Drink Like A Local: Five Must-try Singaporean Beverages
There’s a saying that goes “the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach” and the same can be said when you’re travelling to Singapore.
When you’re in Singapore, the best way to experience our culture and way of life is through our cuisine. While there are a ton of blogs and guides online to the best food in this little food paradise, let’s not forget the delicious beverages that go well with our chicken rice, char kway teow, and pratas.
Here’s a list of 5 iconic Singaporean drinks that you absolutely should not miss when you’re visiting Singapore, with nuggets of its interesting (and some, amusing) history!
1. Milo Dinosaur
Image Credit: DiscoverSG
The older generations call it “Tak Kiu”, which is Hokkien for ‘kicking ball’ – an endearing reference to the original packaging design of a Milo tin, where a guy is seen kicking a ball.
In Singapore, you can find Milo in every coffee shop and hawker centre. But the one drink that truly represents the level of appreciation for Milo here is the Milo Dinosaur.
If you’ve ever eaten Milo powder as it is, you’ll know how amazing it tastes. If you haven’t, it’s about time! It’s a chocolate and malt powder mix, and all you have to do is add water to enjoy this delicious beverage. Milo Dinosaur’s distinct characteristic that makes the beverage super shiok (satisfying) is the heavenly pile of Milo powder on top.
According to hearsay, Milo Dinosaur came from across our shores (Malaysia). Some have shared amusing theories about the name, like a father who made this drink to ‘shut’ his son from marvelling over dinosaurs, and another alluding that the heap of Milo powder atop looks like that of a dinosaur’s back. Another source also suggests that the “dinosaur” could refer to the large calorie content of the drink.
2. Teh Tarik
Image Credit: Michelin Guide Singapore
The preparation of ‘Teh‘(tea) is what distinguishes a Teh Tarik from any other teas. And it’s not just fascinating in the eyes of tourists, but to many Singaporeans too!
Translating to ‘pulled tea’, the Teh is literally ‘Tarik-ed’ (pulled) before serving. After pouring the hot milk tea back and forth between two vessels from a height (the ‘pulling’), what you get is a cup of thick and rich beverage with a frothy top. Not quite the same as the foam you’d find on a cappuccino so you’ll have to try it for yourself!
Image Credit: foodpanda Magazine
This brilliant ‘pulling’ method can be traced back to the South Indians who migrated to Malaya (Singapore and Malaysia) in the 19th century. Showmanship is one thing, but beyond the artistic flair, this act of tea ‘pulling’ actually combines the ingredients more effectively, giving you a well-blended and creamier beverage that you won’t get from just stirring with a spoon.
Our local version of a cup of java, Kopi is simply coffee in Malay.
Traditionally, you’d get a cup of Kopi from a local kopitiam, which is basically a coffee shop (Kopi is coffee, while ‘tiam’ is Hokkien for shop).
And when you’re at a local kopitiam you’ll learn that we use our own special set of terms to order – the Singaporean Coffee Lingo. To customise your Kopi more efficiently and effectively, learn these handy terms: Kopi O for a strong black brew, Kopi Si or Kopi C for coffee with evaporated milk, and add a ‘Peng’ behind for ice!
Image Credit: Singapore Coffee Association
If it’s your first time in Singapore, you need to watch how our local kopitiam aunties and uncles brew a cup of Kopi.
Image Credit: The New York Times
Many Singaporeans grew up seeing this but you’ll be hard-pressed to find Singaporeans who knows the reason behind the peculiar strainer. It’s actually a cheap and effective alternative that our forefathers came up with for brewing, as traditional brewing appliances weren’t widely available back in the day.
As majority of the people weren’t that well-to-do then, coffee had to be made affordable. The Robusta replaced the usual Arabica beans, which are bitterer with a stronger aroma. Beans are traditionally roasted with sugar, butter, or margarine to compensate for the harsher taste and for extra flavour.
Image Credit: SG Directory
The bright pink colour may look a little girly or ‘funky’, but don’t let that fool you.
Made with evaporated milk or condensed milk with rose cordial syrup, Bandung is another traditional favourite among Singaporeans (not just the ladies!).
While there’s no way to ensure the credibility of its origins, it’s believed that it all started with an Englishman who disliked a certain Indian drink similar to Bandung. He added milk and sugar to mask the unpleasant smell, which he felt was as foul as the smell of dung. When asked for the name of his concoction, he said, “Banned Dung”, which was misheard as Bandung – the name of the sweet beverage today.
5. Chin Chow
Image Credit: The Finder
A glass of Chin Chow drink, or grass jelly drink, may look similar to a glass of soda, albeit without the gas bubbles. But hidden in the drink is what makes this dessert-y beverage delicious.
The smooth grass jelly, usually grated into fine strands or cut into bite-sized cubes, has a mild bitter flavour (as a residual taste from the Platostoma palustre plant). The sugar syrup balances it well and you’ll often find yourself taking big gulps of the drink. It’s quite addictive to chew on the Chin Chow bits!
Image Credit: flofoodventure
The older Chinese folks also believe that the black grass jelly has some form of medicinal ‘cooling’ effect if you’re feeling under the weather!
Paying Homage To These Iconic Beverage
Luckily for travellers staying at Shangri-La Hotel, Singapore, you can get all these iconic drinks and more from the refreshed menu at The Lobby Lounge.
Image Credit: Shangri-La Hotel, Singapore
Indulge in the best of Singapore’s delicacies with one of these yummy beverages and you’re all set for a good day out exploring Singapore.
Head over to The Lobby Lounge if you’d like to make a booking!