Five to try: Singaporean street snacks

By
Casey Warrener
Added
26 July, 2016

It’s famed for its chicken rice, chilli crab, and bone-broth soup, but among this melting pot of Malay, Chinese and Indian cuisines are other dishes worth a look. Ahead are five Singaporean street snacks that should be on your radar.

Popiah

This southern Chinese-style spring roll is the ideal balance of sweet, spicy and fresh flavours, combining hoisin sauce, sambal chilli, and veggies such as shredded turnip and carrot in a delicate crepe-like skin. It’s the ideal light meal to tide you over after hours of shopping and MRT-hopping, and you can pick up a plate at most hawker centres and food courts for just a few coins. The pictured are from a Halal-certified eatery in the bustling Bugis district called Qi Ji, where they use crispy rice instead of the traditional chopped peanuts for crunch-factor and make everything from the popiah skins to the sweet sauce in house.

Try Luke Nguyen's vegetable spring rolls

Kueh Tutu

Kueh Tutu loosely translates to ‘steamed cake’ and is a classic Singaporean snack of southern Chinese (Fujian) origins. A local friend of mine once said to me, “Tutu cakes are pretty old-fashioned – my dad loves them.” Well, it seems Mr Seah and I have something in common. This is my number one, must-have Singaporean treat, and I can eat them by the dozens (which is lucky as they typically come in stacks of five or six). The cake component is made from jasmine rice that is ground and finely sieved, placed into a special mould, topped with sweetened coconut or peanuts, steamed to cook and served on top of a pandan leaf for fragrance. Due to their dated nature they aren’t easy to come by these days, so I was surprised when a slick new food court along the highly frequented Harbour Front Walk featured a Tan’s Tutu stand. A Singaporean institution, Tan’s Tutu is made to order with all of the elements – from the flour to the filling – prepared from scratch.

Try Antony Suvalko and Leanne Kitchen's steamed coconut cakes 

Ais Kacang

You’ve been wading through the haze of Singapore’s heat all day, and beyond ducking into the arctic blast of every shop that crops up, you're constantly searching for ways to cool down. Here’s a tip: the tower of shaved ice, sweet syrup, grass jelly and beans that is Ais Kacang is one of the best. Literally meaning 'ice beans', this Malaysian dessert not only offers wicked refreshment, the sugar content is important for keeping hydrated is such humid conditions. It's an odd sweet in that you eat everything delicious first and finish with a pool of beans and corn: in Western cultures we're taught vegetables first and then dessert, and this flips that on its head. In Singapore, Ais Kacangs are a dime a dozen, so you won't have trouble finding one. I went for the strawberry flavoured option on a menu that included mango and Singapore's infamous durian, among many.

Try Yasmin Newman's shaved ice drink

Chapati

A visit to Singapore wouldn’t be complete without stopping by Little India. The intensity of colours and smells on a walk through this quarter are a worthy experience alone, but it would be a shame not to sample the produce. You’ll find a number of flashy Indian restaurants with brash footpath representatives urging you inside. But the best dining, in my opinion, resides in an unassuming food court where two uncles toss fresh chapati atop a single hot plate and dish up a selection of curries for as little as $1.20 each. As you approach Azmi Chapati (look out for the slogan, Secret of good mood, taste of Azmi’s food) on the corner of Serangoon and Norris Roads, one of the uncles will greet you, seat you and take your order for food, which you pay for when your pile of chapati, bowls of curry and side of salad are delivered to your table – all for less than a five-dollar note. Just add a tall bottle of Tiger beer.

Try Charmaine Solomon's chapatis

Avocado Smoothie

Here’s another hot-weather saviour. When you wake up in Singapore and step out into the steam, you hardly feel like bacon and eggs for breakfast. On my Singapore stays I like to start each day with this cooling avocado drink from Juice Farm at the Maxwell Centre Food Court, Chinatown, where they have a menu that includes six different types of avocado smoothie. I always go for the original, a simple blend of avocado, milk and honey, which is not overly sweet but wonderfully creamy – a light start to a heavy day of snacking about town.

Try Andreas Pohl and Tracey Lister's avocado smoothie

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