With an abundance of culture and stunning gardens weaved through patchworks of space-age architecture, Singapore really is something to behold. In this supercharged city, you can transport yourself from Chinatown to Marina Bay in a flash using the city’s state-of-the-art metro while marvelling at the futuristic skyline and its glistening lights.
Wandering through Singapore’s vivid streets, it won’t take long for you to find somewhere appetising to eat, whether that’s a hawker food centre or an upmarket Michelin-starred restaurant - maybe even both at the same time! To help you navigate these eclectic choices, we spoke to a range of travellers who fell in love with the city’s futuristic charm as well as native Singaporean bloggers to find out more about dining in Singapore.
What is Singapore’s dining scene like?
If there’s one thing Singaporeans love, it’s food, says Will Fly For Food blogger JB. “Singaporeans LOVE to eat. They enjoy eating out which is why food blogging is so popular there. As expensive a city as Singapore is, it’s amazing how cheap the food can be. For a few dollars, you can have terrific meals at a hawker stall. This is why many Singaporeans eat out most of the time. I know a few locals who rarely cook because it’s so cheap to eat out.”
Laura from private tour group Hello Singapore describes Singapore’s dining scene as a delectable intermingling of cultures. “Dining out in Singapore is a wonderful, overwhelming assault on your taste buds. The permanent resident population of Singapore comprises of 2.9 million Chinese, 500,000 Malays, 350,000 Indians and a smattering of others. There’s a good reason why they call it ‘The Melting Pot of Asia’.”
Juliana Loh, a Singaporean travel blogger at Chicken Scrawlings, loves this assortment of cultural cuisines that her home city has to offer. “One of the best things about dining in Singapore is the vast variety of cuisines to discover, from Malay, Indian, Peranakan cuisine to Michelin-starred French restaurants and Chinese wok stir-fries.
“You can dine in hawker centres, hipster cafes and fine dining restaurants - there’s something for everyone. As Singapore is an island, tropical vegetables and seafood are abundant, so compared to other big Metropolitan cities, it is affordable to eat well while dining out without having to budget for it.”
What to eat in Singapore
Mitsueki blogger and Singaporean native Daphne Xiao says it’s easy to find good food in and around the city, much of which can be found in inconspicuous food stalls. “Other than the usual restaurants in the malls, a local favourite will be eating out at a traditional ‘Zi Char’ restaurant or choosing from the plethora of amazing food stalls at the many hawker centres around Singapore!”
When dining at any of these places, Daphne recommends tucking into traditional Singaporean dishes. “You can’t go wrong with classic local Singaporean fare such as chilli crab with fried mantou, Hainanese chicken rice, hokkein mee, sambal stingray (just to name a few) with family, friends and loved ones. The BEST kind of bonding can be found over food, especially in our tiny red dot called Singapore!"
Recommended by Daphne, JB also agrees that chili crab is a must-try. “There are so many delicious things to be had in Singapore, but I’d have to go with chili crab. Singaporeans consider it one of their greatest culinary creations and often refer to it as their national dish. It’s made by stir-frying crabs, commonly mud crabs, in a tomato and chili-based sauce thickened with egg. They call it chili crab, but it isn’t very spicy at all. It tastes more sweet and tangy with hints of spice. Order it with some fried mantou bread to dunk in the chili sauce and you’re in heaven!”
Laura, on the other hand, recommends a slightly different dish, one that is not what you think it is! “Ever heard of a Carrot Cake which doesn't have a single carrot in it? Carrot Cake is a savoury favourite made from white radish and rice flour. Steamed, cubed and then fried with garlic and eggs, it’s an absolute winner.
“Pair your Carrot Cake with a Rojak (salad). The ingredients echo the cultural diversity of Singapore; blending together a variety of different vegetables, fruits and dough fritters in a flavourful fusion. Rojak is a Malay word meaning 'eclectic mix'. Top this mixed 'salad' with a sweet-sour and spicy sauce made from prawn paste, sugar, lime and chilli paste and you have a dish that epitomises the eclectic mix of Singapore.”
When it comes to breakfast, Michelle from Full Time Explorer was sold by one particular dish: kaya toast. “My best friend is from Singapore, so she recommended her favourite local dishes for me to try, including kaya toast.
“Kaya is a spread made from coconut milk, sugar, eggs, and butter. In Singapore, it’s spread on toast for a tasty snack or for breakfast. Locals eat it with soft boiled eggs on the side. The first time I tried it, I had no idea what to do, so I watched a family next to me eat theirs. They broke the eggs into a bowl and added soy sauce to it. Then, they dipped the toast in the soft-boiled eggs. It looked so foreign to me, but I tried it, and it was an amazing combination! I ended up going to the same restaurant every morning to have Kaya Toast.”
You can read more about kaya toast and other traditional Singaporean dishes Michelle recommends here.
Top restaurants in Singapore
Whether you’re looking to sample some traditional Singaporean fare or feast upon a delectable dish from another culture, the below restaurants are sure to impress and give you a real taste of Singapore’s food and dining out culture.
1 St Andrew's Rd, #01-04 National Gallery
Known for its splendour and award-winning dishes, a visit to Odette is sure to be one you won’t forget anytime soon.
“Odette is named in tribute to Chef-Owner Julien Royer’s grandmother,” Assistant Manager Deborah Theseira told us. “She taught him how some of the most remarkable dishes can come from the purest ingredients and believed in ensuring that the fundamental pleasures of enjoying a meal are delivered in the most thoughtful, welcoming and hospitable manner. This ethos has directed every aspect of the Odette experience, harking to a new age in fine dining.”
Cuisine-wise, at Odette you can enjoy “modern French cuisine guided by a lifelong respect for seasonality, terroir and artisanal produce,” says Deborah, with your experience sure to be one of the best you’ve ever had due to the restaurant’s impressive number of awards. “We currently rank at #5 in Asia's 50 Best Restaurants 2018 (The #1 best restaurant in Singapore!) and climbed to #28 on World's 50 Best Restaurants 2018 while maintaining 2 Michelin stars for 3 years running.”
20 Teck Lim Rd
Love barbecue food? Then a visit to Burnt Ends’ Australian barbecue restaurant is sure to delight your taste buds.
"We are a modern Australian barbecue restaurant that believes in great ingredients and honest cooking,” Dave Pynt, Chef-Owner of Burnt Ends told us. “We want our guests to enjoy things in a casual environment yet create a special experience they will remember. We write our menu daily and believe that there’s magic that comes from cooking with wood and that's why we built a custom four tonne, dual cavity oven, and three elevation grills. Our oven is fired by Jarrah Wood from Western Australia allowing us to cook with various techniques from smoking, slow roasting, and hot roasting, to baking and grilling."
From slow-grilled pork jowl with jaew and khao jii to Western Australian marron (crayfish) and black truffle, these are just some of the amazing dishes Burnt Ends has served up for its loyal customers in the past. Hungry yet?
Hill Street Tai Hwa Pork Noodle
466 Crawford Ln, #01-12
When it comes to food and restaurants, JB says hawker centres are a must-visit during your time in Singapore, in particular, hawker stall Hill Street Tai Hwa Pork Noodle.
“We especially enjoy eating at hawker centres,” says JB. “Each one has dozens of food stalls, some of which have been serving the same iconic dish for decades. If you're unsure where to go, just look for the stalls with the longest lines and you’re guaranteed to have a cheap and delicious meal. Hawker centres truly are the heart and soul of Singaporean dining.
“As well as the highly-publicised Hawker Chan, another hawker stall was awarded a Michelin star too, Hill Street Tai Hwa Pork Noodle. For me, Hill Street Tai Hwa Pork Noodle deserves just as much attention. Their bak chor mee, which is a vinegar and spicy sambal pork noodle dish, was absolutely phenomenal and one of the best things we had in Singapore.”
Ready to navigate Singapore’s food culture? Book a cruise to Singapore today and get to know this unique and extraordinary city through a range of cruise excursions.