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Top Five Singaporean Breakfasts

While delicious at any time of day, these popular Singaporean breakfasts provide just the right start to the day by being nutritious, tasty and filling. It’s not uncommon for some of these dishes to be completely sold out before noon, so you might just have to wake up a little earlier for that perfect breakfast.

#1: Kaya Toast and Soft Boiled Eggs

The most recognisable Singaporean breakfast meal, kaya toast and eggs, is an indispensable part of the menu at any coffeeshop or food court’s drinks stall. This tasty combination provides a burst of flavours and textures in the mouth with melted butter and crisp bread, sweet kaya and warm, runny eggs. Today, many coffeeshops tend to substitute margarine for butter, so do keep an eye out for that if you’re not partial to the former. Luckily, it might be hard to tell the difference between the two in any case once you’ve dredged your kaya toast through runny yolk. Kaya, a popular local jam made of coconut, comes in two main varieties: Hainanese kaya (A brown jam that includes caramelised sugar) and Nonya kaya (A green jam that includes pandan). Both types are equally tasty when spread onto the thinly sliced toast. Hainanese kaya is known for being sweeter and Nonya kaya, for being more fragrant.

Unlike other countries by the way, you don’t really get a choice as to your preferred style for your breakfast eggs. Eggs are always soft boiled and eaten with a dash of dark sauce and pepper. Often, the stall owner would simply hand you a little container of boiling hot water containing two eggs, and watch with mild interest as you hop around in agony, trying to crack the scalding eggs after 5 minutes.

#2: Fried Carrot Cake

Fried carrot cake is one of the more popular breakfast foods that people tapao from coffeeshops to eat at the office as it is convenient to eat, filling, and of course, incredibly tasty. ‘Carrot cake’ is a misnomer as this dish has nothing to do with that orange vegetable, and everything to do with radish instead. The confusion may be due to the Chinese names of the vegetables, respectively known as hong luo bo (red carrot) and bai luo bo (white carrot, a.k.a. radish). The Chinese name for this particular dish, is simply ‘luo bo gao’ (carrot cake), and it is thus easy enough to see how the misunderstanding may have come about.

The dish is available in two styles: Black, or White. Black carrot cake essentially features the same fried eggs and chunks of steamed radish cake in White, but with an additional dash of dark soy sauce, which gives the dish an intense sweet and smoky flavour.

#3: Nasi Lemak

One of the more iconic Singaporean breakfasts that has inspired a range of souvenirs such as keychains and tea infusions, Nasi Lemak is a rice dish with a very distinctive taste. Nasi (Malay for ‘rice’) is simmered with coconut milk or cream, and the fluffy rice is later wrapped in banana leaves to retain that heady fragrance. The Singaporean version of this popular Southeast Asian dish comes with a variety of side dishes that you can choose to add to your rice. The rice is best eaten mixed with sweet and spicy sambal chili, and layered between mouthfuls of fried chicken, curried vegetables and crunchy peanuts and ikan bilis (anchovies).  

#4: Chwee Kueh

One of those ‘love it or hate it’ foods, Chwee Kueh (Hokkien for ‘Water cake’) is a popular breakfast food that also derives part of its distinctive flavour from radish. The steamed rice cakes are soft enough to melt in the mouth, and are a joy to eat with the salty preserved radish that should be liberally spooned over the cakes. Surprisingly filling despite its size, traditional Chwee Kueh is smaller than one’s palm, and should have the same light and delicate consistency as a wobbly pudding.

#5: Fried dough sticks and soymilk

Fried dough sticks, better known as Youtiao or You Char Kuey in Singapore, are a local alternative to the heavier cruller of the West. Light, fluffy, and crisp on the outside when cooked just right, these lovely breadsticks are often eaten at breakfast with a mug of coffee or soymilk, or as a side dish accompanying peppery pork rib soup. Any order of porridge is also likely to come with a sprinkling of crispy Youtiao pieces on top. 

For those in search of a little bit more of a kick, the Malay version called Cakoi tastes similar to Youtiao, but includes fillings such as red bean paste or sardines. You can find these, along with an entire array of delicious snacks, at the street markets that drift from neighbourhood to neighbourhood.     

14 Feb 2017