Flavours of Singapore: Top 8 Favourite Local Dishes
Feed your cravings with your favourite local foods, delivered to you this National Day weekend.
National Day 2020 will be a unique one in many ways. In the midst of a pandemic, we still have many reasons to celebrate Singapore’s 55th anniversary as a nation. Food is of course an important reason, and also an important part of our celebration.
Eating is indeed a National past-time, and this is no theory. In fact, a recent 2019 survey showed that dining out was voted one of the top two favourite hobbies amongst Singaporeans! This is perhaps a result of Singapore’s strong hawker heritage, composed of local delicacies that reveal the unique stories of our immigrant forefathers.
Thus, there’s no better way to celebrate this nation’s birthday, than with a historically-rich gastronomic experience. Things are made even easier with online food services like Frasers Makan Master
— the Frasers Experience (FRx) App
’s feature that allows you to order dine-in, takeaway or delivery from your favourite F&B outlets.
With a smorgasbord of restaurants and eateries to satisfy your cravings for local food, we help you decide what to indulge in this National Day long weekend with eight of Singapore’s most iconic dishes, all available on Frasers Makan Master.
1. Chilli Crab
You know when gravy is so good you could drink it?
It’s like that with Uncle Leong Signatures’ sweet, spicy and savoury chilli crab.
Drippy, delicious gravy running down your fingers and your wrists, is a familiar scenario when it comes to savouring chilli crab. Promoted by the Singapore Tourism Board as one of Singapore's national dishes, it features deep-fried mud crabs lusciously covered in a savoury, sweet and spicy chilli-tomato gravy.
The chilli crab was invented in Singapore during the 1950s, by a lady named Cher Yam Tian, who added chilli sauce instead of her usual tomato sauce when stir frying her crabs. Another contributor to the more common version of chilli crab served in restaurants today is chef Hooi Kok Wah, one of Singapore’s four “heavenly kings” of Chinese cuisine in the 60s. Instead of using chilli and tomato sauce, his crabs featured a more acidic gravy made with lemon juice, vinegar, sambal, tomato paste, and egg whites.
If this mini history lesson is making you hungry, Uncle Leong Signatures offers super fresh and sweet crabs. This seafood establishment was one of the first independent restaurants to foray into shopping malls. It didn’t take long for foodies and non-foodies alike to fall in love with its wide variety of signature dishes. Crack open the pincer shells to reveal subtly sweet meat bursting from within. Uncle Leong Signatures’ chilli crabs are renown for their delectable and well-balanced sweet and spicy sauce — it is so good that customers usually order an extra plate of mantou (馒头) to soak up every last bit.
To complement the dish, order popular favourites such as the crunchy and addictive salted egg lotus root, sweet and juicy Sunkist pork ribs, and their popular claypot crab bee hoon soup. Ready or not, arm yourself with a bib, prepare to get messy, and start cracking!
We’re not trying to curry favour you, but this bowl of laksa from SMA (Super Makan Asia) is super shiok!
There exists different versions of laksa, including katong laksa which stars thick vermicelli noodles cut so short that you only need a spoon to slurp it up, and Penang’s assam laksa, which has a refreshingly sour broth made from fish stock and tamarind.
Yet, our favourite kind has got to be the tongue-tickling, spicy coconut-based curry laksa version. A common sight in hawker centres around the island, curry laksa is thick noodles in coconut milk and curry paste gravy. Shrimp, cockles and tau pok are usually added to elevate the flavour of the curry, resulting in a fragrant and delectable dish.
SMA (Super Makan Asia) serves up curry laksa with fresh prawns (non-frozen) delivered daily, and freshly prepared fragrant laksa broth made from scratch. The best thing about their laksa though? A generous serving of tau pok (dried beancurd puff, 豆卜), that soaks up all that delicious broth. It’s garnished with laksa leaves and coriander, plus a huge dollop of their homemade sambal chilli on top for that extra flavourful oomph!
This halal eatery features a potpourri of comforting local delights and is best known for their ability to get a lovely wok hei (镬气) or charred flavour in their stir-fried specialties — the sambal kang kong, gong bao chicken, and butter sotong.
3. Bak Kut Teh
Rong Hua Bak Kut Teh prides itself on its very own unique peppery pork ribs’ soup recipe.
Bak kut teh, or “meat bone tea”, is a unique soup featuring tender chunks of pork ribs stewed in a peppery broth of star anise, cloves, cinnamon, garlic, coriander and fennel seeds. It’s said to have been first brought to Singapore by Chinese immigrants in the 19th century and was a hit amongst the coolies. Having bak kut teh with rice every morning gave them the energy they needed for manual labour, such as carrying sacks of rice from arriving sampans or wooden flat-bottomed boats. In fact, the herbs and spices used to make the dish so flavoursome are believed to help control high blood pressure and cholesterol, and even fight colds and cancer.
There are actually three different types of bak kut teh from the Hokkien, Teochew and Cantonese. The Hokkien version is very dark and salty due to the copious amount of soy sauce used in the broth. The Cantonese version is more herbal with use of medicinal herbs, button mushrooms and cabbage, while the Teochew version is light, garlicky and peppery. At Rong Hua Bak Kut Teh, savour a brilliant Teochew bak kut teh that is made with a recipe passed down from the 1920s.
To get the authentic bak kut teh experience, order the classic soup with a bowl of white rice, crispy you tiao (油条), braised groundnuts and salted vegetables. Wash down the richness of the meal with a cup of floral tea or ginseng oolong tea. Lastly, complete your family feast with specialties such as pork belly in steamed lotus buns, fried French beans with dried shrimps, and braised chicken feet with beancurd skin.
4. Nasi Lemak
With crispy golden fried chicken, freshly grilled otah otah and hit-the-spot sambal, Crave’s nasi lemak could be the one dish that unites us all.
If you ask a Singaporean what the ultimate breakfast is, nasi lemak will always make it to the top of the list. Take a closer look at the main ingredients of nasi lemak such as coconut leaves, kang kong and ikan billis, and you will realise that they originated from Singapore’s seafront communities — which was mostly inhabited by local Malays during the 19th century.
Nasi Lemak means “rice in cream” in Malay — and refers to the innovative cooking method of using coconut milk and pandan leaves to make the rice aromatic, rich and creamy. Having evolved over the years, this hearty dish is now served with a variety of sides such as fried fish or chicken, otah, peanuts, eggs, cucumber slices, sambal chilli, and more.
To satisfy your nasi lemak cravings, turn to Crave — The Original Adam Road Nasi Lemak by Selera Rasa. In fact, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong served this famous nasi lemak to Indonesian President Joko Widodo during his visit to Singapore. It is also the highly requested breakfast of the Sultan of Brunei. The reason their nasi lemak is so loved by modern day royalty, has to do with a well-kept secret recipe passed down from generations. But they have revealed other secrets to a great nasi lemak, such as the use of long-grained basmati rice for lighter and fluffier rice, and a very specific mix of Indian and Japanese chillies to create their sweet and savoury sambal.
With nasi lemak, more is better. So always order extra toppings such as Crave’s mouth-watering otah otah made with fresh mackerel and grilled on the spot, their signature chicken wings, and their crowd favourite — begedil (fried potato patties).
5. Curry Chicken
Count on Ah Khoo Kopi Toast for comforting favourites such as chicken curry.
If you’re longing for soulful home-cooked food or missing grandma’s cooking, Ah Khoo Kopi Toast serves up old-school delights such as kaya butter toast, soft boiled eggs, and its popular chicken curry with rice. The curry sauce is so fragrant and perfect in texture that all you need is plain white rice to go along with it for utter satisfaction
Sometimes referred to as “Singapore Chicken Curry”, this iconic dish truly reflects how Singaporean cuisine is a mouth-watering melting pot of cultures such as Chinese, Malay, Indian and beyond. It typically features tender chunks of chicken and potato, with a rich and creamy coconut-based curry sauce.
Ah Khoo Kopi Toast also serves up other local Chinese-style dishes such as herbal chicken, a nutritious dish with succulent meat that falls off the bone. There's also the highly recommended, freshly baked traditional savoury sweet and salty tau sar piah (豆沙饼). A perfect tea time snack to share with loved ones.
6. Nasi Briyani
The star of Komala’s Briyani Poori Meal is the mouth-watering, aroma-infused and super fluffy basmati rice.
You can find briyani all over South Asia, but the one thing that makes a briyani so pleasurable is a rich flavour profile of spices and pillowy basmati rice that’s absorbed all the flavours. Originally a Muslim-Indian rice dish, the Singapore-style nasi briyani is served with curry, fried shallots, pickles, and papadum. This dish has been such an integral part of Singapore hawker culture that it’s strange to think it might have originated in Persia. As a matter of fact, the name of the dish is derived from the Persian word “birian”, which means fried before cooking.
So how did it appear in Singapore? We can thank the Chulia immigrants who arrived here as early as the 1800s, working as traders, money changers and lightermen on the Singapore River. They settled in Chuliah Campong around Clarke Quay and were said to be responsible for bringing delicacies such as briyani to Singapore.
No matter where it really came from, biryani is a challenging dish to prepare. That’s why you need to savour this sophisticated dish at Komala’s — a place specialising in North and South Indian cuisine as well as local Indian dishes for over 75 years now. Their version of the dish is called dhum briyani, and bursts with tantalising aromas of curry and spices such as saffron, nutmeg and cardamom, all patiently and lovingly infused into the rice. “Dhum” here means “breathe” and refers to the special method of cooking where the pot is sealed instead of left open, so that the optimal amount of flavours get absorbed into the rice.
Best enjoyed as a family, discover intriguing South Indian dishes too, such as dosa; a crispy and delicious crepe served with sambar, chutney, or stuffed with spiced potatoes. The other must-try at Komala’s is uthappam — another traditional South Indian dish that looks like a healthy pizza. We recommend the Chilly Cheese Uthappam which is topped with green chillies, onions, capsicum, tomatoes, and coriander.
7. Hor Fun
Han’s hor fun is prepared by skillful cooks who wok-fry the noodles to wok hei perfection.
A good hor fun is all about relishing the tantalising and robust wok hei (镬气) flavour throughout the dish. To achieve this, the chef has to get the wok smoking hot before skillfully frying the ingredients. This technique is actually a traditional Cantonese cooking technique, and means “breath of the wok”. Hor fun is a dry stir-fried noodle dish that consists of flat rice noodles enveloped in deliciously savoury umami gravy.
If you want to taste that satisfying charred flavour, Han’s is your go-to. Besides being a cosy hangout spot, their food is simple and yummy. Their must-try hor fun with pork, prawn and fish is made by cooks who have honed in their wok technique — so you get perfectly cooked noodles, seafood and thinly sliced pork, soaked in deliciously savoury gravy.
Han's cafe is a local homegrown business, first opened in 1980. They have an extensive menu from Western to local delights, and a wide range of cakes and pastries. Han's Western dishes are worth a try too, such as the gratifying three-slice clubhouse sandwich, which is gloriously stacked with shredded chicken, grilled bacon, melty cheese and a fried egg. Or if you’re looking to celebrate Singapore's British roots, fish and chips is a golden pick.
8. Soya Beancurd
A classic with a twist, Mr Bean’s delicate soya bean is complemented with sea salt gula melaka, grass jelly and more.
Soya beancurd, more commonly known as tau huay (豆花), is one of Singapore’s favourites for breakfast or supper. This healthy childhood snack is made freshly brewed and piping hot soy milk, and the best ones are creamy, soft and delicate. Eaten cold or warm, every spoonful of silky tau huay melts in your mouth.
Experience a true Singaporean pastime by hanging out with your family over bowls of Mr Bean’s classic ginger soya beancurd. The beauty of this particular beancurd is its clean and slightly sweet flavour, and can be enjoyed your way; hot or cold, with less or more sugar syrup, or even with extra soy milk added. In fact, Mr Bean gives soya beancurd a twist with their sea salt gula melaka or grass jelly options. Try the beancurd with Mr Bean’s innovative menu items inspired by local flavours — such as savoury “eggwiches” filled with chilli crab or curry potato, or sweet pancakes with pandan cheese or gula melaka sago filling.
This well-loved brand started out as a hawker stall in People’s Park Hawker Center in 1995. Back then they only sold beancurd and soy milk both, made fresh everyday. Their success is in their commitment to using high-quality, Non-GMO certified soya beans that contain a specific level of protein and moisture levels, followed by a meticulous five-hour soak, grind and brew process.
As you can see, the best dishes often have a good story behind them, and are always made with heart and soul. To our fellow foodies, celebrate Singapore’s 55th birthday with your family and feast on our nation’s most historically- and flavour-rich dishes! Plus, you get to skip the queues and enjoy all your favourites when you use Frasers Makan Master
With this digital F&B concierge service, you’ll get to enjoy free delivery with orders above $20, up to $15 off ($5 Frasers Property Digital Gift Card awarded with each order, up to three orders), and earn double Frasers Points for every food transaction! Go on and start discovering makan deals worth celebrating here. Bon appétit, or as we like to say “everybody eat”!