Singapore might be no bigger than a little red dot on the map, but this tiny island is a melting pot of cultures, known for its rich and diverse cuisines. It’s no wonder the country has a national obsession with food!
I guarantee, you'll be spoilt for choice as there's everything from affordable dishes at hawker centres to fine dining restaurants for when you're in the mood for something fancy.
Below is a list of 15 must-try Singaporean dishes including several of my favourites.
#1 Singapore Laksa
Laksa is a spicy noodle dish, usually made from thick rice noodles and topped with a combination of meat, fish and vegetables, that is popular across Southeast Asia.
Reflecting Singapore’s multicultural heritage, different versions of laksa exist, from the slightly tangy Penang laksa to the more curry-like Sarawak laksa and home-grown Katong laksa; the national favourite.
Found at hawker centres, restaurants and cafes, Katong laksa, or Singapore laksa, features rice noodles served in a spicy, rich coconut broth topped with various ingredients including fishcake, beansprouts, and prawns.
#2 Oyster Omelette
Tracing its origins to the Fujian province of China, the oyster omelette has been a beloved dish across various Asian countries, each giving it its unique twist. In Singapore, it has firmly established itself as a hawker favourite, testament to the city-state's deep Chinese influences.
Oyster omelettes are made by mixing juicy, fresh oysters and fluffy eggs with oil and potato starch to create a renowned Singaporean delicacy that’s enjoyed by both locals and tourists. In my opinion, they are amongst the best hawker foods in Singapore, and can be enjoyed with coriander and a touch of lime for a very satisfying meal.
Whether you're a local or a tourist, a plate of this, enjoyed at a bustling hawker center, is bound to leave lasting memories.
#3 Chicken Satay
Brought to Singapore by Indonesian immigrants, chicken satay is similar to kebabs where small, marinated cuts of meat are barbecued over a charcoal fire and skewered on wooden sticks. It’s complete with a bowl of sweet peanut sauce, steamed ketupat (compressed rice), cucumber and onion slices.
Satay is perfect for a quick snack and a must-try in Singapore! If you are in the city for a few days, I recommend trying out the "Satay Street" at Telok Ayer market.
#4 Chilli Crab
Made famous in the 1950s by Cher Yam Tian, who decided to add chilli to a dish of stir-fried crabs, chilli crab has become an integral part of the Singapore experience for visitors around the world. This culinary masterpiece epitomises Singapore's innovative approach to cuisine, blending local flavours with external inspirations.
This iconic dish features stir-fried crab served in a thick, tomato-based sauce infused with various aromatics such as chilli, garlic, ginger, and is commonly enjoyed with mantou (fried bread). You can find this in nearly every seafood restaurant across the country. But be warned, from my personal experiences, eating chilli crab can get rather messy so make sure you come prepared!
#5 Hainanese Chicken Rice
Another well-loved dish found in nearly every hawker centre is Hainanese chicken rice, where poached chicken is served on a bed of rice infused with chicken broth, garlic and pandan leaves. No dish is complete without the trinity of sauces – chilli sauce, dark soy sauce and ginger sauce, which accentuate the flavours of the chicken and rice.
If you have time to queue, I recommend trying out Tian Tian Hainanese Chicken Rice hawker stall at Maxwell Food Centre which features in the 2023 Michelin Guide.
#6 Fried Carrot Cake
At hawker centres and food courts, the scent of fried carrot cake often draws you in first. Comprising a medley of white radish, eggs and garlic stir-fried with preserved radish, this dish overflows with umami flavour. Choose from two variations: the sweeter version that’s fried with dark soy sauce or the saltier one that’s served without.
Despite not being the most attractive looking dish, this is one of my favourite hawker foods.
#7 Hokkien Prawn Soup (Hay Mee)
The essence of this incredibly rich bowl of noodles is its thick, fragrant broth made from prawn heads, pork bone and other aromatics. Brought to the country by early Chinese immigrants, this beloved dish is one of the more famous foods served in Singapore. Served together with yellow egg noodles, fishcake, water spinach and bean sprouts, every bite brings a burst of flavour.
#8 Nasi Lemak
Traditionally, Nasi Lemak was a farmer's meal, providing the necessary nourishment for a long day in the fields. Its name, which translates to 'rich rice', reflects the creamy, rich texture of the coconut-infused rice.
Originating from Malay cuisine, nasi lemak is a rice dish found across Southeast Asia and widely eaten in Singapore and Malaysia. Deep fried fish or chicken sit on a bed of rice infused with coconut milk, topped with cucumber slices, ikan bilis (anchovies) and an egg. This dish is a mouth-watering mix of savoury flavours often served on a banana leaf.
#9 Lotus Leaf Rice
A traditional dish from China, lotus leaf rice is made by wrapping glutinous rice and an assortment of ingredients such as chicken, mushrooms or eggs, into lotus leaves. It’s then steamed to extract the flavourful essence of the lotus leaves into the rice. This dish is usually found in dim sum eateries and is best eaten hot. It's also the first dish I ever ate in Singapore when I moved there back in 2018.
#10 Fish Head Curry
Merging the spices of South Indian curry with fish head – a delicacy in Chinese cuisine, fish head curry is a uniquely Singaporean dish found at most eateries. Featuring a mix of vegetables and a fish head – usually a red snapper, these ingredients are stewed in a fragrant pot of curry, and eaten with rice. Fish head curry also makes it onto the list of our favourite South East Asian curries.
#11 Lemon Chicken
A simple yet flavourful dish, lemon chicken features juicy, fried chicken pieces drizzled with a tangy, sweet lemon sauce. Served alongside a plate of steamed rice, lemon chicken can be found at some hawker centres and will leave you feeling refreshed and satisfied.
Originating from Indonesia, this well-loved dessert is enjoyed across Southeast Asia, including Singapore. Cendol is a bowl of shaved ice containing coconut milk and palm sugar, topped with green, rice-based, worm-shaped jelly and other ingredients such as corn or fruit. This sweet bowl of goodness has also earned its spot on CNN’s list of the best 50 desserts around the world!
#13 Barbecued Stingray
Barbecued stingray, also known as sambal stingray, is another famous Singaporean food item served at seaside eateries and hawker centres. Stingray is cut into pieces and marinated with sambal sauce – a spicy paste mixed with various ingredients like sugar, shallots and chillies – before the meat is charcoal grilled. Squeeze some lime over the succulent meat and dig into the savoury flavours of sambal stingray!
#14 Kaya Toast
Introducing the quintessential Singaporean breakfast dish widely available in hawker centres and local food chains: kaya toast. Here, two slices of toast are spread over with butter and kaya – a coconut jam flavoured with either pandan or brown sugar. Often served with a cup of kopi (coffee) or teh (tea), and two half-boiled eggs, this hearty breakfast makes for the perfect start to the day.
#15 Roti prata
With its roots in South India, roti prata, a type of flatbread served with fish or mutton curry, is a favourite among Singaporeans. You can find an exciting array of roti prata dishes, from the classic plain or egg prata, to the more adventurous options with ice cream or cheese.
Roti prata can be paired with an aromatic cup of teh tarik or “pulled tea”, made from condensed milk, sugar and black tea, which is then poured from one cup to another, adding a light froth for texture.
With an abundance of great dining options, Singapore is one of the greatest food cities in Asia. Take a trip down to this sunny island and savour them for yourself including some of my personal favourites such as Hainanese Chicken Rice, Oyster Omelette and Fried Carrot Cake.
Alternatively, if travelling isn't practical, you can also try recreating some of these dishes at home for a taste of Singapore.