If there’s one thing Singapore is known for, it’s our food. Here are our fave foodie pastimes that have us salivating every day.
Ah, the king of fruits. Geylang, the city’s infamous red light district, is home to plenty of roadside stalls hawking durians– but with plenty of crooks looking to swindle you out of a quick buck, it’s best to stick to places that have built up a solid reputation like Fruits Top 1 Department Store.
Regardless of what some Malaysian minister might say, chilli crab will always be the ultimate Singaporean dish in our hearts. JUMBO’s been serving chilli crabs (from $78/kg) at its birthplace, East Coast Park, since 1987 and has long been a favourite of many. The reason for its popularity has to be its choice of crabs – they’re all extremely meaty, with extra-large pincers. Its sauce is pretty unique, too, deploying ground peanuts for an added crunch. Jumbo has four other outlets in Singapore including Riverside Point, The Riverwalk, NSRCC's Changi Clubhouse and Dempsey Hill.
Navigating the maze that is Chinatown Food Complex is a bit of a task. But a tell-tale sign that you’ve found Hong Kong Soya Sauce Chicken Rice and Noodle is the long queue that weaves its way through the entire hawker centre. It'll take you 2 to 3 hours to get to the front of the queue. Once you do, though, the process is swift. Chef Chan Hon Meng then chops the meat – chicken, char siew, roast pork or pork ribs – and serves them up on disposable plates with your carb of choice: mee kia, hor fun or rice. The star of the show is the soya sauce chicken ($7-$14). The skin cracks when you sink your teeth into it, giving way to tender and succulent meat. We recommend having it on a bed of rice, with a helping of steamed nuts and dark sauce ($2). And don't be afraid to pile on juicy and moreish char siew, too. The stall also serves up roasted pork rice ($2.50), pork ribs rice ($3) and dumpling noodles ($3). Vegetable dishes include bean sprouts ($3-$4) and leafy greens cooked in oyster sauce ($4-$5). Make sure to go early – chef Chan only prepares a limited number of chickens per day. Once they're out, patrons are turned away.
This organic countryside farm way out in Kranji is the brainchild of Ivy Singh, the straight-talking former president of Netball Singapore. Take a tour of the farm, tuck into organic vegetables grown on-site at Poison Ivy Bistro, learn about the history of food at the Bollywood Food Museum and do much more when you make the trek to this ulu destination.
We love that Singapore never stops reinventing herself – and that applies to our food too. Labyrinth is a modern Singaporean restaurant housed in the beautiful Esplanade and it whips up dishes like chilli crab with Japanese soft shell crab and bak chor mee with Hokkaido scallops.
For those unfamiliar with Peranakan culture, throw yourself into the deep end by making a trip to Katong. From the colourful shophouses rich in heritage that line the street to the array of Peranakan restaurants that call the area home, Katong provides a feast for all your senses. We adore Chilli Padi Nonya Restaurant for classic dishes like ayam buah keluak and itek tim. It had to make our list.
It’s dark. Most of the stalls in the city have shuttered for the night. Where do the hungry night owls go? Why, Springleaf Prata Place, of course. Open ‘til midnight, this late night joint is a favourite among supper seekers looking to get their hands on greasy, sinful plates of prata slathered in curry.
Housed in a historic building erected in the 1880s, VLV is the place to wine and dine just as a tai tai from that era would: in style. Executive chef Martin Foo, who has spent more than 25 years in restaurants like Lei Garden and Tung Lok Signatures, whips up a medley of dim sum, from crab roe Kurobuta siew mai to a Singapore chilli crab bun that’s just as good as having the real deal.
Hawker centres are an integral part of Singapore’s food landscape so treat yourself to an education of the finest degree at Tiong Bahru Market. The recently revamped centre houses more than 80 hawker stalls including legends such as Tiong Bahru Fried Kway Teow and Jian Bo Shui Kueh.
Far beyond being a gimmick to attract curious drinkers, the cocktails at Native are the real deal. While the previous menu had a drink made with ants, the new one highlights grasshoppers paired with Chalong Bay rum, wheatgrass, lemongrass and Thai basil – all crowned with a scoop of glorious coconut ice cream.
Enjoying the little things
With ice cream uncles
Nothing offers sweet respite from the heat quite like ice cream served between rainbow bread or wafers. Ice cream uncles line Orchard Road selling blocks from $1.20, a small price to pay for the joy something so simple brings.
With the #eatclean movement on the rise, this vegan deli retailer bar has its sights set on bringing the raw food movement proper to Singapore. Afterglow works with local and regional farmers to procure the crops for its inventive fare like a dragon fruit, pomegranate, avocado salad bowl with chunky chopped macadamia and mint dressing ($16), and a raw taco bowl topped with salsa, walnut ‘meat’ and cashew cream ($16). The restaurant's also noted for making its own vegan cheese ($16) with cashew nuts. Adding to the buzz of the area at night, a selection of small-batch wines, craft beer and whiskeys is also served to accompany the healthy cuisine.
Local coffee roasters Papa Palheta helped pioneer the third-wave coffee scene in Singapore, particularly with the opening of their uber-popular café-retail complex, Chye Seng Huat Hardware (becoming one of the first joints to plant a flag in the hipster 'hood of Jalan Besar). Its house blends are roasted directly in the complex from single origin beans; there's also a retail wall with grinders and brew contraptions to release flavour from the beans.
At Zam Zam
There’s no preventing the pong of oil and fried dough clinging to your clothes the moment you step into this grungy shophouse unit. But it’s well worth the smell. Zam Zam has been serving up its briyani (from $6) and murtabak (from $5) for well over a century, so you can be pretty much assured of getting the legit stuff. Zam Zam – its name refers to ‘holy water’ in Arabic – has been an institution in the Kampong Glam neighbourhood since the Kerala-born Abdul Kadir opened the restaurant there in 1908. The recipes have largely remained unchanged, and unhealthy, too. (You just can’t replace ghee, can you?) So forget your diet and go for the mutton murtabak with a side of fish curry. It’s crispy on the edges and has more folds than an origami crane, within which you’ll find layers of onions, eggs and meat. If it’s briyani you’re after, Zam Zam makes its version Hyderabadi dum style: the meat is cooked together with the orange-flecked basmati, which makes the rice that much more fragrant.
Frying your own snacks
At Hum Jin Pang
DIY is part of the fun at Hum Jin Pang in Maxwell Food Centre. Customers at this hawker stall are required to fry their own hum jin pang (fried sweet-savoury pancakes). Join the queue, take note what the person in front of you does, and be sure to turn the pancake over quickly – the oil is hot and everything cooks really quickly.
#01-28 Maxwell Food Centre, 28 Kadayanallur St.
Kaya toast – you simply can't miss out on this classic. This widely available breakfast item of toast, butter and coconut jam, is available at every kopitiam and local coffee shop. Old-school bakery Chin Mee Chin Confectionery does a beautiful rustic job – just be sure to call them kaya buns, rather than toast – although you'll need to arrive relatively earlier if you want to score any of these babies, as they often sell out by lunchtime.
On a list of Asia's 50 Best Bars, Manhattan at Regent Singapore comes out at number one. And on according to the World's 50 Best Bars, it's number seven. It's a portal to New York City where ladies are decorated in pearls and gentlemen dressed to the nines. The menu takes you through the ages of NYC, from the 1520s to the 1970s.
If you're hungry and daring enough to chow on hearts, brains and livers then Dehesa at North Canal Road is the restaurant for you. 'Dehesa' refers to the grassland habitats of Iberian hogs, but you won't find yourself grazing on tapas portions at this restaurant. You’re more likely to pull and tear at the saucy off-cuts and innards, all expertly prepared and thoroughly delicious.