A foodie’s guide to Singapore

When it comes to culinary feasts, it’s hard to beat the food in Singapore.

Buying meals from the local hawker markets in Singapore. Image credit: Cn0ra/iStock
Buying meals from the local hawker centre in Singapore. Image credit: Cn0ra/iStock

Singapore is a melting pot of cultures and nothing reveals this more than the food in Singapore. Within the city-state, you can find every dish imaginable, as anyone who saw the hawker food scene in “Crazy Rich Asians” can attest to.

The country’s rich migrant heritage, which has seen people bringing dishes from their homelands of China, Malaysia, India, and Indonesia, means its menus are vibrant and flavorsome, in turn making Singaporeans serious foodies.

Within the 722.5km square island, you’ll find everything from tasty hawker treats to on-trend bites to fine dining. Michelin-stars? They can be found across the board, with the cheapest Michelin-star dish in Singapore costing just a few dollars. The best restaurant in Asia? Also in Singapore.

While the Singaporeans undoubtedly love a food trend—cheese tea or unicorn cake shake, anyone?—there is nothing more serious to them than the range and quality of food in Singapore. While the jury will always be out on who serves the best chicken rice, nasi lemak or Prata—everyone has their own take on the best version, from their mother’s own cooking to their first hawker experience—here are a few restaurants loved by locals. If you visit any of these eateries to try some top-notch food in Singapore, it will surely whet your appetite to try more.

As they say in Singapore, you “die die must try…”

The legends of Singapore food

Zam Zam in Kampong Glam has been feeding Singaporeans since 1908, initially launched by Keralan Abdul Kadir and now run by his grandson. Visitors are recommended to tuck into the biryani and murtabak, a stuffed pancake, at this North Bridge Road establishment. If you climb the stairs to the second floor, you can also enjoy views of the glittering Sultan Mosque.

If you want to try the cheapest Michelin-star dish in town, hotfoot it to chef Chan Hong Meng’s hawker stall Liao Fan Soya Sauce Chicken Rice & Noodle in Singapore’s Chinatown Complex Food Centre where the Malaysian chef’s team serves up his famed chicken rice for just 2 SGD. In 2016, chef Chan became the first chef in the world to win a Michelin-star for a street food dish. After his win, the queues grew so big he had to open another restaurant to make sure he didn’t keep his regulars waiting.

Queues outside Chan Hong Meng’s hawker stall Liao Fan Soya Sauce Chicken Rice & Noodle Shop front. Image credit: Supplied
Queues outside Chan Hong Meng’s hawker stall. Image credit: Supplied

Those keen on another plate of his chicken rice should try his second store  Liao Fan Hawker Chan restaurant on Smith Street, which is peppered with food bloggers who pay a little more for the aircon.

The hip young hawkers of Singapore food

A Noodle Story may serve just one dish, but that’s all they need. From 10.30 a.m., a queue of hungry punters winds around the block for the restaurant’s famed ramen noodles. Founded by ex-Waku Ghin chef Gwern Khoo and his catering college pal Ben Tham, the Amoy Street Food Centre stall has a Bib Gourmand award tucked under its belt, and it’s no wonder why. If you decide to jump in line, expect Iberico pork, crisp tempura prawns, and a hot spring egg—with a runny yolk cooked to perfection—atop silky umami noodles.

Another great find is Jin Ji Teochew Braised Duck & Kway Chap at Chinatown Complex Market & Food Centre. The second-generation hawker still serves up his father’s famed duck dishes but has turned it into a duck bento for his younger guests.

Fancy a burger instead? Try one with a Singaporean twist. Head to Burgs by Project Warung at the Golden Mile Food Centre. This stall is helmed by three young ex-restaurant chefs who wanted to put a local spin on an American dish. Try the Okonomi Fries that feature bonito flakes and spicy Japanese mayonnaise. Finish with a Teh Tarik Ice Cream Sandwich – two Singapore food experiences in one.

The coffee joints

If you’re looking for a coffee enclave in Singapore, you should probably drop by the hipster hotspot that is Tiong Bahru, where you’ll find an array of places to order a flat white, including the famed 40 Hands cafe and Tiong Bahru Bakery.

If you want to try a Singaporean breakfast, you should kickstart your day with a cup of sweet tea, kaya toast—crisp bread filled with coconut jam—and soft boiled eggs. Look out for Ya Kun Kaya Toast, which has more than 50 outlets throughout the city.

A typical Singaporean breakfast of kaya toast, soft-boiled eggs and coffee. Image credit: bonchan/iStock
A typical Singaporean breakfast of kaya toast, soft-boiled eggs and tea. Image credit: bonchan/iStock

Singapore’s favorite dishes

The Lion City is best known for its laksa, chilli crab, and fish head steamboat. Who serves the best of each? Well, as we said before, every Singaporean will likely give you a different answer. However, you can’t go too far wrong with the following.

With chilli crab, take a seat at Long Beach Seafood on the East Coast. Pop a bib around your neck—yes, it gets messy— then tuck into mouthwatering fresh crab served with rich tomato sauce. Don’t forget to use one of the sweet bread buns to mop up any extra spicy sauce.

For Singapore’s spin on laksa, try 328 Katong Laksa on the East Coast. The owner and her son are famed for beating chef Gordon Ramsay in a laksa cook-off.

For fish head steamboat, go for Xin Yuan Ji on Tan Quee Lan Street. Expect tender red snapper and a broth that’s both savoury and sweet.

A Singaporean laksa. Image credit: ThamKC/iStock
A Singaporean laksa. Image credit: ThamKC/iStock

The fine dining triumphs

Odette is officially the number one restaurant in Asia for 2019. Pushing Bangkok’s Gaggan off the top spot for Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants 2019, this fine-dining triumph set within Singapore’s National Gallery is now going to be even harder to get into. But you must persevere. And be sure to order the 55’ Smoked Organic Egg by chef Julien Royer, you can thank us later.

Another renowned restaurant that also features on Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants is Waku Ghin at Marina Bay Sands. It’s owned by famed celebrity chef Tetsuya Wakuda. The marinated Botan shrimp with sea urchin and Oscietra caviar is a standout, but if you don’t know what to choose, opt for the 10-course degustation menu.

While there are many more restaurants well worth the visit that haven’t been included here, take this sample as an amuse-bouche for the starting point of your own tour of the excellent food in Singapore. Once you’ve wrapped up your culinary journey, walk off your meal with a tour of Singapore’s splendid architecture before retiring to your hotel for a well-deserved rest.


Claire Turrell

Freelance journalist Claire Turrell has lived and worked in London, Dubai, and Singapore. When she’s not busy writing, she is riding motorbikes off-road in Cambodia, diving in Oman or learning Muay Thai in Thailand.