Seven Foods in Sabah and Singapore That Are Similar Yet Different

Seven Foods in Sabah and Singapore That Are Similar Yet Different

Sabahan and Singaporean food are more similar than you think!

It should come as no surprise that Malaysia and Singapore are both foodie havens. After all, the culinary experiences in these two countries, from street food to local delicacies, are simply world-class and famous throughout the globe. 

However, did you know that Sabah and Singapore actually share plenty of similarities when it comes to their unique local delicacies? From slurpy noodle dishes to truly exotic bites, here are seven types of food in Sabah and Singapore that are same-same but different


Sang Nyuk Mee (Sabah) vs Bak Chor Mee (Singapore) 

sang nyuk mee

Image credit: Sabah Tourism Board

One of the most popular dishes in Sabah is Sabah Pork Noodles! Known affectionately by locals as Sang Nyuk Mee, its name literally translates to “raw pork noodle”. However, don’t worry. Everything in your bowl of Sang Nyuk Mee is perfectly cooked.

There are two different types of Sang Nyuk Mee. However, regardless of whichever you choose, the main star of Sang Nyuk Mee remains the thin slices of pork that are boiled to juicy perfection in a rich broth. In the soupy version, the noodles are bathed in the flavourful broth used to cook the pork. The dry version, on the other hand, consists of noodles that are tossed with dark soy sauce and topped with aromatic fried pork lard. The pork slices come in a separate bowl along with the delicious soup. 

bak chor mee

Image credit: Mokkie

While you may not find Sang Nyuk Mee as easily in Singapore, you can find something that’s quite similar! Bak Chor Mee (literally minced pork noodles) is one of the most iconic noodle dishes in Singapore and, like its Sabahan counterpart, consists of two different versions. 

The soup-based version is the perfect antidote to a rainy day while the savoury dry version comes with plenty of chili, meatballs, and aromatic fried shallots. Just like with Sang Nyuk Mee, expect to find plenty of juicy pork with your bowl of Bak Chor Mee! 

The main difference between the two is the type of noodle that is used. While they are both egg noodles, the one used in Bak Chor Mee is often more flat, almost like thin strips of kuey teow while Sang Nyuk Mee noodles are rounder and have slightly more bite to them. That being said, both noodle dishes are incredibly tasty and will satisfy even the pickiest of palettes! 

Also read: 7 Hidden Hotspots and Gems To Explore in Sabah

Tuaran Mee (Sabah) vs Singapore Bee Hoon

tuaran mee

Image credit: CEphoto, Uwe Aranas

Another popular, traditional noodle dish from Sabah is Tuaran Mee, named after the town in which it was first invented. Made using slurpy egg noodles, Tuaran Mee is a sumptuous feast all on its own and is understandably one of the must try dishes in the Land Below the Wind. 

The noodles are stir-fried over high heat, usually in a wok, with other mouthwatering ingredients like egg roll slices, barbecued pork (Char Siu), and some greens. A good plate of Tuaran mee is as fragrant as it is delicious. The wavy noodles should be springy and contain an equal amount of eggy and smoky aromas. Basically, you’ll likely find yourself licking the plate clean! 

singapore bee hoon

Image credit: sooth_asia via CanvaPro

Back in Singapore, you have the delicious and famous Singapore Bee Hoon. While different hawkers use different ingredients and methods to cook this classic noodle dish, a typical serving contains similar ingredients to Tuaran Mee: eggs, meat, and vegetables, stir-fried together with crispy vermicelli noodles. 

Vermicelli on its own can look plain and not all that appetising, but paired with all these savoury ingredients and sauces (usually soy sauce and oyster sauce), they take on a whole world of flavour and transform into one of the most irresistible noodle dishes ever!

Seafood Bak Kut Teh (Sabah) vs Bak Kut Teh (Singapore) 

singapore bak kut teh

Image credit: Zanthrea via CanvaPro

Bak Kut Teh is a popular dish in both Sabah and Singapore and it’s easy to see why! After all, who doesn’t love hearty, peppery broth and succulent pork ribs? 

However, while both versions of the dish share plenty of similarities, there is a version in Sabah that is more unique. And that’s also considering the existing difference between Singaporean and Malaysian bak kut teh in general! 

seafood bak kut teh

Image credit: Sabah Tourism Board

Sandakan is an ambient coastal town in Sabah that is famous for having some of the freshest seafood in all of East Malaysia. Naturally, the locals have found plenty of ways to enjoy their fresh harvest. One thing led to the other and thus was born the unique combination of Seafood Bak Kut Teh! 

Unlike the regular version, the soup is thicker and richer thanks to the addition of juicy prawns and other ingredients from the sea. The soup also has a subtle fishy and pleasantly sweet aftertaste that pairs surprisingly well with a bowl of fluffy rice. Other regular must-have side dishes like cha kueh (fried dough) are often present too. 

Kuih Pinjaram vs Kuih Bakar Pandan

Image credit: Sabah Tourism Board

When it comes to light snacks, both Malaysians and Singaporeans have a bit of a sweet tooth. That’s why it comes as no surprise that there are also certain kuihs in Sabah that resemble classic Singaporean snacks. 

Kuih Pinjaram is a traditional snack found in Sabah, specifically in the area of Kota Belud. It is a sweet and slightly spongy snack made with rice flour, cornflour, sugar, and coconut milk. It is usually lightly fried in some shallow cooking oil to crisp up the edges but retains a soft and fluffy centre. Because of its shape, it is also often called “Kuih UFO”! 

Image credit: Wee Hong

In Singapore, there’s a kind of kuih that looks extremely similar to Kuih Pinjaram! Kuih Bakar Pandan is a sweet, pandan-flavoured snack that is both chewy and bouncy. As the name suggests, the main ingredient is fragrant pandan along with coconut milk, sugar, and flour. 

Unlike Kuih Pinjaram, this sweet-tasting snack is baked in an oven and topped with sesame seeds for an extra blast of flavour. Despite the differences, both snacks go a long way in satisfying your cravings for something sweet and go well with a hot cup of coffee in the afternoon. 

UFO Tart (Sabah) vs Beancurd Tart (Singapore) 

Speaking of UFO-shaped snacks in Sabah, one peculiar treat dessert lovers will love is the unique UFO tart. Found predominantly in the town of Sandakan, this sweet treat features a thin, vanilla-flavoured cake base and is topped with creamy custard and fresh meringue that is twisted into a mini spiral. These baked goodies are so good, people often gobble them up in one bite! 

tofu tart

Image credit: L.E. Cafe 

Equally as delicious are the quirky signature Beancurd Tarts from L.E. Cafe in Singapore! These interesting tarts are basically classic egg tarts except with a silky beancurd centre in place of egg custard. It offers a refreshing blast of sweetness that pairs well with the crumbly tart shell. 

Fun fact: The creation of the UFO Tart was potentially a complete accident! Legend has it that many years ago, a local cake baker accidentally overbaked his tarts. Rather than throw them out, he had a nibble and realised that they actually tasted good! And thus was born the now traditional UFO Tart! 

Sabah Tea vs Singapore Breakfast Tea

sabah tea

Image credit: Sabah Tea

Now that we’ve enjoyed some savoury and sweet snacks, it’s time to flush them down with a warm cup of fresh tea. Luckily, both Sabah and Singapore have their own signature brews and local tea leaves to enjoy! 

The best tea in Sabah arguably comes from the Sabah Tea Gardens. After all, the plantation is located at the foot of Mount Kinabalu, where the conditions are perfect for growing incredible tea leaves that make the most fragrant blends! 

Sabah Tea features such a pleasant aroma because the leaves are grown and harvested 100% pesticide-free! What’s more, having been in operation since the 1980s, Sabah Tea Gardens boasts an impeccable reputation for consistently high-quality tea that is rich in flavour and extremely healthy! 

twg tea

Image credit: TWG Tea

Meanwhile, Singapore is home to one of the world’s most famous premium tea brands: TWG Tea. Yes, THAT luxury tea brand that is often the number one choice for tea lovers is actually a Singaporean brand! 

While it features plenty of popular products, the one that best symbolises Singapore is their breakfast blend which features green and black tea. The leaves are roasted to perfection with rich vanilla and rare spices for an extra rich aroma. 

Singapore breakfast tea offers a subtle sweetness and a complex aftertaste that lingers on your palette. With its rustic flavours and bold fragrance, it’s the perfect embodiment of the harmony of Singapore in a cup! 

Taluwang Ice Cream (Sabah) vs Ice Cream Sandwich (Singapore) 

Image credit: Sabah Tourism Board

And finally, let’s talk about dessert! Whether it’s Sabah or Singapore, both destinations have plenty of sweet pickings for dessert lovers that exemplify the culinary culture of both places. In Sabah, thanks to the abundance of fresh fruits that are available, one of the most popular local desserts is ice cream potong (meaning popsicle) from Taluwang Ice Cream! 

These sweet and icy cold treats are the perfect remedy on a hot day. They also celebrate the flavours of the many different local produce such as durian, cempedak, yam, and more! In addition to their signature popsicles, Taluwang Ice Cream also features a range of cup ice cream and soft serves. 

ice cream sandwich

Image credit: noegrrr via CanvaPro

Although you can also find ice cream potong in Singapore, a much more iconic dessert is an ice cream sandwich! Often not found anywhere else but in Singapore, the humble ice cream sandwich is a nostalgic treat that most Singaporeans have fond memories of. 

As the name suggests, it is simply a slab of ice cream sandwiched in a slice of bread. These satisfying treats, especially on a hot day, can usually be found along the busy sidewalks of Orchard Road. There are plenty of ways you can customise your ice cream sandwich too! 

Chocolate ice cream sandwiched between rainbow-coloured bread is my go-to order but you can also choose to have your ice cream wrapped in crispy wafers! 

Also read: 5 Reasons Why Sabah Is Every ‘Lazy’ Traveller’s Best Friend

Bon appetit! 

And there you have it: Seven Sabahan and Singaporean delicacies that are strikingly similar yet also uniquely different. Which of the ones on this list are you most excited about trying next? 

Ready for a great foodie adventure in Sabah? Check out all these secret hotspots and must-try eats in The Land Below The Wind! 


Of course, with so many ethnic and local aboriginal communities in Sabah, there are plenty more culinary gems to discover in the Land Below the Wind. So what are you waiting for? Time to plan that trip to Sabah when the Vaccinated Travel Lane opens and begin your foodie adventure there!

Brought to you by Sabah Tourism Board.


About Author

Darren Yeoh
Darren Yeoh

Darren enjoys the finer things in life and loves exploring unfamiliar places on foot, guided with nothing but instinct and a good-old fashioned map. He enjoys cultural experiences and exciting adventures and is not a stranger to travelling alone. When he's not putting his travel experiences into words, he's probably sitting behind his laptop, planning his upcoming adventure.