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Photo: I Am Aileen.

KnowInsider puts together below a list of top 10 most iconic Singaporean dishes that you must try as you eat your way through this mega city!

1. Bak Kut Teh (Pork Ribs Soup)

One of the many stories of the invention of Bak Kut Teh is that during the olden days of Singapore, a poor, starving beggar came by a roadside pork noodle store to beg for food. The stall owner was in poverty but wanted to help him.

He boiled some of the leftover pork bones and added whatever cheap spices he had to flavour the soup, including star anise and pepper which created a soup that resembled tea in terms of colour. Thus, pork bone tea was born. Another story claims that it was a tonic invented to ‘reinvigorate’ the Chinese coolies who worked in the Clark Quay area, as cited by Sethlui.

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Photo: Asian Inspirations

Bak Kut Teh has been around in Singapore since we were still a developing country and deserves its recognition as a simple, humble dish. Most of the Bak Kut Teh here are of the pepper variety with mild use of herbs like star anise.

Choose pork rib meat in your soup for a more tender bite. The other variant would be the Klang Bak Kut Teh, a dark and highly flavoured herbal soup originating from Malaysia.

2. Chili Crab – The National Dish of Singapore

A 2011 CNN poll ranked the World’s 50 Best Foods and Singapore Chili Crab made the list at number #35, according to Authentic Foodquest.

Your visit to Singapore will not be complete without trying this famous food in Singapore which is an iconic Singaporean seafood dish.

This dish is said to have been invented from a pushcart in 1956, by a husband who asked his wife to experiment with other methods of cooking crab other than steaming. After adding chilli to stir-fried crab in tomato sauce, their crabs became wildly popular.

Later, a local chef added a slight twist to the dish using sambal sauce (local chilli and shrimp paste), tomato paste and eggs to cook the gravy. This has now become the version most commonly served in Singapore.

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Photo: Weekender Singapore

The crabs were gigantic in size with the juiciest and succulent chunks of meat we have ever eaten. The chilli crab is actually not chilli or spicy despite its name. It is slathered in a thick delicious chilli paste which is perfect to dip fried buns called mantou, which are served with the crab.

3. Wanton Mee

This Singapore wanton noodle dish was probably influenced by Hong Kong cuisine but has become entrenched in our culture over the years. The Singapore version is typically eaten ‘dry’, drenched with some light sweet sauce, slices of pork char siew and wanton dumplings filled with pork, with a small bowl of soup on the side.

Spicy type sees chilli mixed into the noodles, while the non-spicy kids' version will have tomato sauce mixed in. The wanton dumplings may be either deep-fried or come in the form of soup dumplings.

The Malaysian variant uses a darker-coloured sauce and sweeter tasting mee (noodles).

4. Nasi Lemak –Famous Malay Local Dish

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Photo: The Culture Trip

Nasi Lemak, a Malay dish, is a very popular food in Singapore. There are several ways of preparing it, though at the core, it is a rich rice dish cooked in coconut milk and pandan leaf.

This popular Singapore food is typically served with deep-fried fish or chicken wings, grilled fish paste, fried anchovies and peanuts, eggs, cucumber slices, and sambal (spicy chilli paste).

Flavorful and rich, this hearty dish and best eaten when you have a big appetite.

5. Kaya Toast with Kopi – Singapore’s National Breakfast

Toast and coffee might not seem that exciting as a breakfast dish. But in Singapore, it is treasured. We first tasted Kaya Toast and Kopi (coffee) when we landed in Singapore’s Changi Airport and were immediately blown away. The taste and flavours are outstanding.

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Photo: Sethlui

Kaya toast is toasted bread with butter and kaya, a jam made from eggs, sugar, coconut milk, and pandan leaves. Not too sweet, this is one of the most delicious jams we’ve had.

The breakfast dish is enhanced even further when paired with soft boiled eggs and a steaming cup of coffee or tea.

Kopi, the signature coffee drink comes with sugar, sweetened condensed milk and evaporated milk. This famous breakfast food in Singapore is the perfect start to a new day or for a snack in the middle of the day.

6. Dim Sum

Another Hong Kong/ Shanghai-inspired type of cuisine available in Singapore is Dim Sum or ‘Dian Xin’. This is not exactly one dish, but a set of small dishes to be savoured in a group – a typical Chinese dining sharing custom. Popular Dim Sum dishes include BBQ Pork Buns, Xiao Long Bao, Siew Mai, Chee Cheong Fun and many more.

7. Laksa

Laksa is a dish created from the merging of Chinese and Malay cuisine, otherwise known as Peranakan culture. There are two main types of Laksa – Curry Laksa and Asam Laksa.

Curry Laksa is more predominant in Singapore, while Asam Laksa is more commonly found in Malaysian regions like Penang. In fact, there are loads of variants of Laksa, differing in the type of fish used, broth and even noodles.

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Photo: Food52.com

Traditional Singapore Curry Laksa uses vermicelli, coconut milk, tau pok (beancurd puffs), fish slices, shrimp and hum (cockles). Due to cost-cutting or taste preference, some stalls might opt out of shrimp and cockles.

8. Curry Fish Head

Is it Chinese, Indian or Malay? This is another ambiguous dish which probably has a South Indian origin, but has been heavily influenced by the various ethnicities in Singapore. What I do know, is that it’s delicious.

Either half ahead or the whole head of red snapper is stewed in curry with assorted vegetables like lady’s finger (okra) and brinjal (aubergine). The Indian-style of curry has heavier spices and flavours, while the Chinese-style is lighter and sweeter. Variants include the Assam-style fish head curry, which has an added tinge of sourness from tamarind fruit (Assam).

9. Bak Chor Mee

Chow down on the hearty bak chor mee, which translates to “minced meat and noodles”. This is a delicious bowl of noodles topped with sliced pork, dumplings, pork liver, and salted fish or fish cake slices coated in a spicy vinegar sauce, as cited by I am Aileen.

You can also choose from different noodle types such as the mee pok (flat noodle), mee kia (thin noodle), bee hoon (rice vermicelli), mee sua (wheat vermicelli), and mee tai mak (rice pin noodle).

10. Satay

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Photo: Plantd.co

Satay is a dish of skewered, turmeric-marinated meat that is grilled on an open fire. It originates from Indonesia but has become a common hawker dish in Singapore. Stalls are not restricted to any race and may be operated by the Chinese, Malays or Indians.

Typical meats include chicken, beef, mutton and even pork which is sold by the Chinese stall owners. Ketupat (rice cake), onions and cucumbers usually accompany Satay. A spicy peanut dip is also provided for the Satay and sides as well.

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