Singapore is a food paradise today thanks to its migrant roots. Immigrants from all over the world came here in the early 20th century in search of a better life, eking out a living the only way they knew how: hawking food. From Indian roti prata and Hainanese chicken rice to Hokkien mee and Teochew porridge, from Nonya kueh and Laksa to Ayam keluak and Char kway teow, there's a galore of good food to pamper the palate. The question is which deserves to be in the all-time Top 10. Well, here's our take:
Meaty pork ribs stewed with Chinese spices and garlic in a delicious broth, also known as "pork bone tea" is soup for the Singaporean soul.
This slow cooked meaty broth of tender pork ribs sit in a pot of Chinese herbs and spices, served together with fresh red cut chilies in dark soy sauce and fried dough fritters.
You may find this meaty goodness in 2 vastly different styles of soup. One follows the Malaysian roots of a dark and herbal soup and the other the Teochew style of a clear and peppery soup.
Queue up at any of the noodle stalls islandwide and you are bound to hear the words, "Bak chor mee pok tah!" being uttered with gusto! It means minced pork mee pok (flat egg noodle) served dry-style.
Besides mee pok, you can also opt for mee kia (stringy egg noodle), kway teow mee or even bee kai bak ( a translucent rice vermicelli also known as mouse noodle.)
Preparing Bak chor mee is a skill. First, the noodle is simmered just right to achieve firmness and texture. If it's boiled too long, the noodle will turn soft and mushy.
The noodle is then mixed with condiments such as vinegar, light sauce and topped with minced pork, lean meat slices, fragrant stewed mushrooms, deep-fried flatfish and liver slices.
What can be a better litmus test of a popular dish than this: Ask any Singaporean abroad what they missed most about Singapore and the answer is invariably this calorie-laden hawker fare called Char kway teow.
The dish involves stir-frying flat rice noodles and/or yellow noodles with dark sweet sauce or chilli over high heat. Egg, bean sprouts, cockles, lap cheong (Chinese sausage), crispy pork lard and prawns are added, and the dish is garnished with Chinese chives.
Some people prefer Char Kway Teow cooked white-style ie with lots of chilli and no dark sweet sauce added while others prefer it with dark sweet sauce and/or chilli sauce.
However, most prefer their Char kway teow with lots of cockles and lard.
Chendol ranks as one of the most satisfying and sought after desserts in Singapore. Just the preparation alone is enough to make the mouth water.
Syrupy gula melaka is added to a bowl of ice shavings together with coconut milk and topped with ingredients like kidney beans, red beans, grass jelly cubes and creamed corn.
But the ingredient that gives Chendol its identity and name is the thin green pandan flavoured noodles. It's available at most dessert stalls in Singapore.
Try it on a hot day or any day, and you'll be bowled over by its smooth
Not really carrot, and not really cake.
This wonderful fried dish is a combination of steamed cakes of radish sautéed with rice flour, eggs and bits of preserved radish topped with Chinese chives.
Most people opt to eat it the traditional way but the variation of black is available and equally tasty. The black carrot cake is fried the exact same way except that it's doused with sweet black sauce.
To spice up this dish remember to ask for chili on the side or request for it to be fried together.
It's hard to tell what makes chicken rice so appealing.
Is it the fluffy, grainy, fragrant albeit oily cooked rice that's so smooth and a pleasure to swallow? Is it the special dark soya sauce and freshly pounded ginger/garlic chilli sauce used as dip for the chicken rice?
Or is it the soft, succulent strips of chicken meat placed atop the plate of chicken rice? Or perhaps it's the fusion of these three factors that gives it its winning formula?
Chicken rice is nutritious, economical and convenient, especially if you are pressed for time. Try it in all its variations – roasted, steamed or soya chicken.
And while you're at it, try the side orders which include chicken innards and translucent chicken feet skin.
Laksa stems from the popular Peranakan style of cooking that merges Malay and Chinese elements together.
This spicy coconut soup based is more commonly made with dried fish and belachan served with thick rice noodles, tau pok, cockles, shrimps and fish sticks.
This unique and spicy dish comes in many different guises depending on which cultural style of cooking you prefer. However, everyone loves it with a spoonful of sambal chilli paste and garnished with Vietnamese coriander.
Nasi Lemak makes a delightful and satisfying meal anytime. The original version includes ikan bilis (fried anchovies), nuts, fried ikan kuning, cucumber and egg in a banana leaf.
Now, ingredients include deep fried drumstick, chicken franks, fish cake, curried vegetables and luncheon meat.
The winning grace is the aromatic rice which is cooked in coconut milk, mixed with the accompanying chilli condiment which can make all the mouth-watering difference.
It comes in many forms and styles, the most popular ones found in Singapore are Indian Rojak, Fruit and Vegetable Rojak and the Penang Rojak.
Indian Rojak consist of a variety of fried dough fritters, bean curds, boiled potatoes, prawn fritters, hard boiled eggs, bean sprouts, cuttlefish and cucumber mixed with a sweet thick, spicy peanut sauce.
Fruit and Vegetable Rojak consist of a mixture of vegetables and cut fruits mixed and tossed together with a dressing made up of water, belacan (shrimp paste), sugar, chili, and lime juice.
Penang Rojak has similar elements to the Fruit and Vegetable Rojak with added elements such as jambu air, guava, squid fritters and honey.
Yong Tau Foo is essentially a buffet spread of mostly beancurd products where you pick what you like and decide how it's prepared – dry (with sweet sauce and chilli) or clear soup style – to go with rice or noodles.
The spread include tau kwa and tau pok, plus other vegetables like brinjal, lady's finger, mushroom, bitter gourd and chilli, which are hollowed out and stuffed with fish paste or minced meat paste.
Other items may include fishball, meatball, crab stick, cuttlefish and fishcake. Some stalls may also offer curry soup for those who like it hot and spicy.
Try also the famous Ampang Yong Tau Foo which is fried instead of boiled, and doused in special light brown gravy.