Guest Post By: Iris Leung, a Junior studying Finance and Information Systems. She studied abroad through Foster Exchange at the National University of Singapore in Queenstown, Singapore, during Autumn Semester 2023.
Coming to Singapore, I didn’t know anything about the food culture. The first thing that shocked me was how cheap you could get food for here. On campus, food ranges from 3-20 SGD which is around the same as what you would get outside. Additionally, the existence of hawker centers was a pleasant surprise to me. Back in the US, I always called places like a hawker center a food court. However, after coming to Singapore, I learned that hawker centers have more traditional food and are generally cheap. Whether it’s on campus or at a hawker center, I’m constantly trying foods unique to Singapore. In particular, there are 3 foods that I have found myself going back to a lot whenever I eat a meal.
- Hainanese chicken rice is a must-try when you are in Singapore. There are two main kinds you can get— steamed or roasted. Personally, I think both are very good. The cut chicken is served on top of rice infused with chicken oil, giving it a very fragrant scent. On the side, you might get 2 or 3 slices of cucumber depending on your luck. Most stalls will also give you a bowl of chicken stock soup along with the main dish, completing the Hainanese chicken rice. Most chicken rice I had was at hawker centers or on campus, which ranged from 3-6 SGD.
- Kaya toast is a staple in Singaporean breakfast. “Kaya” means “rich” in Malay which embodies the flavor of Kaya because it is made from pandan and coconut. In a typical breakfast, kaya toast is served by having 2 slices of toasted bread with butter and kaya jam in the middle. On the side, you are given 2 soft-boiled eggs seasoned with soy sauce and your choice of milk tea or coffee. This breakfast is both delicious and light, which is the perfect way to start the morning. Moreover, the cost is very cheap, usually around 2-4 SGD.
- Nasi lemak is one of the many Malaysian dishes that is both popular and flavorful in Singapore. “Nasi Lemak” literally means “fat rice” in Malay but in this context means “creamy rice”. The rice is traditionally soaked in coconut cream and then steamed, giving it the name nasi lemak. The rice is then served with egg, anchovies, peanuts, chili sauce, and your choice of protein— which is usually chicken for me. I’ve been getting my nasi lemak at a place called Supper Stretch. Supper Stretch is a street near NUS that is filled with many different cuisines. Although there are many delicious restaurants in Supper Stretch, the nasi lemak will be a go-to if you’re looking for a tasty, affordable, and quick meal.
Overall, on average eating in Singapore is inexpensive compared to the US. Everywhere in Singapore, you will be surrounded by new traditional food that you have never heard of before. If you ever feel hungry and lost in the endless list of options, maybe you can have chicken rice, kaya toast, or nasi lemak!