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Singapore has long enjoyed a reputation for being a gastronomical capital, thanks to its multiracial heritage. If you’re visiting the city-state soon, here are 10 of the best local noodle dishes to enjoy.
All are widely available in restaurants, cafes, hawker centers, and local kopitiams (open-air inexpensive neighborhood eateries). Even at the most expensive outlets, these delightful meals can be enjoyed without breaking a travel budget. At the right place and time, all will allow for fantastic food photos, as well.
Laksa refers to noodles cooked in spicy coconut broth that has been flavored with seafood or chicken. A beloved institution in Singapore, there are different variants throughout the country, though all are spicy and rich-tasting. (In many cases, they are curry-like, too.)
At most stalls, diners can also choose the type of noodle to have, these ranging from rice noodles to thick yellow noodles, to the linguine-like mee pok. Note that many stalls also include cockles, known locally as hum, when serving laksa. If you’re not into the fishy taste of shellfish, remember to inform the staff when ordering.
What Types of Chinese Noodles Are Commonly Eaten in Singapore?
At practically all Chinese noodle stalls in Singapore, the following options are available:
- Shu Mian or Mian: Thick yellow noodles, similar to spaghetti
- You Mian: Thin yellow noodles
- Mee Pok: Flat, linguine-like yellow noodles
- Mi Fen: Vermicelli
- Chu Mi Fen: Thick rice noodles
- Guo Tiao: Thick rice noodles
2. Fishball Noodles
Like laksa, fishball noodles is a beloved institution in Singapore, with many Singaporeans enthusiastically queuing for hours at popular stalls for takeaway packs.
Served in light broth or dry-mixed with chili/ketchup, the eponymous “fishball” is a white globe made from fish paste, occasionally with bits of chives and carrot mixed in too.
And similar to many other Singapore noodle dishes, diners can also choose the type of noodle to go along with the dish, with the mee pok option arguably being the most popular. Lastly, be sure to highlight your preference if you are weak with spiciness. Some stalls, famous for their self-made chili pastes, serve truly mouth-burning mixes.
3. Mee Siam
As the name suggests, mee siam means “Siam-style noodles” and refers to rice vermicelli cooked in a thin broth that is both spicy and sour.
Originally a Malay dish, mee siam is nowadays served by many Chinese stalls and western cafes too, with the difference between outlets a matter of condiments and spiciness.
Unlike most other Singapore noodle dishes, mee siam is also always cooked using vermicelli; you will get strange looks if you request for thick noodles to be used. Finally, peanut is often a key ingredient of the Thai-inspired broth. Travelers who are allergic will, unfortunately, have to give this appetizing dish a miss.
4. Mee Rebus
Another popular Malay noodle dish, mee rebus literally means “boiled noodles,” and refers to thick yellow noodles cooked in a rich peanut-based gravy.
Typically served with boiled egg, tofu, and chopped green chili, mee rebus is a joy to have for breakfast, or as a light meal at any other time of the day. At certain cafes and restaurants, begedil, or Malay-style fried potato patty, could also be included, making the dish a great way to sample Singaporean Malay cuisine.
Last but not least, mee rebus is always cooked with thick yellow noodles. This dish is never prepared using other types of noodles.
5. “Economical” Bee Hoon
This rather nonsensical-sounding name refers to inexpensive stir-fried vermicelli set meals in which you pick the accompanying dishes from a counter. Widely available at kopitiams, typical side dishes include fried luncheon meat, spicy string beans, otah (spicy marinated fish paste), curry vegetables, and so on. Many stalls also offer the option of rice or thick Chinese noodles fried with black sauce, in replacement of vermicelli.
6. Mee Goreng
One of the most colorful noodle dishes you can enjoy in Southeast Asia, mee goreng means spicy fried noodles and is widely available at Malay and Indian stalls. In Singapore, ketchup is often mixed in during the stir-frying process too, the result of which is the dish gaining a vibrant red when cooked.
To further enhance flavor, tofu, meat, and even seafood could be added; many Singaporeans also request for an additional topping of a fried egg. Of note, some Chinese stalls in Singapore serve this classic dish too. However, the Chinese version typically comes with a thick gravy; one that’s mixed with egg.
7. Prawn Noodles
There are two types of prawn noodles in Singapore.
“Hokkien” Fried Prawn Noodles
“Hokkien” fried prawn noodles refer to Chinese noodles and vermicelli stir-fried with prawns, squid, chives, and pork. One of the most famous hawker center dishes of Singapore, Hokkien fried prawn noodles is especially wonderful when eaten with dashes of specially-made chili paste.
“Normal” Prawn Noodles
“Normal” prawn noodles, on the other hand, is similar to fishball noodles, in the sense it could be served soupy or dry. To best enjoy it, opt for the soupy version. The broth is unique in that it’s dark and positively bursting with savory flavors. At more expensive stalls, larger, semi-peeled prawns could also be used. This dish is an absolute must-try for travelers fond of Asian seafood cuisine.
8. Wanton Noodles
Originally a Cantonese dish, Singaporean wanton noodles is significantly different from the version served in Hong Kong.
Whereas Hong Kong restaurants typically include only dumplings and noodles in a thin broth, the Singaporean version includes char siew (sweet barbecued pork slices) and vegetables. Frequently, crispy fried pork oil bits are also used as a final topping.
Like many other Chinese-Singaporean noodle dishes, wanton noodles are also available in soup form or dry-mixed with a savory sauce.
Lastly, for diners in need of a heavier meal, opt for sui jiao noodles. Sui jiao are dumplings—but they are larger, oval in shape, and usually incorporate some vegetables in the filling. Correspondingly, sui jiao noodles are also slightly more expensive, though they tend to be more fulfilling for those who love dumplings.
9. Bak Chor Mee
Bak chor mee means “minced meat noodles” and could be considered a variant of the above-mentioned fishball noodles.
Instead of fishballs, minced pork and Chinese mushroom slices are the main features. Sometimes, there might be a Chinese-style meatball and other garnishes like pork liver too.
Served dry (i.e., without broth) and usually eaten with copious amounts of chili mixed into the base sauce, bak chor mee is a rustic, meaty, and rich Singaporean dining experience, one that’s affordable and widely available too. Nowadays, there’s practically a bak chor mee stall in every Singaporean food court and hawker center. Some stalls are also famous throughout the country for their unique preparation methods.
10. Niang Tou Fu
Niang tou fu, also known as ngiong tau foo, means stuffed tofu and is a fun dining adventure for travelers new to Southeast Asian Chinese cuisine.
Despite what the name suggests, tofu isn’t the main ingredient. Instead, you choose what you wish to eat from a wide array of ingredients presented in rows before a stall.
After you have chosen six to eight ingredients, you inform the staff to cook everything with or without soup, as well as the type of noodle to use. Originally a Chinese Hakka dish, examples of ingredients available include tofu stuffed with fish paste, fried wanton, yam slices, marinated meat rolls, fishballs, and even seaweed (nori).
Today, practically all niang tou fu stalls also offer the option of having everything served in a spicy curry broth.
Questions & Answers
Question: Where can we get vegetarian noodles ?
Answer: This can get complicated as it depends on how strict you are.
Many vendors use noodles that are at least vegan-safe, but of course, the condiments and other ingredients aren't.
At Hawker Centers and Kopi-tiams, and even some food courts, there are "Chinese Vegetarian Stalls." These are similar to the Bee Hoon stalls I mentioned. Your request for noodles and select the accompanying vegetarian dishes. There are sometimes also other options such as vegetarian wanton noodles, vegetarian stir fry crispy noodles, etc. These stores will usually prominently display the Chinese character 斋 i.e. vegetarian.
Outside of these, there are Chinese and Indian vegetarian restaurants too. Such as Lingzhi Vegetarian and Annalakshimi.
Finally, some restaurants offer vegetarian selections. However, some stricter vegetarians might not be comfortable with these because of the utensils, etc.
© 2019 Scribbling Geek
Scribbling Geek (author) from Singapore on December 17, 2019:
Thanks for reading and commenting, bhattuc.
Umesh Chandra Bhatt from Kharghar, Navi Mumbai, India on December 17, 2019:
Exhaustive and informative. Thanks.
Scribbling Geek (author) from Singapore on November 05, 2019:
Hi Lorna, thanks for commenting. Hope you visit us again soon too, and enjoy more of these yummy dishes. :)
Lorna Lamon on October 31, 2019:
I visited Singapore a few years ago and was so impressed by the variety of noodles available. My favourite dish was Laksa which was delicious and satisfying. Great article with wonderful photos. Thank you for sharing.