It’s 8 a.m., and you’ve decided to visit your neighbourhood hawker centre.
It’s time for breakfast, and you are wondering what to eat. Which local breakfast dish will hit the spot? Do you go for the traditional kaya toast set? Or maybe be more adventurous and choose a plate of fried noodles? Which ones are the healthier choices?
Whether you have a long day ahead working from home, or whether you will be out and about throughout your day, many favourite local breakfast items can provide you with fuel to power through the day.
Here’s what to know about 25 different breakfast foods that are popular in Singapore:
Many of us enjoy a nice roll of Popiah in the morning. Crunchy turnips and cucumbers covered by a thin and smooth wrapper – one roll of these contains about 187 kilocalories, and even more satisfaction. This can be a healthy hawker delight to start your day with, and one roll can often do the trick. If you think you need a little more push at the start of your day, maybe go for one more roll, or share a few more pieces with your family.
Also known as fried dough fritters. For one whole youtiao stick, or two halves, expect up to 190 kilocalories. This is commonly eaten with soy milk or porridge, where the crispy of the fritters marries well with the smoothness of the dip. Paired with soy milk, this dish (around 250 kilocalories) can be a hearty way to start the day with enough liquids. Perhaps add on another youtiao stick if you’re gonna move around after breakfast!
3. Chee Cheong Fun
Essentially a dish made from steamed rice flour, chee cheong fun can be a light and savoury dish. Just make sure you go easy with the sauce and condiments as that’s where you might feel surfeited (or as the locals say, “jelak”). The light soya sauce version is a lighter option compared to the ones with the thick sweet sauce.
4. Fishball Noodles (Dry)
Fishball noodles rank among the healthier hawker foods list, but may be considered a heavy breakfast for some. With the soup, fishball noodles will provide you about 532 kilocalories. If that’s too much in the morning, consider getting the dry alternative at 474 kilocalories. Nonetheless, this sodium-light dish can be a real satisfying start to the day.
5. Curry Puff
Deep-fried pastry puffs enveloped with potatoes and curry? Yes, please! But, they can be rather unhealthy snacks because of its high calorie (246 kilocalories) and sodium content. If you’re craving it, indulge in them if you can! Otherwise there are healthier versions like baked curry puffs out there, so keep an eye out for them.
6. Kway Chap
According to HealthXChange.sg, this dish exceeds the daily allowance for cholesterol and sodium for an adult! This local flat rice noodles with braised meats and tofu skin is not an everyday indulgent affair. For a healthier option, consider having just the flat rice noodles (or with minimal sides) and resist the temptation to slurp up all the sauce.
7. Wanton Mee
Wanton Mee, like the chee cheong fun, can be a healthy dish (if you can hold back on adding excessive gravy and sauce). This local favourite can be a suitable option for those watching their weight and blood cholesterol levels. It is low in fat, saturated fat and cholesterol in most versions. And don’t forget your greens too!
8. Putu Mayam
Putu Mayam is irresistibly delicious, but they’re empty calories. Made with rice flour and topped with coconut and sugar, the dish is great, but is not the most nutritious one out there. For a healthier gratification: Limit yourself to one teaspoon each of grated coconut and sugar for one serving of putu mayam. Maybe have this as a snack instead? You’d need more nutrients in the morning to sustain you through the day!
9. Chwee Kueh
We always want more preserved radish to go with our chwee kueh, don’t we? This breakfast item is savoury yet airy, with the steamed rice cake and cai po (salty and greasy preserved radish toppings) basically being a match made in heaven. If you’re not going to be moving around much, four to six pieces of the steamed rice cake with the toppings and chilli should suffice.
10. Lor Mai Gai
Convenient, delicious and cheap – lor mai gai (steamed glutinous rice with chicken) is another dim sum item that Singaporeans opt for breakfast. Often conveniently nestled in a plastic or aluminium bowl, lor mai gai has both the carbs and protein for a complete meal. One lor mai gai can be enough to get you through until lunch!
11. Char Siu Bao
Another classic dim sum menu item is the char siu bao (steamed pork buns). Fluffy on the outside and sweet and savoury on the inside, the char siu bao is a staple in all hawker centres (whether at drink stalls or dim sum stores). However, it might high in calories and carbs. A single bun contains about 138 kilocalories, but is one ever enough? For a healthier alternative, opt for red bean bao or lotus paste bao – both carry less calories and is still a wonderful local breakfast choice.
12. Kaya Toast Set
The Kaya Toast set is essential to the Singaporean identity, and is commonly featured as part of the nation’s culture. Indeed, enjoying the crispy toast with a side of soft boiled eggs and a cup of hot kopi (coffee) or teh (tea) is how many people start their days. Whether it is at the coffee shop or in Ya Kun or Toast Box, one of these traditional breakfast sets will help you start your day on the right foot. Just control the amount of sugar in your drink, or the amount of dark sauce you add to your eggs.
13. Cantonese-Style Porridge
Nope, we aren’t talking about cereals or oats here. Cantonese porridge (or congee) is made from rice and is cooked in broth until it reaches a thick and smooth consistency. Ingredients like century eggs, lean meats, peanuts and/or meatballs are added. Porridge is one of the healthier hawker dishes out there. Porridge with minced pork and century egg contains only 224 kilocalories. Other similar recipes usually range from 300 to 400 kilocalories. If you want a heavier breakfast, add on a youtiao!
14. Masala Thosai
Instead of carbo-loading on roti prata, thosai may be the better option. It has a crepe-like consistency and only packs around 97 kilocalories. However the masala thosai, which is stuffed with potatoes, brings that number up to 362 kilocalories. One such masala thosai should prove sufficient for breakfast. If you can go for more, maybe just add on another plain thosai.
15. Fried Bee Hoon
When cai fan (mixed economic rice) is too much for breakfast, the usual fried beehoon fare is there to satisfy. With various sides to choose from, this hearty breakfast is a widly popular choice. Just remember to add on your vegetables and tau kwa (tou fu). Opt for the white beehoon over the dark and go easy on the fried luncheon meats or oily hotdogs if you don’t want to feel surfeited.
16. Fried Carrot Cake
The white carrot cake is healthier than the black carrot cake – there, we’ve said it. The dark and sweet sauce used in black carrot cake can add an additional 100 calories. White carrot cake – essentially radish cake fried with eggs – are relatively healthier. Though, you can ask your friendly server for less oil (if they permit).
17. Roti Prata
Besides being high in carbs, the oil used to fry Roti Prata also puts this fan-favourite dish on the not-so-healthy list. One plain and one egg prata sets you back 481 kilocalories already. To make it less guilty, opt for two plain ones (328 kilocalories) instead). Hold back on the curry and resist the extra sugar. Or else, buy ready-made ones from your nearby supermarket and pan-fry them without oil!
18. Mee Rebus
Mee Rebus, topped with one hard boiled egg, is both high in salt and cholesterol. That’s something you may want to stay away from first thing in the morning. The healthier way to enjoy it? Consider asking for less noodles. Or try not to finish all of the sweet gravy.
A close friend of the Roti Prata, the Murtabak is great for sharing. Because a typical serving is a lot for the average diner, this high-carb and sodium dish can set you back 587 kilocalories from one serving. The next time you order one, share it with someone else! Or if you’re gonna be active during the day, having it all to yourself wouldn’t hurt, right?
20. Mee Siam
Mee Siam can be a rather light local yet satisfying breakfast option. Healthier options with wholegrain noodles are available in hawker centres and other eateries (available at Qiji outlets islandwide). Otherwise, this sweet and sour noodle dish is sure to make your tummy happy!
21. Nasi Lemak
This dish packs a good problem to have: Its coconut-infused rice is both the star and the con of the dish (because of its saturated fat content). Try these tips the next time you order this local breakfast treat: Ask for less rice and opt for healthier side dishes (choose more vegetables and tofu over the fried chicken).
22. Roti John
Essentially, this is an omelette sandwich usually served with minced meat that’s doused in chilli, tomato and mayonnaise sauce. Roti John is carb-heavy and you’ll hit the daily recommended sodium intake with this one dish. Health tip? Share it with a friend! Or ask for less condiments and sauces.
A bowl of lontong (compressed rice cakes cooked in banana leaves) has both the carbs and the vegetables you need. However, it also has near the amount of salt needed in one day. If you find yourself ordering it, maybe try to leave some of the sauce behind. Or ask for less chilli. Remember to finish the vegetables, too.
24. Mee Goreng
Mee Goreng is a great comfort food and a popular local breakfast dish. This spicy noodles mixed with sliced fish cake and the occasional bit of stir-fried greens, sure know how to make your tummy happy. However, it is perhaps only marginally better than instant noodles as it packs a good 613 kilocalories. If you’re craving for it in the morning, ask for less noodles. Or, save a portion of it for your mid-afternoon snack.
25. Min Jiang Kueh
Crispy outer skin and rich fillings? Yes, we are talking about the Min Jiang Kueh – a type of traditional pancake that comes with peanuts, red beans or coconut shavings. Probably the less healthy one is the one with coconut shavings as palm sugar – and this is often added to sweeten the kueh. Two slices of peanut ones should sustain you well until lunchtime.
Originally by Aretha Loh and Tan Ju Min, Her World, February 12, 2018 / Last updated + Additional Reporting by Derrick Tan