Must-Try Food of Singapore
We had a really tough time narrowing our choices down to just a few. But if we had our hands tied, and only so little time in Singapore - these would be the dishes we would definitely NOT miss!
Hainanese Chicken Rice
There are only a few local dishes served on the menu of Singapore Airlines, and this is one of them! Tender pieces of chicken (roasted or steamed) served with flavourful rice cooked in rich chicken broth along with its characteristic chilli-ginger paste, it is a comfort dish for most Singaporeans. Our personal favourite is the roasted chicken along with an additional order of oyster sauce kailan for a complete meal.
Every Singaporean will guide you to their BEST chicken rice - 5star, Tian Tian, Wee Nam Kee to name a few. We are a fan of the latter. One thing is for sure - there is always a chicken rice store around any corner of Singapore.
A highly popular Peranakan dish, and several variations of it can be found. There is the spicy-sour assam based fish noodle soup called Penang Laksa, and the spicy creamy coconut based variation known lovingly as Katong Laksa named after the district in Singapore it originated from. The latter is our favourite version of the dish - thick vermicelli noodles and prawns served in a rich coconut curry soup with laksa leaves atop! Yum! (If you aren't a fan of cockles - like us! - remember to ask for that to be left out!).
Theres only one place for this & all Singaporeans will agree - Katong Laksa!
Sambal (chilli paste) Sting Ray
Everyone imagines those beautiful manta rays they saw swimming around at the Aquarium at Sentosa - but if you can get past your guilt this is a dish you will not regret trying! We promise you it will not be served up looking anything like your friendly friends at the Aquarium. Sambal coated and wrapped in banana leaf, it is barbecued to a smoky perfection and served with a coating of zesty chilli paste. Known also as "Ikan Bakar", I dare say this is one of our favourite dishes - you cannot leave Singapore without trying this!
Our favourite place for this dish is East Coast Food Village - something up for debate with many foodie Singaporeans who might prefer Chomp Chomp @ Serangoon Gardens.
This dish, like the Laksa, comes in the local Singaporean version and the Malaysian version as well and they go by the same name. Appereance-wise though it is easy to tell them apart. The Malaysian Hokkien Mee utilises a thick noodle and is cooked in black sauce, whereas the Singaporean version of this dish is a duo of noodles cooked in a rich prawn broth and takes on a lighter apperance. It is almost impossible to find the latter outside of Singapore so you must have a try whilst on the Red Dot!
Sukhi's favourite hokkien mee stall is the same one shes been visiting since high school - Gim Chew Fried Hokkien Mee @ Bedok Interchange Food Centre. The old lady behind the wok makes the sauciest hokkien mee you will find!
Fried Carrot Cake
Yes. Fried! This savoury dish is far from the Swiss (Argovian) dessert many are accustomed to. Commonly referred to as 'chai tow kway' in the Teochew dialect, this delicacy can be found in almost every hawker centre. Steamed white radish cooked in egg with delicious condiments - it is truly sinful. It is served black (fried with sweet dark soya sauce) or white (original) - we LOVE the black version!
Hands down the best place for this dish is at Lagoon Carrot Cake @ East Coast Food Village. Absolutely sublime!
Chilli crab is one of Singapore's greatest culinary inventions and it originated from a humble pushcart in 1956. The sweet meat of the Sri Lankan crabs (commonly used) goes incredibly well with the tangy sauce it is served in. Chilli crabs are usually eaten along with fried mantous (buns), which are dipped in the luscious sweet spicy chilli sauce and that's why its our favourite! It's a messy affair eating these crabs but well worth it!
Jumbo Seafood ; No Sign Board seafood ; Long Beach Seafood - you can't go wrong with these places! We personally like these seafood places by the East Coast Beach with the view of anchored ships in the horizon. (yes we are proving to be biased eastenders!)
Rojak literally translates into "a mixture" and that's exactly what this dish is about! There are again two variations - the Chinese version which is a mix of taupok (puffy, deep-fried tofu), you tiao (dough fritters) and various fruits mixed in a prawn paste sauce and topped with a good serving of crushed peanuts. The Indian version is instead savoury and consists of various fried items which you can individually select, served with a sweet-spicy red dipping sauce. The Chinese version is Sukhi's ultimate comfort food and what she misses most when away from home. A must try it by our books!
The secret is in the kuah (sauce) & it's so hard to get it right so the best according to us would be: "Habib Power Rojak" at Bedok North Blk 87 for Indian Rojak ; "Traditional Rojak" at Fengshan Blk 85 market #01-56 for Chinese Rojak.
This common breakfast dish is hard to get your hands on unless you are an early riser - most stalls stay open only for as long as there is "stock". These soft steamed rice cakes topped with chai poh (preserved radish) and chilli paste is the best thing to wake up to on a Sunday morning. Sukhi's family fondly calls it "Ko-li-ya" (translates to bowls in Punjabi) as it is steamed in small round metal bowls giving it its distinctive shape.
The family's favourite would be Bedok Chwee Kueh @ Bedok Interchange Food Centre. We recommend only the best!
Malay style Nasi Lemak
This is the weakness of most of Sukhi's aunts and uncles who now live overseas, and it is almost always the first thing they request for when they visit sunny Singapore! Fragrant rice cooked in coconut milk and pandan leaves, served with a delicious sambal, fried anchovies, peanuts, egg and cucumber slices - it is truly heavenly! A really simple dish yet completely hearty.
Almost every Singaporean will say "There is only one place for this: Changi Village!" - though it is also easily available elsewhere. Nothing beats home cooking and Sukhi's mum & grandma makes the best nasi lemak in town!
Also known as Roti Canai in Malaysia - this flatbread with curry is a common breakfast and supper dish after a night out in town - though it can be eaten at any time of day! The dough is flipped till its paper thin then folded multi-layered before cooking giving it a glorious flaky texture. It comes in many savoury versions and a few unique sweet (durian/chocolate/strawberry) versions as well. Another dish belonging to the same family is the Murtabak which is essentially prata filled with tender pieces of chicken or lamb served with curry sauce.
The topic of the best prata place is a hot one among Singaporeans - the names Duku Road &, Jalan Kayu most often coming up. If you are in the mood for some fusion try Springleaf Prata Place for their egg benedict prata and their mozzarella & portobello mushroom prata. Sukhi's father's word of advice is to try Chicken murtabak from this Indian-Muslim food stall at 136 Bedok North Street 1
This is Southeast Asia's rendition of the kebab with a few unique twists. The specially marinated skewered chicken, lamb or beef grilled over an open charcoal flame is truly a sight to behold! Served with a sweet-spicy peanut sauce - it goes perfectly with an ice cold Tiger beer. The satays are usually served with ketupat (rice cooked in coconut leave casings), cucumbers and onions for the extra textures.
You can find satay at any good hawker - Newton Circus, East Coast Food Village, Blk 85 Fengshan market, Satay by the Bay. A very trusty local highly recommends stall no. 8 at Lau Pa Sat (the original satay lane of Singapore).
Exploration Trails of Singapore
Explore Singapore on foot is the best way of getting a real feel for the diversity of the lion city!
Macritchie Reservoir - Discover the green parts of Singapore, Nature Trail
For Nature lovers or the ones who just would like to escape the buzzing city life of Singapore, there are a number of options in one of the greenest cities of this planet. Who would have known that Singapore is home to the only primary urban rainforest aside of Rio?
The main rainforest areas are right smack in the middle of the island and the best way to explore is to go to MacRitchie Reservoir main entrance (Thomson Road)
and walk alongside the serene reservoir on planks of wood or in the forest towards the West. Once you reach the fringes of the Singapore Island Country Club's Golf Course
after 3.5 km, continue along the reservoir and shortly you will be at the Top Tree Walk
(a walk 25m above ground in the canopies of the mighty tropical trees). Once you have made your escape from the friendly monkeys that inhabitat these forests, from the exit of the Tree Top Walk it is around 2.5 km back to civilisation (follow the signs to the exit).
Disclaimer: Do not underestimate Singapore's heat and humidity especially during such hiking activities. Please bring enough water and a small snack, and cash for a cab fare back.
Sentosa - Sun, Sand and Sea!
Sentosa offers a great deal of attractions and is only a short distance away from the Central Business District. You can walk onto the island, take the monorail ($4) from Vivocity or take a cab. Once you have arrived on the Island, alight at the "Waterfront" station. From there you can access Universal Studios
, the Aquarium
or Adventure Cove
Water Park (see under "Sights to See"). If you are already hungry, there are lots of places to eat - most recommendable is the Malaysian Food Street
which offers delicious dishes from our big neighbour in the North.
Follow the signs and a short stroll up the escalators will bring you deeper into Sentosa.(alternatively you can hop on the monorail again down to Imbiah Station) A first remarkable sight is the 37ft tall Merlion
, Singapore's mythical mascott creature. From the Merlion you can go up further to Imbiah Lookout where you can visit Madame Tussaud's Wax Museum
and the Images of Singapore
where you can discover the colourful story of the lion city. You can also board The Luge
which will get you down to Siloso Beach
in no time, riding on go-carts downhill.
An alternative way to Siloso Beach
is a walk that leads from the Merlion through a colourful Gaudí-esque trailing fountain
. By the beach there are a number of relaxing restaurants and funky beach bars to end off your day at Sentosa. You might also walk to take a dip in the South China Sea, which is entirely up to you if you'll enjoy your swim in front of a backdrop of anchoring ships.
If you want to experience the more upmarket side of Sentosa, take a cab down to Sentosa Cove
and you will think you are in Monaco instead. Plenty of great restaurants there right by the yachts! Fun fact: Before Sentosa became Singapore playground, it was known as "Pulau Belakang Mati" - translated from Malay to mean "Death Behind the Island", referring to the Island's function as a killing site during the Japanese Occupation.
Marina Bay/Central Business District - The posher side of Singapore
Singapore is often referred to as extremely clean and nowhere is it more apparent than here. The tallest skyscrapers are to be found here and also some of the most iconic buildings dating back to the colonial times.
This walk is best started before sunset at Raffles Place
at which the tallest building of Singapore to date stands at address no. 1. One Raffles Place is an office building which hosts the world's highest al fresco roof top bar 1-Altitude
with stunning views of almost the entire city state. The entry fee of SGD 30 includes a cocktail (try the Singapore Sling!). For those who would like to enjoy a similar view at a lower price, consider the Italian restaurant/bar Zafferano
located right opposite in the Ocean Financial Centre.
After the sun has set, it is time to move on to exploring the ground. Take a stroll over to the Singapore
River from where you can walk towards Fullerton Hotel
, once home to the Central Post Office. Enter their impressive foyer through the main door and head down to level -1, which offers a historical pathway underground towards the bay (alternatively, you can start the "Quay Tour" from here). On the other side, resurfacing, you will be in awe of the sight which presents you.
From here, you can then head left to greet the Merlion
and traverse over to Esplanade
(if you are lucky you might be able to enjoy one of their many free concerts/cultural performances on their outdoor stage) or you can turn right and take a short walk to the preserved Customs House
and fancy Fullerton Bay Hotel
(which used to serve as the main pier of the Singapore river) that now houses many restaurants and bars.
Either direction leads you to the star of the tour - the Marina Bay Sands
hotel. Enter through the impressive MBS Mall
, shop around if you reach before 10pm, and make your way into the Casino
if you feel lucky or head up to the top for stunning views beside the infinity pool. If you can still walk, our favourite last stop on this tour is the Gardens by the Bay
- a multi-billion dollar project which reminds of the movie Avatar with its colourful canopy "trees".Disclaimer: Avoid wearing flip-flops and short trousers on this tour as many establishments will refuse entry. If you would like to enter the casino, do bring your passport along!
Quay Tour - Cry Me a River
Coming from Raffles Place, head over to the Singapore River
from where you can walk to the left (upstream) towards Boat Quay
. This is where bankers and insurance brokers shake hands and spend hours doing "business" on normal work days as well as after-hours Friday night drinks. It is a busy quay frequented alike by locals and tourists which come here to spend a nice evening by the Singapore river. There are Bum Boats
for just a few dollars roaming up and down the river, but a walk will do you good. Boat Quay has a long history as a port and boasts well conserved shop houses, similar to Clarke Quay
A walk there takes only a few minutes and soon you are at the most vibrant quay of the Singapore river. Clarke Quay is buzzing with music, bars and entertainment of various kind on both sides of the river. A good place to die Sau rauslassen
! Even further toward the source of the river is the more laid back Robertson Quay
, lined with restaurants and wine bars at night and brunch/coffee places during the day. We like Toby's estate for brunch, Z'en restaurant for Sushi and you can even have Raclette there at Wine Connection.Fun fact: Try the G-Max Reverse Bungy at Clarke Quay - it will probably be the scariest thing you've ever done (yes it is more scary than a rollercoaster!).
Chinatown - Little India - Arab Street - A Tale of Three Cultures
A tour of Singapore is not complete unless you have seen all three sides of its origin.
Start from Chinatown
at the People's Park Complex (PCC)
which is right attached to the Chinatown MRT station. You are now in the midst of the most traditionally Chinese part of Singapore! The PPC is one of the oldest malls of Singapore which is worth exploring. Exit PPC at the side onto Eu Tong Sen Street, cross the overhead bridge and make your way down to the Wet Market of the Chinatown Complex
. Explore the variety of Chinese cuisine ingredients and you will be surprised of what you will find here - definitely worth the visit! Next stop is the Buddha's Tooth Relic Temple
- a large Chinese temple complex which you can't miss. After this, allow yourself to shop around in the plentiful street side shops of Chinatown - a lantern, a Chinese fan, chopsticks or some crazy new gadget from China might catch your fancy.
To get to Little India
, board the MRT Purple Line towards Punggol and exit at the Little India station. Exit at Tekka Market
and you will be greeted with smells of spices in the air! Explore the colourful clothing stores at level 2 and munch away on some Chicken Biryani at the food court if you are hungry by now and extinguish the fire in your throat with some Chendol drink. Then, take time to walk up and down the sidestreets of Serangoon road - you'll be amazed to see how different this part of Singapore feels! This is really the charm of Little India! There are a few sights nevertheless worthy to visit: the Sri Veeramakaliamman Temple
, where you might be lucky to witness an ongoing procession, or the Mustafa Centre
- a 24hr shopping complex where you can find a-n-y-t-h-i-n-g! Make sure you head down to the Gold/Jewellery department, it is quite a sight!
Next stop, Arab Street
. If you are not too tired from walking yet (alternatively it is a quick 5 minutes taxi drive down), make your way down Syed Alwi Road, leading into Jalan Sultan until you reach North Bridge Road - you won't be able to miss the grand Mosque Masjid Sultan
(can be visited before 4pm). Explore Arab Street with its lovely Turkish and Arabian cafes and restaurants and have some fatoush, hummus and tabouleh to relax after the tour and breathe in the atmosphere of this unique spot.Disclaimer: When in PPC, it will seem like a great idea (and cheap!) to get a back/shoulder massage. We can confirm from experience that it is not necessarily the best idea as the strength of the (often male) masseuses will be an experience on its own!