4 Singaporean Foods You’ve Gotta Eat That Aren’t Chilli Crab
There are plenty of ways to get your tastebuds tingling.
A clash of Chinese, Malaysian and Indian cultures, Singapore is heaven for foodies.
But while most will make a beeline for the city’s infamous chilli crab, there are plenty of other unique options to get your tastebuds tingling – even if you’re only in town on a stopover. Here are a few to try on your next trip to Singapore.
#1 Kaya Toast
Kaya is a sweet coconut jam beloved throughout Singapore and Malaysia. In Singapore, it’s generally served on wholemeal toast with a good slathering of butter or margarine, though you can also opt for steamed bread, which is surprisingly soft and flavoursome (thanks to the melted butter that drips through it as you eat).
Kaya toast chain Ya Kun has been serving up the breakfast staple since 1944, when it was nothing more than a small, family-run stall. Since expanding into franchised outlets, Ya Kun has exploded in popularity, serving Kaya toast alongside half-cooked eggs and strong Hainanese coffee.
Let’s go back to those half-cooked eggs for a second. Yes, they’re intentionally under-cooked. On a trip to Ya Kun, you’ll see locals (and brave tourists) seasoning their eggs with a combination of soy sauce, salt and pepper; the idea being that you mix it up and throw the lot back in one gulp.
The best thing is that an entire meal will set you back less than $5.
Where: Various locations around Singapore
#2 Katong Laksa
A nod to Singapore’s Chinese heritage, Katong laksa is a variant of laksa lemak, invented by Straights Chinese descendants living in the city’s Katong district. It’s generally made with coconut milk, chopped rice noodles, and shrimp paste, which gives the soup its rich red colour.
There’s a competitive Katong laksa scene along East Coast Road, but a stop at 328 Katong Laksa is essential. Located just a stone’s throw from Joo Chiat’s infamous multi-coloured shophouses, 328 Katong Laksa comes highly recommended by the 2017 Michelin Guide, even though it offers just one laksa in small or large serving sizes. That’s because the family recipe is a secret, and it’s good.
It’s most famous, however, for defeating celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay at a local cook-off in 2013. One thousand members of the public tasted laksas by Ramsay and 328 Katong Laksa’s Ryan Koh and voted in a public poll, with the latter winning by 19 per cent.
A large bowl costs just SG$7 (AU$7).
Where: 51 East Coast Road, Singapore 428770
#3 Kueh Lapis
Typically found in Perankan stores and restaurants around Singapore, kueh lapis – or layer cakes – are a wobbly, chewy play on French mille crepe cakes. Made from a batter of steamed rice flour and flavoured with pandan (palm sugar) and coconut milk, kueh lapis’ light and dark layers are meant to symbolise life’s ups and downs.
Starting with the top layer, you’re supposed peel back each layer, roll it up and eat it. The gelatinous texture makes it difficult to chew, so you’re best to slurp it back, layer by layer, kind of like a dessert oyster. The coconut flavour is overwhelming, but there are subtleties in each layer that you’ll taste as you go.
Kim Choo Kueh Chang has been a mainstay on the Joo Chiat-Katong strip since 1945. It’s famous for its sticky, sweet nanyang dumplings, but staff lovingly create a whole range of sweets, including kueh lapis, alongside a generous serve of Peranakan culture.
A serving of four costs SG$2.80 (AU$2.80).
Where: 60 Joo Chiat Place, Singapore 427784
#4 Soy Sauce Chicken Rice
You can find Cantonese-style soy sauce chicken all over Singapore, but no-one does it better than Malaysian-born chef Chan Hong Meng – better known as Hawker Chan – meaning the simple, succulent chicken-and-rice dish is a must-try for any visitor to Singapore.
It’s a simple formula, but it’s one that earned him some of the world’s first street food Michelin Stars – and one worth protecting, it seems. After opening an outpost in Melbourne in December, it was revealed that the sauce is mixed in a locked room in Singapore before being shipped to our fair shores.
At his original stall at the Chinatown Complex Food Centre, you can get a half-chicken and rice for around SG$2 (AU$2). Just make sure you get there before midday, because you risk missing out if you leave it any later.
Where: Chinatown Complex Food Centre, 18 Tai Seng Street, Singapore 534119
Kristen Amiet was a guest of Singapore Tourism. To explore Singapore’s innovative food scene, visit the website.
(Lead image: Lily Lvnatikk; all other images: Singapore Tourism)