Ever wondered what junk food looks like around the world?
Whilst Singapore is familiar with fried chicken, fried noodles – anything fried, really – as certified junk food, other countries around the world have their own junk food renditions.
Of course, the term “junk food” is all relative. These foods clearly aren’t the healthiest, but in moderation – it won’t kill you either. So if you’re planning to treat yourself, why not go on an all out international cuisine tour of junk food right here on this little island?
From decadent desserts, to fried guilty pleasures, feast your heart out at these international spots.
1. Germany: Currywurst
If you travel to Germany, you can find this iconic German snack in street sausage vendors around the cities. The dish is essentially bratwurst covered in curry ketchup served with paprika fries or Brotchen.
You can find this German classic at Brotzeit, Singapore’s popular German bratwurst spot. Brotzeit’s keeps the Currywurst simple and authentic for $19. Pair it with a tasty German beer, you got yourself a German junk food speciality.
Address: Multiple locations
Tel: See website
Opening hours: See website
2. Canada: Poutine
You’ve probably heard of this polarising Canadian treat. Poutine is made of crispy fries smothered with cheese curds and gravy, hailing from the Quebec region in the 1950s. It’s not for everyone, as the cheese curds may be foreign to many. But this greasy beauty is the epitome of comfort food, and perfect for post night-out snack to soak up the extra booze.
Try Poutine for yourself at Cook & Brew, an amazing rooftop restaurant with a view as well as a selection of stellar fries. It’s elevated Poutine ($16) is piled high with cheese curds, pulled pork, and apple & Magner’s gravy.
Cook & Brew
Address: 12 Marina View, Level 33, The Westin Singapore, Asia Square Tower 1, 018961
Tel: 6922 6948
Opening hours: 11:30 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. (daily)
Reserve on Chope here.
3. Belgium: Waffles
Ah, the ever so classic Belgian waffles, a popular guilty pleasure not just amongst the Belgian themselves. These waffles are thicker than regular waffles, with larger and deeper squares to maximise oozing syrup, whipped cream, or ice cream into the waffles. What’s not to love?
You can find perfectly crisp and thick Belgian waffles at Creamier ($14). It serves the best way to have your waffles, with delicious and creamy ice cream. You have a ton of unique flavours to choose from, such as best sellers Roasted Pistachio and Salted Gula Melaka.
Address: Blk 131 Toa Payoh Lorong 1, #01-02, 310131 / 5A Lock Rd., Gillman Barracks, 108927 / 78 Yong Siak St., #01-18, 163078
Tel: 6262 1087 (Gillman Barracks) / 6221 1076 (Tiong Bahru)
Opening hours: 12 to 10 p.m. (daily; dine-in only available at Toa Payoh and Gillman Barracks)
4. Japan: Takoyaki
Takoyaki emerged from the Japanese city Osaka around 1945. These wonderful fried octopus balls are a popular street food all over Japan. You can find them in street vendors, supermarkets, and pubs. Takoyaki is usually served with sweet and salty takoyaki sauce, which pairs well with beer and other alcoholic drinks. You see why these are great junk food snacks when you’re at the bar.
Singaporeans love Takoyaki, especially when Takoyaki speciality stall, Gindaco, returned to Singapore in 2021 with hour long lines. This popular stall initially closed its doors in 2014, but its now back and better at ION Orchard. You can get the original flavour (from $6), cheese mentaiko (from $7.50), teritama (from $7.50).
Address: 2 Orchard Turn, Food Opera@ION Orchard, 238801
Tel: 8189 9637
Opening hours: 11 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. (daily)
5. Mexico: Takis
If you’re on the hunt for a snack type junk food, these are worth picking up. Takis are seriously addicting and the definition of finger-licking good. Think Cheetos and Hint of Lime Tortilla Chips had a baby, that’s what Takis taste like. Spicy and tangy with the lime, these are tiny corn taquitos of perfection.
While these aren’t easy to find in regular supermarkets, you can defo find them online.
6. Middle East: Knafeh
This traditional Middle Eastern dessert beautifully combines flavours from the cream cheese base, shredded filo pastry, and a sugary syrup on top. No one knows where Knafeh originates exactly, but this favourite dessert can be found pretty much anywhere in the Middle East. Crunchy and creamy all at once, this dessert is truly a decadent treat. It can be topped with clotted cream or nuts, depending on the region. The spelling, too, can be different.
Luckily, Singapore has no shortage of stellar Middle Eastern restaurants, especially along the famed Arab Street. For example, Beruit Grill has a rich Kunufe ($12), or try out Nasirin Turkish Restraunt’s Kunufe ($12) where you can add Vanilla ice cream on top for added creaminess.
Address: 72 Bussorah St., 199485
Tel: 9069 1925
Opening hours: 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. (Mon. to Fri.); 11:30 a.m. to 11 p.m. (Sat. to Sun.)
Reserve on Chope here.
Nasirin Turkish Restaurant
Address: 58 Arab St., 199755
Tel: 6298 1685
Opening hours: 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. (Sun. to Thurs.); 11 a.m. to 12 a.m. (Fri. to Sat.)
Reserve on Chope here.
7. Indonesia: Martabak Manis
This Indonesian treat pack a real decadent punch, but they are oh so worth it. These are thick, buttery Indonesian pancakes with a variety of fillings. The popular favourite being Martabak slathered in chocolate, peanuts and cheese. Slightly crispy on the outside but chewy and soft in the inside, you can’t go wrong.
Nothing beats Martabak from Indonesian itself, but you can find pretty bomb ones in Singapore too. Check out Pancake Boss which has over 20 flavours from traditional to fusion (from $8).
Address: 470 North Bridge Rd., #04-15, Bugis Cube Mall, 188735
Tel: 9066 2912
Opening hours: 12 to 6:30 p.m. (Tues. to Sun.)
8. Scotland: Fried Mars Bars
Scotland? Although Fried Mars Bars certainly sounds like an American creation, it is indeed Scottish, originating from chip shops in the 1990s. This ooey gooey goodness has taken over Britain’s, and the world’s, junk food scene by storm. What’s not to love?
You don’t have to find a British spot to enjoy this greasy beauty in Singapore. It’s actually quite simple to make. Simply cover the chilled Mars Bars in a light batter and deep fry it till your hearts content. You can follow this recipe here. Need more of a sweet punch? Vanilla ice cream pairs perfectly well.
9. South Korea: Korean Fried Chicken
Who doesn’t love fried chicken? Korean Fried Chicken has a special place in our hearts, with tender and juicy chicken that’s glazed with the iconic sweet and spicy sauce. It can be an appetiser, a meal, an afternoon snack, or a post-night out drunk feast. Breakfast? We don’t judge.
Singapore has a tonne of Korean Fried Chicken spots to hit up. Check out these 9 Korean Fried Chicken places!
10. Spain: Churros
Who doesn’t love fried dough? Churros is thought to be originated from Spanish and Portuguese regions, typically coated in cinnamon sugar. But this European fried dough may have been borrowed from the Chinese You Tiao by the Portuguese. But enough of history, these cylindrical chewy goodness is an essential breakfast, snack, or dessert.
You can find a variety of churros at La Lola Churreria like dark chocolate, strawberry, matcha, and white chocolate. You can get classic churros for $6.90 or an assorted mix for $9.
La Lola Churreria
Address: 6 Eu Tong Sen St., #01-27, Clarke Quay Central, 059817 / 78 Airport Blvd., #B2-274, Jewel Changi Airport, 819666
Tel: 8403 4789 / 8403 4789
Opening hours: 11:45 a.m. to 9 p.m. (daily) / 1:30 to 8 p.m. (daily)
11. USA: Burgers and Milkshakes
It’s no secret that Americans love their burgers as the top junk food choice, with a giant milkshake to go with it because everything is just bigger in the USA. A popular origin myth of the famed Hamburger was that a man walked into a diner in Connecticut and asked for a quick meal. The owner fixed him up with steak trimmings between two slices of toast, and there is the birth of the burger. Turns out, burgers are a lot older than that. You can find more here, pretty fascinating stuff.
Regardless of where it came from, the world is thankful for its existence. You can find classic and dramatic burgers and milkshakes at popular American spot Black Tap. Check out fan-favourite burgers like the Pizza Burger ($24), The Carolina Burger ($26) and The Mexico City ($25). Then go for the outrageously big milkshakes – Crazyshakes! (You can also check out other American restaurants here!)
Black Tap (Singapore)
Address: 2 Bayfront Ave., 018972
Tel: 6688 9957
Opening hours: 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. (daily)
12. USA: Chicken and Waffles
The USA might just be King of junk food and so it deserves a second mention for this Southern gem. Hailing from the African American community of the South, this soulful and hearty breakfast will sure fire up your morning. It may sound strange for those who haven’t heard of this dish, but trust that it’s a magical pairing.
You can find true Southern Chicken and Waffles at The Beast Southern Kitchen + Bourbon Bar ($22). The boneless chicken thigh is brined for 24 hours and then fried to a crisp golden brown, perched on top buttermilk waffles and drizzled with home-made bourbon maple butter sauce. Bonus: You can get a sunny-side up egg too!
The Beast Southern Kitchen + Bourbon Bar
Address: 17 Jln Klapa, 199329
Tel: 6532 0480
Opening hours: 4 p.m. to 10 p.m. (Mon. to Fri.), 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. (Sat. and Sun.)
Reserve on Chope here.
Originally by Isabel Wibowo, July 2021