Given Singapore’s national sports appear to be eating and drinking, it’s hardly surprising that, as a card-carrying glutton, it is a destination that has wormed its way into my heart, via my fickle stomach.
Without doubt one of the best food cities on earth, traders and settlers from Malaysia, China, India, Indonesia and Europe have created a culinary culture that is both familiar and yet unlike anywhere on earth.
In Singapore, you’re pretty much guaranteed a good meal, whether your budget is $2 or $2000! You’ll find authentic Chinese offerings in Chinatown, insanely good curries in Little India and Halal favourites in Arab Street. And then there’s the awesome fine dining! Just remember to pack your loosest clothes because you’re going to expand.
Of course, there’s loads to do besides eat, with loads of brilliant all age activities in Singapore. But if you’re travel heart is in your stomach, like ours, you’ll be all about the food.
But with so many amazing places to eat, where do you start? Never fear, our Singapore dining guide is here to help!
SINGAPORE DINING – HAWKER STALKER
Raffles and I make it a policy to dive head first into the nearest hawker centre as soon as we arrive in Singapore and have managed to taste our way through most of them over our numerous visits. You can check out our tips for safe street eats here. Not only are the city’s many Hawker Markets a bargain, these fuss-free food courts with fastidious hygiene standards offer such a variety of food you can find something for everyone, even the fussiest eater. Not that we have much trouble in that department. So, what do we recommend and where? Got a while?
We can’t get enough of the steaming bowls of prawn laksa at Roxy Laksa, gooey oyster omelettes at Song Kee Fried Oyster and the irresistible Fish Head Curry (don’t knock it until you try it) at Eastern Red Seafood, and the famous chilli and pepper crab at Jumbo (one of five outlets located in Singapore) in the East Coast Lagoon Food Village.
At Chinatown Food Centre, we head to Liao Fan for char siew noodles, the world’s cheapest Michelin-star meal. Raff also loves fried kway teow and the servings at Hill Street Fried Kway Teow are pretty darned good. And we always cool off with an Ice Kachang from Bur Bur Cha Cha.
While most people extol the virtues of Maxwell Food Centre’s Tian Tian Chicken Rice, we skip the queue and head to Maxwell Fuzhou Oyster Cake for battered and fried oyster filled delights and Marina South Delicious Food for hokkien mee noodles with egg, pork, prawns, and squid.
Under the pretty Victorian eves of Lau Pa Sat I’m quite a fan of the tea rice (a mix of vegetables and rice served with a bowl of tea soup and topped with peanuts and fried anchovies) and no one in our family can resist a sneaky satay or ten at Lau Pa Sat’s nightly Satay Street Market.
Tiong Bahru Market is another hawker favourite of ours, with more Michelin recommended eats as well as a fascinating wet market underneath. Go for soft, bouncy chwee kueh (steamed rice cakes with spicy chilli and preserved radish) at Jian Bo Shui Kueh, Roasted Duck at Lee Hong Kee, and the savoury pan-fried black and white Fried Carrot Cake Tiong Bahru Kampung Carrot Cake. And the chicken rice, Singapore’s national dish, from Michelin-lauded Tiong Bahru Hainanese Boneless Chicken Rice, is not to be missed.
There’s more than noodles and satay on the menu at Timbre+, which is more funky gastropark than hawker market. At this street art-strewn, licensed hawker market, Singapore’s most talented musicians will serve up a side of music with your meal, but you’re as likely to find Cajun gumbo as chicken rice amongst its vintage food vans.
Sentosa Island also has an impressive hawker centre in Malaysian Food Street, where the best street food of Malaysia is showcased in an old colonial town style indoor market. The food is a little pricier than the Hawker centre’s in town but the food is as authentic as it is delicious and definitely worth a visit. Raff rates the soupy and spicy curry noodles at Sempalit Curry Chicken and I couldn’t get enough of smoky Heun Hee Claypot Chicken Rice
If too much hawker market is never enough, you can even stop for a last fill of hawker favourites before you fly home at Changi Airport’s Singapore Food Street. Sugarpuff loves to nab a last hit of her favourite, nasi lemak (a fragrant and flavour-packed rice dish cooked in coconut milk), at Changi Village Nasi Lemak.
Hawker hint: If you find the unidentifiable market mysteries in the cavernous hawker centres a little on the overwhelming side, join the longest queue, the locals now what’s best! Or better still join a Hawker Centre Discovery Tour with one of the clued-up local guides from Wok’n’Stroll.
SINGAPORE DINING – A BIG BITE OF LITTLE INDIA
Spice up your life at one of the brilliant Indian eateries that are dotted between the colourful sari shops and intricately decorated Hindu temples of Little India.
Head to the Tekka centre, an Indian-infused Hawker market, for masala dosai (Indian pancakes stuffed with spiced potato) at Jamal Restaurant and mutton byriani at Yakader Muslim Food.
Seafood lovers should head to Spice Junction on Serangoon Road for meen pollichathu, a tangy Keralan style fish curry. Also located on Serangoon road, Khansama Tandoori Restaurant is the spot for Northern Indian Tandoor-cooked delights. Their mixed tikka is, according to my melodramatic son, life changing, and all the curries we’ve tried are good.
For vegetarian delights, we love Madras New Woodlands in Upper Dickson Road for their insane VIP Thali platters that come with a selection of vegetables and curries in mini metal pots and upwards of ten side dishes! Their puffed-up bhatura (kind of like a crispy roti balloon) are amazing. And be sure to finish your meal with a mango lassi or milky masala tea.
The big winner for us though is Banana Leaf Apolo. The food is delicious, and the kids love it because it’s messy! There are no plates and cutlery is entirely optional as tables are laid with fresh banana leaves for patrons to eat from, with their hands. They are particularly fond of the restaurant’s masala chicken and the fish head curry (one of the best in Singapore), while I’m all about the delicious eggplant curry.
SINGAPORE DINING – MIDDLE EASTERN MUNCHIES
Kampong Glam, Singapore’s Arab Quarter, is the centre of halal Malay and Middle Eastern food. I have but one piece of advice here. Do no pass go, just head straight to Zam Zam to wolf down fried chicken, amazing curries and the best murtabak (fried pancake stuffed with meat, onions and eggs) on earth. Then, wolf down some more! They’re unbelievably good.
Of course, there are other great eats in the area. If you prefer rustic Kampung halal cuisine, the lemak siput (sea snails in coconut milk gravy), sambal goreng (fried chilli paste) and Beef Rendang at halal restauarnt, Hajah Maimunah are pretty good.
The signature kebabs at colourful Alaturka Mediterranean & Turkish Restaurant are also on our must scoff list. We love the patlican kebab (skewered lamb & beef with eggplant chunks). Just save space for some of their sweetly sublime baklava.
In Singapore’s Arts District, there’s more Middle Eastern magic being conjured up by Masterchef Singapore Judge, Bjorn Shen at atmospheric Artichoke. This is the place for Mideast-inspired dude food and while it is anything but traditional, it’s unbelievably good. Our faves are the soft and fluffy pita bread served with burnt miso hummus and fall off the bone lamb shoulder. But it’s the burnt honey and sea salt soft serve that has turned us into slavish stalkers, returning as often as possible for a fix.
SINGAPORE DINING – FANCY SCHMANCY
No guide to Singapore dining would be complete without looking at the cuisine to be found at the top end of town. Wolfgang Puck, Tetsuya Wakuda and Gordon Ramsay are just a few of the celebrated chefs who have come to Singapore to serve up epicurean delights in sumptuous style, though at equally sumptuous prices.
But it is Michelin-starred JAAN, on the 70th floor of the amazing Swissotel The Stamford, is my pick of the city’s salubrious diners, not only for extraordinary French cuisine paired with a hint of British attitude, but for the city’s most stunning views. Plus, at around $98 for a four-course set lunch, a meal here doesn’t necessitate me selling one of the kids.
For fine dining without the high-end price tag, brunch is an excellent choice for visitors to Singapore. Our pick is the bountiful Sunday champagne brunch at Kwee Zeen in the ultra luxurious Sofitel Singapore Sentosa Resort, and not only because of the free-flowing Taittinger and access to the resort’s stunning midnight black pool! Though it certainly helps.
And for something not quite as high-end but entirely magical, the Harry Potter-themed Platform 1094 is the spot for in-the-know wizards and witches in Singapore.