Snapshots from Singapore: 10 Must-Eat Singaporean Breakfasts

Kaya Toast

The national breakfast of Singapore, served at every kopitiam. Kaya is a custard jam made from egg, coconut, and the vanilla-like herb pandan. The best kaya is homemade, and depending on the cook, can be veer towards very eggy, coconutty, or herbal. It's usually pretty sweet, but my favorite kaya compounds that sweetness with the smoky, butterscotch complexity of the excellent raw sugar of the region. The kaya is spread on toasted or charcoal-grilled bread, usually a spongy brown or white loaf, and topped with a square of salty butter or margarine.

Max Falkowitz, unless otherwise noted

Breakfast in Singapore is something of a fluid concept: if a hawker or eating house is serving it in the morning, there's no reason it can't be breakfast, and no one will look twice if you get a big plate of prawns for your morning meal.

That said, there are some dishes eaten most commonly or exclusively for breakfast, served by certain hawkers and at kopitiams, the coffee houses as common in Singapore as Starbucks is in the U.S.

What can you expect for breakfast? Noodles, both stir fried and in broth, are common options. As are rice dishes like porridge and chwee kueh, steamed rice cakes topped with preserved salted radish. But the real national breakfast is a plate of pandan-scented kaya toast with some runny-yolked soft-cooked eggs topped with white pepper and dark soy sauce. If you're the type of person to spend your mornings dragging toast through pools of egg yolk, this is the thing for you.

Traditionally, breakfast is a sit-down thing—no Egg McMuffins to go, please—but a quick one. Your morning coffee is short and drunk quickly; eggs are sometimes slurped right from the dish.

Western influences are beginning to change that; chain kopitiams like Toast Box (an offshoot of the international bakery Bread Talk) sell coffee and breakfast to go. But if you have a few minutes to spare, sit down to enjoy your kaya toast or morning noodles. Mornings at hawker centers and kopitiams afford some of the best people watching in the country.

The List

You're going to see some overlap between this list and the 25 Singaporean Dishes You Should Know, because as I said before, most dishes in Singapore can be eaten at any time of day. Take a look at that list for a more extensive glossary of the country's cuisine; these are just 10 options to get your day started right.

View all the dishes in the slideshow »

More on Singapore

Note: Max's recent trip to Singapore was arranged by the Singapore Tourism Board. Special thanks to our awesome guide, Garry Koh.