Singapore is quite possibly the best representation and epitome of the word “melting pot” both figuratively and literally. Out of all of Southeast Asia, I think it is the most un-Southeast Asian country simply because of the immense mixture of culture and nationality that populates the country. Other than that, it is probably the most westernized and cosmopolitan country in Southeast Asia with its very innovative, modern, and contemporary buildings and architecture styles. And though some people visit Singapore for a variety of reasons – for business, graduate studies, short vacations, shopping, or what have you – what usually makes people keep coming back to this tiny island is none other than its food and the whole experience of dining in Southeast Asia’s hawker heaven.
Regardless of what your preference is or what your palate is craving for at any given time, it can most definitely be satisfied by Singapore’s wide array of cuisines in its ever famous hawkers and food courts. Food stalls in these hawkers vary from Malaysian, Chinese, Indian, Thai, or whatever other cuisine you can think of and meals generally cost around $2 and above depending on how much you order. It is understandable, however, for new-comers to this melting pot country to get quite intimidated and confused about what to order when faced with the hundreds of choices in these hawker establishments. It gets quite overwhelming in itself during peak hours just to decide what to order, and top that off with a swarm of hungry students and employees hurrying to get their fill of their hawker favourites, and it’s easy to turn your back around and just look for a more “decent” dining experience in a restaurant. But believe me, just tough it out on your first try and you’ll eventually agree with me when I say that sticking it out is so worth it for the whole experience you get out of eating in a hawker place that you’d want to keep coming back. All hawker establishments generally have the same cuisines and dishes to offer, but to make things a bit easier for first-timers in the Lion City, here are a couple of staple hawker favourites that are a must-try.
Hainanese Chicken Rice
This dish is definitely one of the favourites both by locals and tourists alike – a very simple chicken and rice dish that has just that amount of flavor that would keep you wanting more. The chicken-rice combo is served with dark soy, ginger, and a few other spices that go perfect with the poached and steamed dish.
This heaven-on-a-stick dish comes either in chicken, beef, mutton, or pork in small bite-size pieces skewered on thin sticks and is partnered with a spice-infused peanut sauce and is best eaten with white rice.
This pancake like bread of Indian origin can also be found in most hawkers and is definitely a crowd favorite when it comes to snacks. You can choose an assortment of fillings as simple as cheese or as complicated as egg, meats, onions, etc. It is served with a bowl of curry where you dip your Roti Prata in and is best eaten using your fingers!
As the name says, this dish includes a generous serving of crab cooked in a thick mouth-watering buttered chilli sauce and is often eaten with “mantou” or fried rolls.
This popular Malaysian rice dish is also a staple in most hawker establishments. The rice is cooked in coconut milk and is served with a variety of sidings which include meat curry, peanuts, anchovies, a hardboiled egg, and some vegetables.
There are a whole lot more of dishes and cuisines that you should try and taste for yourselves too. But these 5 dishes are some of the must-tries for first timers, especially if you’re not very adventurous with trying an entirely new world of spices and flavours, because these dishes, though simple and subtle are still interesting enough to tickle your taste buds.