Staple Culture

Uniquely Singaporean food speaks volumes of our origins.

By Kelvin Low      7 February 2020

Singaporeans will go to great lengths to get food. Afterall, food is nourishment and a source of joy for many of us. It is also a direct connection to our past, when immigrants from all over the world landed on our shores to seek a new life, and in the process, bring along their delicious dishes.

However, there are some dishes that are so uniquely Singapore, that few have successfully replicated it overseas. Here are notable local dishes that were made on this red dot.

Hainanese Chicken Rice

Adapted from a dish called “Wenchang Chicken” from Hainan island, the Singaporean version is highly Cantonese influenced, and avoids the use of pork stock. The rice is made from the fatty stock from the chicken poaching process, mixed with shallots, ginger, garlic and pandan leaves for fragrance.

While the original version uses steamed chicken, we have variations such as the soy sauce chicken rice and roasted chicken rice that sets us apart from our neighbours.

Fried Carrot Cake

More commonly known as “Chai Tau Kway”, this Teochew delicacy consists of cubes of radish cake stir-fried with garlic, eggs and preserved radish. It is the radish that sets the Singapore version of the dish apart from the original.

Here, it is offered in two common versions: white, which is seasoned with light soya sauce, and the black, which uses dark soya sauce as seasoning instead.

Kaya Toast Set

While the origins of bread is still unclear, and kaya having roots from Portugal, the kaya toast is said to be created by the Hainanese immigrants in SouthEast Asia as an alternative to expensive western jam spreads. The Singapore kaya toast set stands out with the addition of half-boiled eggs and served with coffee and tea.

The toast comes in thick or thin slices, and is slathered with a good amount of brown Hainanese kaya and margarine. The traditional way to enjoy this breakfast set, is to dip the kaya toast into the eggs with pinch white pepper and dark soy sauce.


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