Olive Magazine
A collage of rice flour cakes topped with preserved radish, Singapore’s skyline and Hokkien noodles

10 things we love about Singaporean cuisine

Published: October 7, 2021 at 1:51 pm

Edoardo Pellicano, executive chef of Mãos, shares what he loves about the food of Singapore

Want to learn more about Singaporean cuisine? Looking for Singapore dishes to try? Read our guide below then check out our guide to best places to eat and drink in Singapore and our Chinese New Year guide.

Edoardo Pellicano grew up surrounded by the food of his Italian restaurant-owning father and Chinese-Singaporean mother. He’s currently executive chef of Mãos, a unique dining experience at the Blue Mountain School in London.

The menu at Mãos draws on Edoardo’s memories and trips overseas, showcasing Asian flavours and techniques, including fermentation (a process that originated in ancient China), preserving and ageing proteins. Singapore is formed of three main cultures – Chinese, Malay and Indian – and Edoardo’s suggestions encompass them all to help you enjoy this eclectic food culture. bluemountain.school/maos

1. Hawker centres

Singapore’s hawker centres (large food courts housing street food stalls) are part of the fabric of Singapore life. Hugely popular and well respected, they house eight of Asia’s ‘50 best restaurants’. When visiting with my family, I’m always torn over what to eat as there is so much to try.

A busy hawker centre with people eating at tables

2. Hainanese chicken rice

My comfort food after too much spice or a late night out is Hainanese chicken rice. This dish of poached chicken and rice cooked in chicken broth and chicken fat is an uncomplicated, down-to-earth staple. It remains synonymous with Singaporean food and is always on a visitor’s checklist, for good reason.


3. Chwee kueh

One of my favourite breakfasts is ‘chwee kueh’ (literally ‘water cake’) made from rice flour, steamed to a firm, smooth texture. Each brilliant white cake is topped with chopped preserved radish and a splash of the restaurant’s homemade, fiery chilli paste. The cakes are served simply on brown paper, with bamboo skewers.

Chwee kueh, rice flour cakes topped with preserved radish

4. Chilli crab

I love a Singapore staple simply called ‘chilli crab’. This dish of fresh or Dungeness crab is fried in a sweet and spicy sauce. Egg thickens the broth and tomato ketchup adds to the vibrant orange colour of the cooked crabs. Be sure to have some bread at hand so you can mop up every last bit. Try Edoardo's recipe for Singapore chilli crab here.

5. Kopi

Breakfast isn’t complete without a kopi. Kopi is a traditional coffee originating from Malaysia and Singapore. It’s always served piping hot with sugar and condensed milk to contrast the rich flavour. It’s highly caffeinated and delicious. It can found easily in local coffee shops and hawker centres.

A cup of Kopi, a traditional coffee served piping hot with sugar and condensed milk

6. Bak kut teh

My grandma has been a huge influence on my food habits. Her passion for seeking out delicious food has never waned in
93 years and, whenever I visit, we dine at our favourite Ya Hua Bak Kut Teh Eating House. Bak kut teh is ‘pork rib tea’ in the Chiuchow dialect – melt-off-the-bone spare ribs in a peppery, pork bone broth. This is eaten with either rice or wheat vermicelli, and a slew of side dishes, including pig offal, seaweed and bean curd, all served in the same soup.

Bak kut teh, ‘pork rib tea’, spare ribs in a peppery, pork bone broth

7. Dempsey Hill

Dempsey Hill is surrounded by some great restaurants. It’s very close to where my family lives so I go there quite often to eat at some of my favourite places housed in restored barracks from the colonial era. You’ll find everything from Peranakan (Baba-Nyonya or Chinese-India-Malay) food, to dishes from Singapore’s established Indian community, such as fish head curry and dry chicken masala.

8. Laksa

There are many different versions of the classic laksa but my favourite is ‘lemak laksa’. This spicy iteration of the dish has a coconut milk soup base. I love to have it with lots of king prawns, fresh, crunchy bean sprouts and fish balls.

A bowl of lemak laksa with king prawns, noodles and fish balls

9. Char kway teow

Another fantastic dish is char kway teow. It’s a stir-fried rice noodle dish with garlic, dark soy sauce, chilli paste, belachan (fermented shrimp paste), cockles and slices of delicious lap cheong (Chinese sausage).

10. Hokkien noodles

One of my top stir-fried meals is hokkien noodles with prawns, slices of chicken or pork, squid and fish cake, seasoned with soy sauce, vinegar and chilli. Each serving comes with sambal sauce and a lime wedge, to balance the bold flavours. The Singaporean version uses thick, flat egg noodles.

A plate of hokkien noodles, typically served with prawns, slices of chicken or pork, squid and fish cake, seasoned with soy sauce, vinegar and chilli

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