KAYA TOAST AND SOFT-BOILED EGGS | This is unofficially Singapore’s national breakfast set meal. Not just limited to breakfast hours, people also enjoy kaya toast and eggs throughout the day as a light meal or snack, washed down with a cup of potent Straits-style coffee or tea.
A good kaya toast begins with the spread – sweet and fragrant pandan-scented coconut custard. Generously slather it onto slices of traditional local bread that’s that have been toasted till crisp and airy, and slap on slabs of frozen butter for more sinful goodness. Besides toast, some places also have the option of steamed white bread or pillowy buns. Together with runny soft-cooked eggs and thick Hainanese kopi, this is a breakfast that transcends race, language, and age groups. (from $1.20 for two slices of toast, and $1.20 for two eggs at Tong Ah Eating House)
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CHWEE KUEH | Chwee kueh stands for "water cakes" (from four for $1 at Bedok Chwee Kueh) in Chinese dialect. This humble dish was created by Teochew immigrants. The components are simple: steamed rice cakes, chye poh (preserved salted radish), and chilli sauce for a spicy kick. The contrast of soft, wobbly cake against crunchy, salted chye poh and piquant chilli makes this deceptively humble dish a delightful myriad of flavours and textures.
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FRIED CARROT CAKE | There's no carrot in carrot cake (from $2.50). Originally, the rice cakes are supposed to contain radish (referred to in Mandarin as a kind of carrot – hence the name), but now, even the radish is often omitted. These steamed rice cakes are cubed, then fried with garlic, chye poh (salted radish) and egg. Most hawkers offer two versions – white and black. The "black" version gets its colour and taste from the addition of sweet dark soy sauce.
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CHEE CHEONG FUN | Chee cheong fun (from $1 each at Jia Ji Mei Shi) is the Cantonese transliteration for "pig's intestines". These are thus – named because rolled-up and steamed, these rice flour sheets resemble pig intestines. Unlike their more refined counterparts served in dim sum restaurants, these have thicker sheets and no fillings. Just before serving, the plain rolls are topped with sweet-salty hoisin sauce, spicy chilli sauce, and toasted sesame seeds for flavour.
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PORRIDGE | Simmered till lush and creamy with texture, Cantonese-style porridge or chok (from $2 per bowl) is the ultimate comfort food for the young and old. Optional porridge ingredients include century egg, pork, fish, peanut, and cuttlefish. For extra satisfaction, pair your porridge with you tiao (Mandarin for "fried dough stick").
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ECONOMIC FRIED BEE HOON OR NOODLES | This was originally the poor man's breakfast because such a meal of simple fried noodles was cheap and filling (from $1 for noodles). These days, you can upscale the noodles to 'deluxe' status with add-ons like crispy beancurd skin, fried egg, luncheon meat slices, and fish cake (typically from $0.50 per portion).
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MIN JIANG KUEH | Traditionally filled with crushed roasted peanut, these Teochew pancakes (from $0.70 per slice) now come with other fillings such as red bean paste, grated coconut, and even non-Asian ingredients like cheese and chocolate. Easy on the pocket and light in the tummy, these folded treats are a convenient choice because they can be eaten on the go.
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NASI LEMAK | In the older days, this traditional Malay breakfast (from $2 per plate) was sold wrapped in banana leaves. The fluffy "rich, creamy rice" (direct translation of "nasi lemak") gets its fragrance and richness from being cooked in coconut milk. The rice is served with crunchy ikan bilis (Malay for "deep-fried anchovies"), spicy-sweet chilli sambal, and cucumber slices.
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ROTI PRATA | This "flat bread" ("prata" is Singapore's derivative of India-originated word "paratha, which means "flat") has its origins in South India. The ideal prata should be crisp on the outside, with airy and flaky layers inside. These days, prata comes in fanciful variants like cheese, chocolate, and even banana. But for breakfast, people usually stick to simpler stuff like plain, egg, or onion prata. Usually accompanied with a small saucer of curry or sugar. From $0.90 for the plain prata.
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STEAMED YAM CAKE | Savoury and satisfying, these Southern Chinese steamed rice cakes (from $1 per piece) are made with yam cubes, rice flour, and aromatics like dried shrimp and fried shallot. Some places also offer radish or pumpkin versions. They are tasty enough on their own, but some folks enjoy the addition of sauces like sweet-salty hoisin and chilli to heighten the sensation.