6 Heritage Singaporean Dishes & Their International Versions

These modern dishes offer a refreshing take on our beloved local food.

By Diana Najm        1 November 2023

It’s no secret that Singapore is a nation of foodies. And who can blame us when our cuisine is a result of our multicultural society, thanks to a blend of cultures and flavours from all over Asia. Iconic dishes such as nasi lemak, fish head curry, laksa, and Hainanese chicken rice are a testament to our rich culinary heritage. 

But any food-obsessed Singaporean would know that we’ve also got many international interpretations that remind us of our heritage dishes while infusing them with global twists. Plus, if you’re reading this in the office, who knows — you might just be inspired for your next lunch spot. 

1. Kaya Toast & Soft-Boiled Eggs VS Eggs Benedict

Kaya toast and soft-boiled eggs — name us a more iconic duo. This combination traces its roots back to old kopitiams. Kaya is generously slathered with a slab of cold butter between slices of toasted bread, and paired alongside soft-boiled eggs, it’s THE quintessential Singaporean breakfast that’s a classic for all generations. 

For something same-same but different, eggs benedict is a Western interpretation of the traditional kaya toast and soft-boiled eggs combo. Originally conceived in New York City, eggs benedict has become a breakfast staple all over the world, including Singapore. Instead of soft-boiled eggs, though, most eggs benedict dishes feature poached eggs. You can find it at any cafe — but one stop we’d recommend is Beast & Butterflies. 

Their Egg Benedict ($16) features two poached eggs topped with Hollandaise sauce, served on freshly baked sourdough with sauteed mushrooms. And to complement your meal, get an iced latte ($7) instead of your usual kopi peng. Pick one of the outdoor tables and have a leisurely breakfast by the river. 

SAFRA members enjoy 10% off the a la carte menu at Beast & Butterflies. For more info, visit safra.sg/promotions/beast-butterflies

2. Satay VS Brazilian Churrascaria

Ah satay, where do we even begin? Whether it’s chicken, beef, or mutton, satay is a skewered goodness that has been skillfully marinated and grilled to smoky perfection. The true magic happens when you dip them into the creamy peanut sauce served on the side, accompanied by some fresh cucumber and onion slices. Satay is what the kampong spirit is all about, often enjoyed in groups at hawker centres such as Lau Pa Sat or East Coast Lagoon. 

Meats served on a skewer? The Brazilians do it just as well with churrascaria. In fact, the name is derived from the barbecue style in which the meat is cooked. Succulent cuts of meat — think picanha (rump cap), sausage, and lamb chops — are skewered, seasoned, and slow-roasted over open flames. These are then accompanied by sides like feijoada (black bean stew), fluffy farofa (toasted cassava flour), and refreshing salads. 

Get the full experience at Carnivore Brazilian Churrascaria at CHIJMES. The buffet includes a pasta bar with over 15 hot and cold salads, appetisers such as feijoada, and your choice of protein including picanha, alcatra (beef rump), short ribs, lamb sausage, roast pork, and butterfish. These are served alongside grilled pineapple and garlic bread and condiments such as homemade capsicum vinaigrette. 

SAFRA members get 10% off the adult dinner buffet (U.P. $69). For more info, visit safra.sg/promotions/carnivore-brazilian-churrascaria-2

3. Kacang Pool VS Shakshouka

Kacang pool is a rather underrated breakfast dish found in both Singapore and Malaysi, which is inspired by ful medames, a Middle Eastern dish. It’s a unique medley of ingredients — think spiced ground beans, bell peppers, onions, and a dash of secret spices, all coming together in a stew. This hearty mixture is often scooped up with slices of toasted bread or served alongside a fried egg. 

But it’s hard not to compare kacang pool with shakshouka, a Tunisian dish of tomatoes, onions, pepper, spices, and eggs. We especially love the one at Nassim Hill Bakery. At $26, it comes with two sunny-side-up eggs in a red pepper harissa ragout, sliced Spanish chorizo sausages, and a toasted baguette. 

SAFRA Members enjoy 10% off regular-priced food and drink items at Nassim Hill Bakery. For more info, visit safra.sg/promotions/NassimHillBakery

4. Roti Prata with Condensed Milk VS French Crepes

Having prata, our affectionate name for roti prata, for breakfast on a Sunday morning is a true rite of passage for any true blue Singaporean. Originating from South India, prata is a flatbread that has a flaky, crispy texture on the outside, while remaining tender and chewy on the inside. Besides being served with curry or dhal, those with a sweet tooth often opt for prata with condensed milk or margarine and sugar, also known as prata bomb. 

Well, if you’ve been to France, a particular dish would have probably reminded you of this sweet Singaporean breakfast staple. We’re talking about crepes, which you can find at French Fold. Swap out your breakfast prata with their No.20 ($9), a crepe doused with brown sugar and butter. For something just a little bit sweeter,  you can add on a gelato scoop from Birds of Paradise — whether it’s Hojicha seasalt, dark chocolate sorbet, or white chrysanthemum.

French Fold has branches at Telok Ayer and Palais Renaissance at Orchard Road.

Modern interpretations of heritage dishes

Sometimes, you don’t have to look beyond our shores for the modern version of our beloved heritage dishes. Many restaurants, patisseries, and even bars have invented their own creations inspired by our culinary heritage. Below are just two of them. 

5. Hae Bee Hiam Rolls VS Hae Bee Hiam Cookies

Originating from Peranakan culture, hae bee hiam is a paste that’s a fiery concoction of dried shrimp, chilli, and fragrant spices. This flavour-packed mixture is then stir-fried, resulting in a versatile condiment that can be eaten with rice, noodles, or stuffed into snacks such as spicy dried shrimp rolls. 

Old Seng Choong has an addictive snack created with this Peranakan paste, aptly named Hae Bee Hiam Cookies ($22.80). Their cookies are crumbly in texture and have real shrimp bits — perfect for special occasions like Chinese New Year.

SAFRA members ejoy 10% off cookies with the promo code <OSCSAFRA23> at Old Seng Choong. You can find more information at safra.sg/promotions/old-seng-choong-saf

6. Wonton Noodles VS Singapore-style Ramen

Wonton noodles may have Cantonese origins, but it’s made its way into Singapore’s arsenal of hawker food classics. These springy egg noodles are seasoned with a blend of sauces including soy, oyster, and sometimes a secret blend unique to each hawker. And what’s a bowl of wonton noodles without the tender dumplings?

A Noodle Story is serving up a reimagined Japanese-Canton version that’s a new take on the humble wonton noodles. Here’s the caveat — there’s only one dish on the menu: the Singapore-style Ramen ($9.80 or $12.80). Each bowl has noodles, an onsen egg, cha shu slices, a piece of ngoh hiang, Hong Kong-style wantons, and sliced scallions. Plus, wonton soup is served on the side.

They have two locations at Amoy Street Food Centre and Guoco Tower — perfect for the CBD lunchin’ crowd. 

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