20 Singaporean Breakfast Foods You Can Savor At Home

Hold onto your eggs, we’re getting ready for Autostraddle’s International Brunch Weekend 8/23-24! Find a brunch meetup in your city or create your own by heading over to our events page. You can also load up on all things brunch by watching this space. From playlists to recommendations to personal essays, we’re writing all about the brunch experience. Get excited! BRUNCH.


In Singapore we play fast and loose with morning-time foods: if it’s served at a hawker centre before 11 (and especially if it’s sold out by that time) then you can have it for breakfast. So your first meal of the day could be toast or soupy noodles or fried dough… or all of them. In a pinch you can have any of these foods for “brunch,” though you should be aware that in this part of the world we call that “waking up at a time that disqualifies you as a productive member of society.” (My mother says this a lot less politely.)

Most of these foods are bought and consumed at inexpensive hawker centres or coffee shops — you don’t expect to spend more than $2-5 on breakfast, unless you’re at a hipster joint that commodifies nostalgia and puts it on your plate for five times the original price — but chances are you’re not anything closer than a long-haul flight to one so I’ve dug up recipes from the internet. The ingredients you’ll need (or frozen versions of some of the dishes, like prata) should be available at Asian grocery stores.


1. Kaya Toast and Half-Boiled Eggs

The rest of this list will be alphabetically ordered but kaya toast and eggs gets top spot because it is by far the Queen of Breakfasts — and really easy to put together at home! You can get kaya in stores (Gabriella has mentioned her favourite and Yeo’s is a household brand name in Singapore) or make your own, but I’m gonna be real with you and say no one makes their own because it’s a tonne of work.


2. Appam


3. Chai Tow Kway (Fried Carrot Cake)

Spoiler alert: there’s no carrot in our carrot cake.


4. Chee Cheong Fun

Girlfriend: “If you make chee cheong fun from scratch for me, I’ll have to marry you.”
Me: “If you make tau huay from scratch for me, I’ll have to marry you. Thank god we’ll never do any of these things.”


5. Chwee Kueh


6. Congee (Rice Porridge)


7. Economic Fried Bee Hoon/Noodles


8. Fishball Mee Pok


9. Mee Goreng


10. Mee Rebus


11. Mee Siam


12. Mee Soto


13. Min Jiang Kueh (Peanut Pancake)


14. Nasi Lemak


15. Putu Mayam


16. Roti John

“John” as in the name, yes — local legend has it that a long time ago a white guy asked a Malay hawker to make him a hamburger, and this was what the hawker came up with as a substitute. I can’t say I believe this particular story is true, but I can believe that a white guy would do that.


17. Roti Prata

Prata is called “roti canai” in Malaysia, referring to Chennai, where this dish is said to originate from. (Sidenote: Malaysians will inevitably claim that plenty of food on this list is Malaysian and not Singaporean, and they wouldn’t be 100% wrong — but I am also less concerned about the 3872982 petty conflicts that emerge between Singaporeans and Malaysians (food is a particularly touchy subject, but just one of many) and more into stuffing my face.)


18. Sayur Lodeh

via Fatboo

via Fatboo

This curry is usually eaten with lontong, a rice cake cooked in banana leaves. (If you can’t find it, any rice will do.) As a vegetarian, lodeh also makes up 90% of my Hari Raya diet while other people get food like ayam rendang.


19. Thosai


20. Vegetarian Fried Bee Hoon


Finally, a note on beverages: while I hear some of you (maybe just a couple) are into alcohol with your brunch, if you’re ever in Singapore, try your hand at ordering kopi (coffee) or teh (tea) from a coffee shop. It’s something I’ll admit I haven’t mastered, for reasons ranging from “as an ethnic minority I resist having to adopt a dominant language to order tea” to “I’m f-cking lazy.” But mainly it’s because I’m a Milo dinosaur person myself.

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27 Comments

  1. “(Sidenote: Malaysians will inevitably claim that plenty of food on this list is Malaysian and not Singaporean, and they wouldn’t be 100% wrong — but I am also less concerned about the 3872982 petty conflicts that emerge between Singaporeans and Malaysians (food is a particularly touchy subject, but just one of many) and more into stuffing my face.)”

    Scrolling down, saw Nasi Lemak and was about to comment until I saw this ^^

    You’ve made me incredibly nostalgic, awesome post.

    (Side note: my mom makes her own kaya and I consider myself incredibly lucky 😛 )

    • So a lot of these things are other-time foods that can be breakfast foods, but the way I was raised nasi lemak is breakfast food and nothing else! For real though, most (Malay) hawkers specialising in nasi lemak close by lunchtime and stalls that sell more types of food will give you a weird look if you try to order it past mid-afternoon or so.

  2. OH MY GOD THE APPAM RECIPE ALMOST MADE ME CRY. i only get to eat appam like twice a year (easter and christmas) bc my uncle won’t give me his recipe BUT NOW i can make appam ANY TIME. HAHA!also the dosa recipe oh my god.
    i miss both of these so much D:

  3. Wow, yeah. Like everyone else (I imagine), I was totally taken aback when I saw the title of this post. Now I’m getting some wicked cravings… oh man. One bad thing about living in downtown Toronto: having to haul ass to Mississauga to get decent Singaporean food.

    Thanks for writing this though! Totally brought back fond memories of my secondary school days. 🙂

  4. One of the first things I always miss is our kopi at the coffee shops whenever I leave the country for an extended period. I also love our ordering process.

    I have to admit the three things that completes the nasi lemak for me is 1) the chilli! 2)the rice 3) the chicken wing

    Thank goodness for the radishes that make our not-made-with-carrots carrot cake. and the toppings of our Chwee Kueh.

  5. This is clearly the best Autostraddle post ever.

    Also hello from another protesting Malaysian, haha.

    When I went to college in Selangor I lived off thosai (dosa) for breakfast nearly every day. RM1, not even 40 cents? So good.

    Americans, especially Californians: for the love of God please DON’T fall for this Napa Valley coconut jam rubbish, it tastes nowhere as good as actual kaya.

    Carrot cake is one of my childhood favourites but I only ever had it as a dinner thing.

    also you forgot: TEH TARIK.

        • Going to chime in here and suggest you go around the Tanjong Pagar area (nearest MRT: Tanjong Pagar MRT).

          Tanjong Pagar Market (2nd level- 1st level below is the wet market) and Maxwell Food Centre are both within walking distance. That said, the two food centres are generally at full strength during weekdays because they cater to the nearby working crowds and a fair number of them don’t open during the weekend.

          Tanjong Pagar Market has a relatively famous Chinese style nasi lemak store. I recommend you hit the place before lunch time because they sell out by about 1pm. There are about three nasi lemak stores there and unfortunately I don’t remember the name of this particular one but you can identify it by the queues.)

          I personally am very fond of the Hakka Thunder Tea Rice store. (Brown Rice option!) My friends insist that it’s too green for them. But if you want something a little different, I think it’s also an interesting try?

          Maxwell Food Centre is also within walking distance of Tanjong Pagar MRT; one of their big draws is Tian Tian Chicken Rice. But I’m going to say that I find that place vastly overrated; a couple of stores down is Ah Tai, which I personally prefer but you can decide while you get there.
          (read the saga: http://danielfooddiary.com/2012/05/16/tian-tian-vs-ah-tai/)

          Maxwell is also famous for sliced fish noodles, Zhen Zhen porridge, and also a little store run by a father-daughter couple that sells dough pastries. (https://dirtystall.wordpress.com/2010/08/04/hum-jin-pang-at-maxwell-food-centre/)

          Chinatown also has two relatively famous food centres: Smith Street Food Centre and People’s Park Food Centre.

          Smith Street Food Centre… Wow… Off the top of my head, they have a store that sells really good claypot rice and another that does great soups. But there’s a lot worth exploring. When in doubt, look for the queues! Singaporeans will queue for food~
          .
          People’s Park Food Centre has lots of nice food too, but the biggest draw for me is their yong tau fu store. (Xiu Ji Ikan Bilis Yong Tau Fau) … It’s like a bowl filled with tofu, fish cake, and dumplings in a soupy broth?
          Here’s a link with pics and a better explaination:
          http://www.camemberu.com/2010/09/xiu-ji-ikan-bilis-yong-tau-foo.html

          Hope you have fun and eat loads!

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