The best way to celebrate a birthday is with food. Not just any food — breakfast food. It’s only fitting that we usher in Singapore’s 55th birthday with a spread of our local breakfast favourites. Think slabs of cold butter sandwiched between slices of warm kaya toast, or a fragrant mound of rice topped with spicy, savoury sambal.
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It’s not just the taste of the food that draws us in. As Singaporeans, we find belonging in waking up at 7am to join a snaking queue for economical bee hoon, or lamenting the drop in quality at our favourite nasi lemak stalls. Food is always social, and it brings out the passion in almost all of us.
Explore a taste of home with our neighbourhood breakfast recommendations.
Traditional Breakfast Houses
1. Heap Seng Leong
Butter and coffee are two essential breakfast elements. But have you ever tried them together? Kopi Gu You (butter coffee), is a drink that used to be popular from the mid to late ‘90s. It’s savoury, silky, and surprisingly, not too heavy. Today, Heap Seng Leong is one of the few stalls that still serves it in Singapore.
Standing at North Bridge Road since 1974, this kopitiam is the joint work of two generations — Mr Shi Ting Chow, and his father and original owner, Mr Shi Pong Tsu. At 3am every morning, the elder Mr Shi will cycle to the coffee shop to prepare for another day of cooking. Heap Seng Leong is then opened for 12 hours, manned only by the two of them.
If you head down to try their breakfast fare, be sure to order the kaya toast which is prepared traditionally. Slices of Hainanese bread are toasted over charcoal embers, and spread with a thick, sweet coconut jam.
Heap Seng Leong
10 North Bridge Rd, #01-5109, Singapore 190010
Opening hours: 5am to 5pm (daily)
Call 6292 2368 to place an order for pick-up.
2. Seng Hong Coffeeshop
There are myriad coffee shops which toast their bread. This one steams it using a 70-year-old pot. The steam wafting up from the pot yields incredibly fluffy slices which are fragrant from the first bite.
You must get the otah steamed bread. Otah, or Otak-Otak, is a fish paste grilled with herbs and spices. The combination of this spicy, aromatic meat, and the soft, delicate bread cannot be replicated in many places. Seng Hong’s Kopi O Kosong (black coffee) has a flavourful body as well. Smooth and mellow, it will jolt you out of the post-food nap you’ll inevitably fall into.
Seng Hong Coffeeshop
58 Lengkok Bahru, Singapore 150058
Opening hours: 6am-6pm (daily)
1. Ali Fatimah Food Stall
A good gauge of how delicious food is in Singapore is how long the line stretches. For Ali Fatimah Food Stall, expect to queue up to 20 minutes during peak periods.
This is well worth it, as their prata kosong (prata with no filling) is crispy and chewy on the outside, with just the right amount of fluffiness. If you opt for the mutton curry on the side, you’ll be treated to a generous piece of meat.If you’re extra hungry, try the mutton murtabak. Murtabak is a prata which is filled with an egg and onion mix, and stuffed with mutton, or any other meat of your choice.
Ali Fatimah Food Stall
85 Redhill Lane, #01-01, Redhill Lane Block 85 Food Centre, Singapore 150085
Opening hours: Mon-Wed (12-10.30am), Thu-Sun (5.30-10am)
2. Sin Ming Roti Prata, Faisal & Aziz Curry Muslim Food
With three generations of prata making, it’s no wonder Sin Ming Roti Prata is so well loved in Singapore. They specialise in coin prata, which is exactly what it sounds like. Using freshly prepared dough, strips are twisted and coiled into a small circle, before being fried on a hot plate.
Coin prata is thicker than regular prata and has a nice chew. It’s buttery, flakey, and a little sweeter than the usual fare. The paired curry has a kick to it, so it’s perfect for those who love their heat.Perhaps you’ll be able to catch a glimpse of Mr Aziz or his two sons kneading the dough when you join the queue.
Sin Ming Roti Prata, Faisal & Aziz Curry Muslim Food
24 Sin Ming Road, #01-51, Jin Fa Kopitiam, Singapore 570024
Opening hours: 7am-6.30pm (daily)
1. Pak Mandor Nasi Lemak
This is a stall many Yishun residents have tried to hide from the rest of Singapore, and failed.
The stars of this stall are its green-tinged rice and homemade sambal chilli. Steamed with coconut milk and pandan, the rice is extremely aromatic. A perfect mouthful of this nasi lemak is a big scoop of rice, topped with ikan kuning (turmeric deep fried fish) and spicy sambal.
If you head there on a weekend, try to reach before 12 noon as ingredients sell out quickly.
Pak Mandor Nasi Lemak
645 Yishun Street 61, #01-320, Singapore 760645
Opening hours: 7am-1pm (daily)
2. Yi Liu Xiang Nasi Lemak
Yi Liu Xiang’s thin omelettes are fried one at a time, starting from 2am. Though they don’t offer a huge range of ingredients, this stall pays close attention to what they do have.
Their fried fish fillet is fresh and juicy, and huge pieces of succulent otah are only a dollar each. This no-frills nasi lemak stall was founded in 1983 by Mdm Liang, who’s now assisted by her brother and his son.
Good food must always be queued for. Be prepared to reach before 10am to get your pick of ingredients.
Yi Liu Xiang Nasi Lemak
105 Hougang Avenue 1, Hainanese Village, #02-30, Singapore 530105
Opening hours: 6.30am-12pm (daily, closed on Mon & Thu)
Economical Bee Hoon
1. Hup Lee Fried Bee Hoon
There is no better breakfast than bee hoon mee. This is a combination of thinner, white rice noodles, and thick Hokkien noodles that have been stir-fried in dark soy sauce.
Hup Lee Fried Bee Hoon is a popular choice. Once you’ve ordered these noodles, you can choose to add on a wide variety of ingredients, from luncheon meat, to a runny fried egg.
We highly recommend their chicken wings. Juicy, oily meat is encased in a crackling chicken skin, and the entire wing is bursting with flavour. Ordering one piece is never enough.
Hup Lee Fried Bee Hoon
Block 101 Yishun Avenue 5, #01-03, Singapore 760101
Opening hours: 7am-10pm (daily)
2. Bai Li Xian Economic Bee Hoon
No one calls this stall by its actual name. Because of the owner’s reputation for being in a perpetual bad mood, students at the nearby University have affectionately nicknamed this stall ‘Ah Lian Bee Hoon’.
The bee hoon is garlicky, savoury, and sprinkled with beansprouts for that extra crunch. You could also opt for the fried kway teow (stir-fried flat rice noodles), which has a nice char and smokiness to it. Add some seaweed chicken and sausage to the mix, and this is local comfort food at its best.
Bai Li Xian Economic Bee Hoon
651 Jurong West Street 63, 179 Kopitiam, Singapore 640651
Opening hours: 6pm-11am (daily)
This series is done in collaboration with Public Culture, an editorial experience studio that believes in connection over communication.