In Singapore two things are clearly important: Upscale shopping malls and Eating. With a variety of ethnicities combining, like Chinese, Malay, and Indian, there is an enormous assortment of architecture, religion, and most importantly, FOOD! I was in search of the best food in Singapore.
I’ve shared on the blog quite a bit about Singapore, although I was there only 4 days. Guidebooks advise it as a 1-2 day stopover but I think 4 days is perfect if you have the budget for it. Singapore is small and easy to get around using the MRT train (most tickets costing around 4 SD or less). The neighborhoods of Singapore make it easy to get food your craving in places like Arab Street, China Town, and Little India.
If you’d like a variety you can go to “coffee shops”, food courts, and hawkers which are all very similar and as a tourist hard to tell apart. Hawkers are meant to be the cheapest selection of street food described all over the internet as a place “you’ll be rubbing sweaty elbows with Singaporean locals who know where to go”. I didn’t find that to be the case at all, with Hawkers being very touristy and overpriced. Possibly the two most famous are Lau Pa Sat and Newtons. Lau Pa Sat was closed for construction but the side streets took the overflow and still had food stalls.
Peanut Balls & Spring Rolls
The first bits of Singaporean food I tried were upon arrival at Bugis. Luckily we were staying with a local (a friend of Ben’s) and got lots of great advise on what to try. Peanut balls covered in sesame seeds were good, but maybe not my cup of tea. The spring roll on the other hand was the freshest I’ve had. YUM. If only it came with some kind of sweet chili sauce.
To drink we had fresh juices. I got grape juice, which was VERY grapey, if that’s a thing. I had never had fresh grape juice before. The boys got what Dom recommended… Ka Dong Dong (in Malay), or Bah Long Long (in Chinese). Ben and I both agree it tastes like pickle juice! I literally tried looking up what it is online and can’t find it which is a little bit scary.
For dinner we ate at Hannibal in Robertson Quay. Hannibal has great sirloin steaks, the BEST mushroom risotto, burgers, and pizza. I wasn’t impressed with the chicken wings or nachos. I realize that in Singapore one might only want local food, but sometimes Ben and I want what we miss from home and can’t find in India. Food at Hannibal ranges from 10-40 bucks and about 7-10 for coke/wine/and beer- but it was not the best food in Singapore… I was still on the look out.
Roberton Quay is a popular place for people to watch soccer, eat bar food, and have a quiet beer. We saw a lot of expats/interns here. Nearby Clark Quay has a more wild nightlife surrounding a center fountain with… outdoor A/C! What! We went during the day as well for brunch along the river and it was scrumptious. All the restaurants along the walkway are ranked highly.
Satay & Lemon Chicken
The most famous hawker Lau Pa Sat was closed, but I am not too bummed. Our friends there are locals and said it’s gone way downhill. We ate at the side street where the overflow from Lau Pa Sat is. There were more tourists than locals for sure. We paid almost 80 dollars for our food, some of which was inedible. Peanut Chicken, pork, and prawn satay was very good. The pork soup was bland, and the beef (that was supposed to come with vegetables) tasted like it was 10 days old. We couldn’t eat it. The best part about it was the lemon chicken… omg to die for! Dom and Massy who we stayed with only brought us here at my request and did tell me at a food court all the food would have been no more than 30 SD. Damn you Lonely Planet.
Dumplings, Noodles, and Duck
Another cool little food court was Bukit Timah Food Court just minutes from where we were staying. They say stand were the line is the longest, but Massy let me in on a secret- the Sinaporeans just get in a line that has a couple people and before you know it everyone jumps lines thinking it must be the best food! So really just go for what looks and smells good. I tried the Fried Dumplings and Fried Kway Teow. The noodles didn’t do much for me, but the dumplings were so fresh. I live for dumplings and momos. Ben got the duck and rice and liked the duck itself but wasn’t fond of the sauce.
So much food, So little time… last minute tips
Other food that I will be trying when I go back (that I couldn’t find at the food courts) are the famous black pepper crab, xiao long bao (soup dumplings), and the bak tuk (pork rib soup). I saw an option of bak tuk at Bukit Timah, but it didn’t look like it would be ‘all that’. I’d also like to try the Laksa, a Malaysian dish and kaya jam.
A famous Singaporean food that I do NOT want to try is fish head soup.
photo credit: flickr
TIP: make sure you ask for barramundi, not snapper. Although a delicious fish, there is hardly any meat in the heads, so they will try to give the snapper heads to tourists.
A fruit famous to Singapore, durian, is so stinky you can smell it around the corner even when it’s wrapped up. It’s a payable fine if you take a durian with you on transportation (MRT or cab). Some hotels won’t allow them either. If you look at the price markers you will see how even though it all looks the same, they have very different qualities making some much more expensive.
Tipping: Remember a service charge is on the bill so don’t tip too much over (or don’t tip at all if you don’t want to) and at hawkers it is not customary to tip. Also, ordering is easy because there are photos of everything with price!
Overall, the foods that I did like tended to be Chinese; I decided for me, the best food in Singapore is the lemon chicken. I didn’t try the Indian, as I live in India and all that I saw looked and smelled identical while being made by Indians. Singapore is a “foodies heaven” so I think that means I’m not as much as a foodie as I thought… or my taste buds still have some growing up to do!