Last updated on October 4, 2013
You don’t go to Singapore to see the sites or discover its history; you go to Singapore to indulge in a heavenly world of flavour. Singaporeans live for their food. They talk about it constantly and greet each other not with a “how are you?”, but with a “have you eaten yet?” Their lives and conversations revolve around breakfast, lunch, dinner and the mini meals in-between. From simple street stalls selling haute hawker fare, to five-star skyscraper restaurants offering world-class fine dining – food means everything in this global melting pot. But with so much on offer, where on earth are you meant to start?
Don’t worry, hungry traveller, for here is your gourmet guide to Singapore’s very best eats.
1. Chili Crab: Singapore’s Officially Unofficial National Dish
One of Singapore’s true signature dishes, chili crab is served in a delicious spicy chili and tomato gravy. The locals can’t get enough of it and you’ll see them mopping up the gravy with little mantou buns – delicious!
Where to eat chili crab in Singapore: Roland Restaurant is said to be the originator of this spicy surprise. Find them at: Block 89 Marine Parade Central #06-750
2. Fish Head Curry: Indian and Chinese Fusion
Singapore’s fusion of different cultures has led to all kinds of weird and wonderful dishes. Back in the late ‘70s an Indian restaurant owner started adding fish heads to his curries to impress his Chinese clientele. Needless to say, it worked a treat and soon became one of Singapore’s favourite meals. Served with rice and banana leaves, these days you’ll find the fish heads are strictly that of the exotic red snapper variety – their cheeks are surprisingly tender and meaty.
Where to eat fish head soup in Singapore: The Banana Leaf Apolo has been serving up this cheeky little dish for decades now and they certainly know what they’re doing. Find them at: 54 Race Course Road, tel +65 6297 1595
3. Kaya Toast: Like British Breakfast, but Better!
A remnant of Singapore’s days under British rule, Kaya Toast is, perhaps, best described as the Asian version of Britain’s favourite breakfast snack: toast with jam. But, instead of using strawberry jam like the Brits, the Singaporeans use a sweet coconut and egg spread, often adding a healthy dash of soy sauce for an extra kick. Served as a quick and delicious snack with a cup of coffee or tea, Kaya Toast is a classic Singaporean snack you need to try.
Where to eat kaya toast in Singapore: If there’s one company that turned Kaya Toast into a cultural classic, it has to be Ya Kun Kaya Toast. The company started as a one-stall company, but has recently opened franchises across Singapore. When you see one on your travels, make sure you pop in!
4. Dim Sum: Chinese Tapas
The Chinese community accounts for about 75% of Singapore’s total population. As you might imagine, this makes a massive impression on the city’s cuisine. Dim Sum is similar to tapas in the sense that it is prepared in tiny, bite-size portions. Each little pastry dumpling is filled with pork, chicken, or perhaps prawns or other seafood. Every bite is a pleasure, and at these super low prices, you can afford to keep putting them in your mouth all day long.
Where to eat dim sum in Singapore: For super high quality and pleasingly low prices, head to Crystal Jade Golden Palace at 290 Orchard Rd, Singapore 238859
5. Chicken Rice: It’s All About Balance
Chicken rice is another one of Singapore’s unofficial national dishes; everyone loves it and has their own views on how it should be made. It’s all about the rich soy sauce, chili and garlic; and it must be served with aromatic rice which glistens with chicken fat.
Where to eat chicken rice in Singapore: You’ll find chicken rice served at most hawker centres and street stalls, but a particular favourite is Tian Tian Chicken Rice, which is frequented by international celebrities, including Britain’s infamous chef, Gordon Ramsey. Find it at #01-10 Maxwell Food Centre, Singapore 069120.
Other Important Information
Where to stay: If you’re looking for luxury and money isn’t too much of a problem, stay in the 5* area of Marina Bay. But if you’re on a tight budget and don’t have much time, be sure to stay near to Orchard Road, where you’ll stumble across a ton of affordable hostels.
How to get there: Singapore flights tend to fluctuate in price throughout the year. Be sure to keep an eye on all of the big online travel comparison sites to make sure you know when there are offers to be had.
Etiquette: There are many different cultures within Singapore, but you should be able to get by with shaking hands or offering a small bow when meeting someone. The key is to be assertive in your intention as it is widely considered that the woman should extend her hand first. It’s also important to greet older people first, and to respect status at all times.