Swill Magazine Issue 5 - Out Now

A collection of breakfast food recipes inspired by the hawker stalls of Singapore.

Rosheen Kaul

Photo 18-2-2017, 1 42 24 am

Western breakfast options suck.

You know what’s a great breakfast? Laksa. Curry puffs. Congee. Freshly steamed rice rolls. You know what isn’t a great breakfast? Toast. Cereal. Porridge. Muesli. Healthy, yes. Gentle on the stomach, yes, if you’re into that sort of thing. Millions of people in Singapore eat bowls of tasty chaos for breakfast every morning and yet are perfectly healthy, with arguably less digestive issues than Australians. 

Why are western-style Australian breakfast offerings so gentle? So light and inoffensive? First meal of the day, I want to irritate my stomach lining with sambal chilli and an inky black coffee. It’s a show of strength. I like to show my gut who is boss. I want umami, I want depth of flavour, spice and texture. Cereal goes from two dimensional to one dimensional in a matter of seconds. I miss Singapore breakfast dishes. Recognisably, there’s toast. But it’s paper thin, toasted over charcoal, slathered in kaya with slices of cold butter and dipped into puddles of soy sauce-y, white peppery eggs. Smoky, sweet, rich, textural. You can keep your toaster toast and jammy jam. Vegemite is good though. Umami bomb.

One of my favourite things about Singapore breakfast dishes is that they’re nearly indistinguishable from lunch and dinner dishes. The breakfast ones seem to feature an egg, soft or hard-boiled, as a key component of the dish. But it’s also completely acceptable to eat these dishes at any time of the day or night. They’re packed with flavour, inexpensive, and you can find them in hawker centres everywhere. Convenient western chilled breakfast options like bircher muesli, fruit salad (90% melon) and chia puddings all taste like cold fridge. And cold fridge tastes like melon. 

Perhaps if we had laksa on every corner, people would be eating less melon and more laksa. Perhaps the dishes themselves aren’t the problem, but access to them is the mitigating factor. Let’s be real, no one in Singapore is cooking any of this stuff at home either – the laksa recipe alone has 28 ingredients and three and a half stages of cooking. After collating these recipes in an effort to bring more tasty breakfast options to the fore, I concede it’s probably just easier to eat cereal. 

Kopitiam breakfast set


Chwee kueh (water cake)


Nasi lemak


Katong Laksa

These recipes appeared in issue 3 of Swill. Grab your copy today.  


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