Craving for a taste of tradition? You don’t have to eat a full meal to enjoy all the flavours that the Lion City has to offer. While Singapore is home to world-class restaurants and Michelin-worthy hawker fare, it also boasts a wide variety of bite-sized delicacies, scrumptious snacks and sweet treats to eat on the go.
Whether you’re looking for a quick bite to satisfy your midday hunger pangs or while sightseeing, we’ve got you covered.
Sar Kay Mah - Pan Ji Cooked Food
Originally hailing from Manchuria, Sar Kay Mah is Asia’s answer to the European nougat—a square-shaped treat made from fried batter and malt sugar. Fun fact: The snack is popularly known as ma zi in Cantonese, which means ‘horse racing’. Apparently, superstitious punters used to eat it before placing their bets.
Pan Ji Cooked Food in the bustling enclave of Chinatown is one of the few hawker stalls that still sell this delicacy, alongside other fried delights like you tiao (fried dough fritters) and bai tang sha weng (sugar puffs).
Chinatown Complex Market & Food Centre. 335 Smith Street #02-78, Singapore 050335
Vadai - Gina’s Vadai
Besides being a tasty treat, vadai (fried fritters) has religious significance, and is used as food offerings during Hindu festivals like Deepavali. The batter used to make vadai consists of chickpeas, onions, green chilli and curry leaves, with a prawn added to the mix.
To sample an innovative take on this traditional snack, drop by Gina’s Vadai, a family-run stall that’s been around for over three decades. You’ll get to try the classic prawn vadai, as well as signature twists that incorporate ingredients like cheese and ikan bilis (anchovies).
Dunman Food Centre. 271 Onan Road #01-06, Singapore 424768.
Ang Ku Kueh - Ji Xiang Confectionery
This glutinous rice pastry gets its name—which directly translates to ‘red tortoise cake’—from its distinctive shape, which resembles a red tortoise shell. Ang ku kueh’s shape and colour are considered auspicious in Chinese tradition, making it popular during festivals like the Lunar New Year.
Ji Xiang Confectionery does a stellar rendition of this confection, with a classic mung bean filling and a soft chewy texture. Alternatively, feel free to sample ang ku kueh with other delicious fillings, including durian, coconut and peanut.
Ji Xiang Confectionery. Block 1 Everton Park #01-33, Singapore 081001. +65 6223 1631.
Mon-Fri 8.30am-5pm; Sat 8am-5pm.
Ondeh Ondeh - Borobudur Snacks
A bite-sized treat that has Javanese origins, ondeh ondeh has been adopted by various ethnic cultures across the Malay Archipelago, including Singapore’s Malay and Peranakan* communities. These brightly-coloured green morsels are filled with gula melaka (palm sugar), and covered in coconut shavings.
To discover a variety of local sweets, head down to Borobudur Snacks Shop in the Bedok heartlands. The traditional confectionary also offers a wide selection of cakes, sweets and pastries, including kueh lapis (layered cake), and durian ambon (honeycomb cake).
*The term is an Indonesian/Malay word that means “local born”, which generally refers to people of Chinese and Malay/Indonesian heritage.
Borobudur Snacks Shop. Block 537 Bedok North Street 3 #01-523, Singapore 460537. +65 6442 7637.
Muah Chee - Hougang 6 Miles Famous Muah Chee
A beloved childhood comfort food for many locals, muah chee (glutinous rice balls) are sinfully sweet nibbles, covered in sugar and either sesame or grounded peanuts. This traditional Chinese snack’s components are customarily made by hand, a painstaking process that involves shaping dollops of rice flour and grinding the peanuts.
While more commonly found at pasar malams (local night markets), you’ll be able to get a taste of this snack at Hougang 6 Miles Famous Muah Chee, which specialises in making muah chee in the traditional way.
Toa Payoh HDB Hub Gourmet Paradise. Block 480 Lorong 6 Toa Payoh #B1-01 Stall 21, Singapore 310480. +65 9862 1501.
Putu Piring - Traditional Haig Road Putu Piring
Putu piring (steamed rice cake) is a Malay breakfast food that’s also eaten during festive occasions, such as Hari Raya Aidilfitri, the end of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. This treat is normally topped with freshly grated coconut, and has a core filled with melted gula melaka (palm sugar).
Run by fourth-generation hawkers, Traditional Haig Road Putu Piring has been doling out this dish since the 1940s. The family-owned business now boasts over four stores around the island, and sells a whopping 7,000 pieces of putu piring a day.
Haig Road Food Centre. Block 14 Haig Road #01-07, Singapore 430014.