deep fried goodness).
It took a lot of work to get through this meal.
By any measure, this was not cheap. Each crab came in at nearly S$70. However, it served as a satisfying conclusion to another great week of Singaporean food.