As Singapore turns 50 this month, our nation is in a grand party mood. And one of our favourite ways to party is to indulge our palates. We are in love with our food, and fussy to a fault when it comes to eating. And you can hardly blame us. Most of our dishes are born of our multi-racial culture, and the best dishes are Singaporean-ised over the years to perfectly suit our taste buds.
So if you are in Singapore for a short visit, join me on a food trail that is sure to impress. This is 24 Hours: What To Eat In Singapore:
Prata for Breakfast
When I’m up bright and early, I usually make a beeline for roti pratas. When done right, this South Indian flat bread is crispy on the outside and soft on the inside, and the perfect morning nosh.
My personal favourite is what we call prata ‘kosong’. ‘Kosong’ means ‘zero’ in the Malay language and refers to plain prata, which tastes best when dipped with fish curry.
However, if you are craving something a little more sweet or savoury, many prata stalls also offer modern variants such as cheese, onion, chocolate and bomb pratas – a flakier dough with margarine, sugar and condensed milk. Enjoy these with strong local coffee for the perfect early morning pick-me-up.
Chicken Rice for Lunch
Though chicken rice has its roots in the Hainan province in China, it is widely hailed as our national dish. In fact, it’s rare to walk more than five kilometres anywhere in Singapore without passing a chicken rice stall with a row of cooked chicken hanging from the stall front.
While this may seem a little shocking to tourists at first, it adds to the distinct flavour of the cuisine. In fact, Singaporeans tend to like to see our meat in its entirety, and associate this with freshness and wholeness.
Quirks aside, Singaporean-Hainanese Chicken Rice is very different from the original version from China, which tends to feature a bonier fowl with green chilli dip. In Singapore, we prefer tender spring chicken served with fragrant rice steamed with chicken stock and ginger. This is accompanied by a tangy red chilli dip, minced ginger paste and thick sweet soy sauce.
Widely available at humble hawker centres and renowned restaurants, this national dish has inspired our nation so much that we have named movies such as Chicken Rice War after it!
Kaya Toast for Tea
As far as Singapore’s tea culture goes, the Kaya Toast probably sums it up. Kaya is a local jam made from coconut milk, eggs, sugar and pandan leaves, which lends it a unique fragrance and distinctive green hue. Served with toasted bread and generous slivers of butter, it the perfect mid-day energy booster.
Singaporeans love enjoying a Kaya Toast even when we’re not hungry. It is most commonly savoured with local milk tea, or what we call ‘teh’ during a casual catch-up with friends, especially on a lazy weekend.
Chilli Crabs for Dinner
Whenever I host overseas friends for dinner, I love to take them for some authentic Singaporean chilli crabs. Usually served with the shell intact and drenched with a savoury chilli-tomato gravy, this is a messy eat. Be ready to get your hands dirty, and expect a lot of splatter. However, if you ask any Singaporean, this simply adds to the flavour of the crabs, and makes it a unique bonding experience for diners.
My three tips for enjoying the iconic chilli crab: 1) Never wear white or pricey clothes for this unless you are prepared to go home with stains. 2) Request for a female crab if you enjoy roe. 3) Always order mantou (fried buns) to soak up the chilli gravy after you’ve polished off the main!
Satay for Supper
Think of this as the Southeast Asian version of the ubiquitous kebab, marinated in a piquant bouquet of local spices. Satays tend to be sweeter than your regular kebabs, and served with a distinct sweet and spicy peanut dip. Usually available as bite-sized chicken, beef and mutton sticks with a side of raw cucumbers, onions and ketupat (rice cakes), they are my favourite after-dinner snacks!
Since the best satays are freshly grilled over an open charcoal fire, they are usually only available from evening till late night. Bear in mind that you can’t order one or two sticks of satay – nor should you. Stall owners offer satay beginning from 8-10 sticks. And believe me, once you’ve tried it, you’ll wish you had ordered more.
Capella Singapore serves many of these delightful local cuisines. Alternatively, if you are spending time around town, ask your Personal Assistant for recommendations.