11 Dishes That I Miss After Living Abroad For 11 Years

Signature Singaporean Recipes

Ever travelled to an angmoh country and by the 5th day, you are already searching for an Asian restaurant? Currently living in France, that’s how I have felt for 11 years (no joke) and every visit to Singapore is a mad rush to hawker centres and kopitiams. As a Singaporean born and bred, there will never be any other cuisines that appeal to me more than our hawker and Zi Char delicacies

I arrived in Bordeaux in 2011 to work and my life in France blossomed after meeting my French husband and starting a family. What’s not to love in a country with beautiful sceneries, funky cheese and vintage wine, you might say? True that. But what is literally keeping me alive are the recipes that I have learnt to satisfy my constant cravings for Singaporean food. 

Here are 11 recipes that will make a Singaporean belly very happy.

1. Hainanese Chicken Rice


Ask any Singaporean which dish would you recommend a foreigner to try, and Hainanese Chicken Rice would top the list. Needless to say, this was the first dish that I cooked for my husband, and then for my parents-in-law. The verdict: C’est un délice! (It’s delightful!) 

Made with juicy pieces of succulent chicken meat, paired with fragrant steamed rice cooked in chicken broth and aromatic herbs, the Chicken Rice is a crowd-pleaser. Not forgetting the spicy tangy chilli sauce that we all love! 

Recipe: http://themeatmen.sg/hainanese-chicken-rice-the-f-word-tribute/

Preparation Time: 1 hour. Serves 3 – 4.

2. Nonya Laksa


The dish that warms my heart and body during the harsh winters in France is the Nonya Laksa, and strangely enough, it is also my French husband’s favourite Singaporean dish (he is a meat lover). Both of us will slurp up every last drop of the spicy flavourful soup, although the weaker link will be blowing his nose with a tissue after, saying, “So spicy, but so shiok!” Yes, this French man knows what shiok means.

The base of this classic Peranakan recipe is the aromatic rempah paste, stir-fried and then simmered with coconut milk to magically evolve into this spicy, creamy and flavourful Laksa soup. Topped with prawns, fishcakes, cockles and tau pok, who could ever say no to this hearty bowl of noodle soup? According to my husband, adding tau pok to this dish is ingenious. The tau pok soaks up all the goodness, resulting in an explosion of flavours in your mouth.     

Recipe: http://themeatmen.sg/nonya-laksa-2/

Preparation Time: 1 hour. Serves 4.

3. Bak Chor Mee


Let’s get to my personal favourite. Fine, I have many favourites. But this uniquely Singaporean dish has a special place in my heart. I will never leave Singapore without going to my favourite Bak Chor Mee stall. “Uncle, meepok with lots of chilli and vinegar please!”

Now I can cook it on my own! If Tan can cook, so can you! This humble noodle dish is made lovingly with a variety of ingredients. Add mee pok to the specially concocted sauce, then the marinated pork toppings and the vinegar-braised shiitake mushrooms. Please do not skip the pork lard – it takes the dish up a notch. The proverbial icing on the cake – the pork broth with all the goodness of the pork bones, ikan bilis, soya beans and pork toppings. 

Recipe: http://themeatmen.sg/bak-chor-mee/

Preparation Time: 1 hour 15 minutes. Serves 4. 

4. Sambal Stingray


I once walked into a Singaporean restaurant in France, all tingling with excitement as I saw that Sambal Stingray was on the menu. I walked out of the restaurant, feeling that something was missing in my life. No, actually it was the dish that was missing something. The sambal was a disappointment. It wasn’t fragrant, nor was it spicy.

What makes a great Sambal Stingray – firstly the stingray has to be cooked to perfection. The charred flaky flesh is certainly the key to this dish, but the sambal too! Otherwise, it wouldn’t be called SAMBAL Stingray! Hence the essence of this recipe is to create our blend of sambal, from scratch. It’s worth the effort, I promise!

Recipe: https://themeatmen.sg/homemade-bbq-sambal-stingray/

Preparation Time: 30 minutes. Serves 3 – 4. 

5. Sio Bak (Roasted Pork Belly)


The crispy crackling skin, the tender juicy meat – what’s not to love about Sio Bak? I made this dish recently because I need to get my Sio Bak fix. Never did I realise that I broke the will of a man on a diet. My husband kept walking into the kitchen on the pretext of talking to me, but the truth is, he was checking out the juicy piece of meat in the oven.  

The glorious smell of pork slowly roasting in the oven is enough to whet one’s appetite. The sound of the golden crispy skin and the sight of oozing meat juices on the chopping board is the perfect prequel to a satisfying dinner. My children couldn’t stop asking for seconds! 

Tip: It goes really well with ice-cold beer.

Recipe: http://themeatmen.sg/sio-bak-roast-pork-belly/

Preparation Time: 2 hours 30 minutes. Serves 10.

6. Chilli Crab


I love seafood, and crab is definitely one of my favourites. Having lived in France for 11 years, I realised that the French normally cook their crabs in salt water (to bring out the natural sweetness of the flesh), then to be served cold with some mayonnaise. It’s a great way to eat crabs, but the best way? Chilli Crab

No one can talk about our local Zi Char scene without mentioning Singapore Chilli Crab. The succulent crab meat, coated with the sweet and spicy sauce takes us immediately to seafood heaven! This dish is a perfect balance of sweetness from the tomato sauce and the heat from the chilli paste. Remember to wipe up the thick spicy gravy with the deep-fried mantous. 

Recipe: http://themeatmen.sg/singapore-chilli-crab/

Preparation Time: 30 minutes. Serves 4.

7. Hokkien Mee


I have such fond memories of Hokkien Mee. My mother used to tabao this hawker delight for me whenever she doesn’t feel like cooking and I would happily slurp up these flavourful saucy noodles. A hearty comforting meal.

Hokkien mee is such a humble, yet complex dish. It may not look impressive but the taste will satisfy even the most picky palates. The noodles braised in prawn stock, with ingredients such as prawns, squid rings and pork belly, topped with pork lard make such a satisfying combination. Squeeze in some lime, stir in the sambal and enjoy!

Recipe: https://themeatmen.sg/hokkien-mee-2020/

Preparation Time: 1 hour 30 minutes. Serves 4.

8. Oyster Omelette


”What?! Oyster with eggs? Why?” was the reaction I got from my mother-in-law when I mentioned that I have a craving for Oyster Omelette. Well, oysters are normally eaten raw in France. (Sure, some restaurants serve oysters gratinées with cream or cheese, but it is not very common.). What surprised her was the combination of oysters and eggs, cooked in a wok. Odd for her definitely, but sure as eggs is eggs (pun intended), not for us Singaporeans who have tasted the wonderfulness of this street food.

Fondly known as Ork Luak in Singapore, this is a hawker favourite. What makes this dish special is undoubtedly the different textures in it – the crispiness on the edges of the omelette, the gooey texture from the flour batter and the oomph from the juicy oysters. We love it paired with the zesty and spicy vinegar chilli sauce. Did I mention that this savoury recipe can be made in 15 minutes?

Recipe: http://themeatmen.sg/oyster-omelette/

Preparation Time: 15 minutes. Serves 4.

9. Har Cheong Gai


Korean Fried Chicken may have caused quite a commotion in Singapore and the international food scene, but I will never forget my first love. In the form of chicken wings, I mean. I LOVE Har Cheong Gai. I am drooling just thinking about it. 

Har Cheong Gai is a Zi Char favourite, for a reason. Who would have imagined that prawn paste goes so well with chicken wings?! This recipe makes wings as good as the ones at Zi Char stalls, if not better. Deep fry these goodies and then sink your teeth into the crispiest skin and the juiciest chicken. In this recipe, our secret is using a potato starch batter for that extra crisp. Finger-licking good. It will just be too tough to stop at one!

Recipe: http://themeatmen.sg/har-cheong-gai/

Preparation Time: 20 minutes. Serves 4.

10. Sambal Kang Kong


Sambal Kang Kong is THE vegetable dish that I will order at any Zi Char stall. My father used to cook it often for my family as well. I love the marriage of piquant sambal and crunchy kang kong. The little bits of hae bee is like an extra treat to further enhance the umami flavour of the dish. 

A little tip: The wok has to be smoking hot when the kang kong goes in. If you add too much kang kong to the wok, the temperature lowers and the stir fry becomes soup! Therefore, if you are a big kang kong eater like me or cooking for a big gathering, I would suggest stir-frying the sambal in one go, and then the kang kong in batches. 

Recipe: http://themeatmen.sg/sambal-kang-kong/

Preparation Time: 5 minutes. Serves 4.

11. Curry Fish Head


A hybrid of Indian and Chinese ethnic cuisines, the Curry Fish Head is so uniquely Singapore. I have had foreign friends who frowned when they saw the fish head, but couldn’t stop digging in once they had their first taste of the tender fish flesh infused with the aromatic curry.

The fish head is undoubtedly the highlight of this dish. Tender steamed fish coated with spicy curry, which flakes off so easily with a dig of the fork. The pieces of eggplant and the lady’s fingers soak up the savoury creamy curry so each bite is a burst of flavour. With mustard seeds, curry leaves and fenugreek seeds, the aroma teases an indulgence for the tastebuds. Try this recipe and your tummy will be so thankful after.   

Recipe: http://themeatmen.sg/curry-fish-head/

Preparation Time: 20 minutes. Serves 4.

Zi Char Recipes

As a Singaporean living overseas, it is pretty essential to learn some recipes to satisfy my cravings. Singaporean cuisine is just too yummy not to miss. So whether you are an overseas Singaporean, or a Singaporean who simply loves to cook up a storm for your family and friends, these recipes will certainly impress. 


More of what you might like: 

Singapore’s Evolving Hawker Culture: More Flavours In Our Melting Pot

7 Superfood Recipes for Easy and Nutritious Weekday Meals

6 Types of Sauces for Asian Cooking and How to Use Them

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