5 Traditional Snacks You Must Try in Singapore
Singaporeans are notoriously eating at any time of the day, which explains why we have such a rich food culture and also why we decided that the topic was the perfect backdrop for travellers to learn about Singapore’s multi-ethnic culture and our varied palate.
The problem with the variety of snacks available in Singapore is inevitably the question of where to start. If we define snacks as any food eaten between main meals, then the list of snack food eaten in Singapore runs long. So here, as a primer, we recommend five traditional snacks that every food lover should try in Singapore.
Note that this is barely a crumb on the surface of what’s available. For foodies who want to dive into the crunch, cakes, cookies, candies and chips that Singaporeans are obsessed with, we suggest spending half-a-day learning about it all on the tour “Snacking Is Our National Past Time.”
I remember watching my mother make this when I was a child. She would press the batter into a wok bubbling with hot oil and when they were cooked and cooled you would have these crunchy, savoury spirals. Our homemade versions were not as great as the ones bought from the Indian shop, but love of murruku knows no ethnic boundaries.
Generally made from rice and urad dal flour mixed with water, salt, asafoetida and cumin seeds, this Indian delicacy comes in a variety of flavours. Search out fish murruku or coconut milk murukku – and watch those teeth!
Ang ku kueh
Literally translated “red tortoise cake” for its resemblance to the back of a turtle, this glutinous rice flour snack makes a regular appearance in the lives of the Chinese community in Singapore.
Filled with red or green beans, mung beans and/or ground peanuts, these sticky pastries are served during birthdays or religious festivals and symbolise longevity and good fortune. At our Vintage Culinary Treasures private table, you will see an extensive collection of moulds that are used to make these snacks.
More often found in Malay or Peranakan shops, ondeh-ondeh are chewy starch balls covered in coconut that conceal sweet, molten palm sugar within. Made with glutinous rice flour, coconut milk, gula melaka and pandan leaves, the best versions are springy on the outside and completely liquid on the inside. Size matters as well. An ondeh-ondeh that is too big results in one messy bite.
When you taste a traditional ondeh-ondeh, note that its unique flavour has inspired many local desserts. There are cupcakes, churros, cakes, macarons and even eclairs that boasts the popular coconut, pandan and gula melaka combination.
When I hear the word “egg tart”, two things come to mind. First, travellers at the Macau ferry terminal carrying boxes of an iconic Portuguese brand, and clattering Hong Kong dim sum restaurants where ladies talk to my blank-face in Cantonese and my only response is “有冇人識講英文呀?” (Does anyone speak English?). However, no need to leave the country for egg tarts, as Singapore has some really good varieties that deserve your attention. Think buttery flaky exteriors and silky soft fillings which are the perfect blend of egg custard.
The Malay term “kacang puteh” literally translates into “white beans” but this street-side snack food is anything but bland. Traditionally sold in paper cones by Indian men outside of cinemas for peckish moviegoers, this mix of nuts (like cashews and sugar-coated peanuts), legumes (like chickpeas and green peas) and murukku is now more often found pre-packaged in the aisles of convenience stores and supermarkets.
“Snacking Is Our National Past Time” is a Singapore food tour by Ensemble Tours with a private table experience by NOSHtrekker. The 5.5 hour food experience is available from Monday to Friday and includes afternoon tea at Vintage Culinary Treasures. Food, beverage and transfers included. For inquiries, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org