Singapore’s favourite pastime is eating….eating…eating and oh, more eating. But you can’t really blame us, for Singapore is a foodie’s dream come true, what with this little island being the perfect culinary melting pot. While being a vegetarian means that you might miss out on some of Singapore’s claims to fame (think chilli crab, chicken rice and fish head curry), there are still plenty of local vegetarian dishes that you must try. Please be aware that some of the dishes mentioned here contain eggs or dairy, so they are not suitable for vegans.
Here is our list of the 11 Top Local Vegetarian Dishes in Singapore, that we recommend digging into.
1. Roti Prata
When you’re talking of the top local vegetarian dishes in Singapore, the hearty roti prata surely tops the list. Made completely from white flour, this fried flatbread is cooked over a grill with a generous amount of oil and then served with a daal or curry. The problem isn’t finding a place to go to for your prata fix – every hawker centre in Singapore has a prata stall. The problem is that it is impossible to stop at just one, especially since you can have them for breakfast, lunch, dinner, snack, supper – anytime is a good time for prata. Enjoy them plain, or get them filled with anything from eggs, cheese, onions and mushrooms. But don’t just stop at savoury. If you’re wondering what that tall paper thin triangular tower at the next table was – it’s known as a tissue prata, covered simply in sugar and butter. You can also get the prata version of sweet crepes – filled with bananas, chocolate and even red beans. Roti Prata is often served with a mutton curry on the side. Some places serve prata with daal (lentil curry) or replace the mutton curry with a veg curry or dal on request.
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2. Dim Sum
Technically not one single dish, dim sum consists of several small sharing plates, with some dishes served in steamer baskets. Dim Sum is best enjoyed as Sunday brunch. Savour a vast assortment of dumplings, spring rolls, rice rolls and fried rice or noodles, before ending on a sweet note with desserts like mango sago pudding. There are several Chinese restaurants in Singapore that serve vegetarian Dim Sum.
3. Carrot Cake (sans carrots)
No, it’s not what you’re thinking. Far from it actually. For starters, this ‘cake’ isn’t sweet. And for seconds, there are no carrots used in making this. Singapore’s beloved carrot cake (also known as Chai Tow Kway) is made from rice flour and radish (which some call white carrot). So, instead of the orange coloured carrot-cakes you’re used to, Singapore’s version is served black (fried with sweet dark soya sauce) or white (original). The mixture is steamed, cut into cubes and fried with garlic, eggs and preserved radish called chai poh. *Carrot Cake can be a bit of a red flag as far as it being vegetarian goes. Some hawkers use lard and/or fish/oyster sauce while stir frying, few (not all) might even marinate it in fish sauce beforehand. We highly recommend checking with the hawker/restaurant before ordering, you can often request for it to be stir-fried sans the fish sauce/lard. Or if you want to be completely safe, have this at a vegetarian stall.
4. Kaya Toast and Soft-boiled Eggs
If you want a traditional and local breakfast, look no further than the simple Kaya toast with soft-boiled eggs. This ultimate comfort food offers the right mix of crunch and sugar rush to those with a sweet-tooth. The delicious stalwart is made by slathering thick slices of charcoal-grilled or toasted white bread with chunks of cold butter and generous amounts of kaya – the traditional jam made from coconut and eggs. While kaya toast also makes for a popular snack, it is usually accompanied by two soft-boiled runny eggs when eaten for breakfast, with drops of dark soya and a sprinkling of white pepper. Oh, and don’t forget to order a cup of Teh or Kopi to go with it.
5. Thosai (Dosa)
Also known as Dosa, this savoury, crispy south-Indian crepe is loved by vegetarians and vegans. Traditionally, it is stuffed with a potato mix and served with sambar (lentil curry) and an assortment of chutneys (usually coconut, tomato and coriander/mint). While the classic dosa is made with a fermented batter of rice and lentils, you can also opt for Rawa Dosa (made with a batter of semolina and rice flour) in plain, onion or potato stuffed versions. Some hawker centres give fusion a whole new meaning by offering flavours like egg thosai, mushroom thosai, cheese thosai and even chocolate or ice cream thosai.
A traditional fruit and vegetable salad dish, Rojak is basically a selection of savoury and sweet ingredients all mixed together with a sauce. There are two common varieties – Indian and Chinese. Though the Chinese version is fruitier, the sauce is made with prawn or shrimp paste, rendering it non-vegetarian. Indian Rojak consists of ingredients like fried dough, tempeh (kind of a soybean cake), tofu and potatoes, which are chopped up and mixed with nuts, onions, green chillies, cucumbers, pineapple, bean sprouts, and drenched in a sweet and spicy, orange-red peanut sauce. When it comes to ordering Rojak, always best to confirm that it’s vegetarian. There are veg versions available in several hawker centres, often with a peanut or plum sauce, or opt for a sauce-free version.
7. Soy Bean Milk
Fresh soybean milk is easily found in hawker centres all over the island, and can be drunk either hot or cold. Unlike the processed kind found in supermarkets, the fresh milk here is produced by soaking dried soybeans overnight and grinding them in water. While the classic soymilk is extremely popular, you can also find flavoured such as ginger soymilk, chocolate soymilk, lychee soymilk just to name a few, often topped with tapioca pearls or grass jelly. Other than hawker centres, there are also chains like Mr Bean which are rampant around town and sell primarily soya milk (along with a couple of other soy products).
8. Beancurd (Tau Huay)
Moving on to the top local vegetarian sweet-dishes in Singapore! Don’t leave town without trying the popular Tau Huay, which is essentially a warm silken beancurd custard or tofu pudding served with pandan infused sugar syrup, rock sugar or gula Melaka (palm sugar) to sweeten it. Again, some places offer variations like chocolate, rose or almond flavoured beancurd. Go completely local and indulge in deep fried dough fritters to dunk into the bowl of tau huay.
Those bite-sized, colourful little cakes you’ve seen at local buffets or at cake shops and bakeries are kuehs. Traditionally made from rice, tapioca or glutinous flour, kueh is a broad term that includes items like cakes, cookies, dumplings, puddings, biscuits and even pastries. Often steamed, they can also be baked, and are typically flavoured with grated coconut, coconut cream, pandan leaves and gula melaka. Nyonya (or Peranakan) Kueh is a popular version.
10. Ice Kacang
Need some respite from the heat? Head to the nearest hawker centre to get your bowl of ice. Literally meaning bean ice or mixed ice, this brightly coloured Malaysian dessert is hugely popular in Singapore. A shaving machine churns out the shaved ice, which is then dressed with red beans, sweet corn, grass jelly and cubes of agar agar. You can also find variations using less-common ingredients such as kidney beans, aloe vera, peanuts, a variety of fruit toppings and even ice cream. Once ready, the ice-mountain is drizzled with evaporated milk, condensed milk, or coconut milk along with red rose syrup. Some versions are also served with chocolate syrup or sugar syrup.
Did you know the word ‘duri’ means spikes in Malay? Popularly called the king of fruits, the durian is known for its unique appearance, strong odour and very acquired taste – you’ll either like it or you won’t. Enjoy the sweet, yellow flesh on its own naturally for its creamy, custard taste. Or enjoy it in a dessert – you’ll find durian flavoured cakes, ice creams and tarts island-wide.
Tried everything from our list of top local vegetarian dishes in Singapore? Don’t worry, there’s more still to go. If you like ice kacang, try it’s cousin – Chendol. Love the Indian samosa? Try the ubiquitous potato-filled curry puff (check if it’s veg though, some versions are made with potato curry while some are made with chicken & potatoes). Get a vegetarian thali set at Little India or dig into a bowl of vegetarian Bee Hoon (rice noodles) or vegetarian Nasi Goreng (Indonesian fried rice) at a hawker centre. One thing is for sure in Singapore – vegetarian or not, you’ll never go hungry!
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