8 Must-have Singapore Souvenirs
Whether you’ve just landed in Singapore or spending your last day here, this is an essential list of goodies for every tourist to bring home from the city-state.
One of the most addictive staples at Chinese, Malay, and Indian festivals in Singapore, the pineapple tart is definitely our favourite gift to friends and family abroad. A box can easily be polished off within one day, and leave them wanting more.
While there is no one standard type of pineapple tart - the style may change from shop to shop - we typically like our post-dinner snack dainty, buttery, and crumbly with a chewy pineapple jam centre. If you’re risk-averse or have a conservative outlook on trying new food items, we recommend buying your tarts from Bengawan Solo, a popular bakery in the country that sells plenty of other local goodies as well.
Singapore’s street food and hawker stalls often get all the spotlight, but there's a quiet star of Singaporean cuisine that can be found all over the island and even at the airport: bak kwa, which literally translates to Dried Meat. Those who have tried it find it hard to accept any substitutes when it comes to this flavourful barbequed meat jerky.
We highly recommend getting your bak kwa from popular Singaporean retailer Bee Cheng Hiang, whose first store opened in 1945. Often seen with snaking queues out the door during the Chinese New Year season, where many families buy bak kwa to celebrate the festival, the shop has multiple packaging options for travellers, including bite-sized vacuum packed collections and local designs on the wrappers.
A common must-have on a typical Singaporean's breakfast plate, kaya (coconut jam) goes perfectly in between two slices of lightly toasted white bread with some butter.
While it is sweet, it is not cloyingly so, and has the airy texture hard to find in other sorts of jam or spreads. You can always find it at local coffee shops, supermarkets and mom-and-pop stores, although we suggest getting a bottle fit for international travel at Ya Kun Kaya Toast, a nationwide chain that sells more than just kaya. If you have time to spare, we suggest having a kaya toast set with some half-boiled eggs and coffee or milk tea.
By now, you should have realised that half of this list is going to be food items (not that anyone’s going to be complaining).
If you’re a fan of Singaporean cooking, from the plain but never boring Hainanese Chicken Rice to the delectably spicy Indian Rojak, why not pick up a cookbook? Most bookstores will carry a cookbook specifically targeted at Singaporean dishes, but do try Popular Bookstores for a variety that may surprise you. For a jolly good time book-shopping, check out Popular’s biggest shop space at Bras Basah Complex, first opened in 1980.
What’s your favourite MRT station? Is it Chinatown where you saw bak kwa for the first time, or Clarke Quay, where you watched the scared-to-death folks scream to their hearts’ content on the Reverse Bungy? For a reminder of the Lion City when you're back home, pop on over to the Supermama’s newest Singapore Design Store, where you can find MRT keychains and more!
Got a philatelist in your friend list? Make their day by getting them stamp collectibles, from local festivities to gorgeous fauna to historic landmarks; all bits that make up the Singaporean identity. You can get them at the Singapore Philatelic Museum or visit the nearest Post Office to find out more.
Don’t worry - no actual tigers were harmed in the production of these balms; you’ll find that it’s made of camphor and menthol topical, and can be used for everything from relieving headaches to itchy insect bites.
While the balms are the most commonly used products by Tiger Balm, the company does sell other items that relieve pain and sooth aches, from patches to liniments. This is a godsend for your parents and all your colleagues back home who will definitely appreciate this thoughtful souvenir.
P.S. Tiger Balm products can be found at most supermarkets and pharmacies as well.
Salted Egg Yolk Potato Chips
Wait, did you think we were done with the food gifts? No way. Not only are these chips “dangerously addictive”, you’ll be happy to hear that the snacks can last for 1 year after production, although they should be best consumed a week after opening.
While salted egg yolk chips are not exactly local or traditional, they’ll still make uh-mazing gifts that are made in Singapore. The only caveat? Friends back home may ask you to bring more of them back the next time you visit Singapore.
As the old adage goes, good things come in small packages. If you're feeling lavish, check out Risis, a local retailer established in Singapore in 1976, and its collection of orchid jewellery, especially ones of its Vanda Miss Joaquim series. The Vanda Miss Joaquim orchid was officially named as Singapore’s national flower in 1981, and is said to represent the country’s “hardiness and resilience”.
For other orchid-related items, why not visit the Gardens Shop at the Singapore Botanic Gardens? You’ll be able to find lots of affordable, elegant and supremely thoughtful gifts there!