It would be no understatement to say that Singapore is a food lovers’ paradise. The country offers an impressive array of food options which represents the multifaceted nature of the nation state. Expectedly, Asian foods from different countries are on the Singaporean menu, but there are also a wide range of Western options, so even if you crave something from home, you’ll be sure to find it.
Street food: A Singaporean highlight
Singapore’s love affair with food can be best illustrated by the many hawker centres which dot the country. Hawker centres are an institution in Singapore and it is difficult to find other places on earth which offer excellent quality street food at reasonable prices and in an immaculate and typically Singaporean environment. Hawker centers are outdoor food courts which allowed the government of Singapore to provide a hygienic alternative to unlicensed hawkers. The outlets mushroomed towards the end of the nineties and are regulated by the Ministry of Health of Singapore, which ensures that adequate levels of hygiene are maintained within the facilities.
There are more than 100 such centres around the country and they generally have very extensive opening hours, including many centres which open until late and which are a good stopover for a post-nightclub snack. For those used to burgers and oily fries at 4am, you will be relieved to hear that Singapore offers better options in the form of excellent outdoor dim sum. Hawker centres are also widely popular at lunchtime, and many well-heeled professionals often brush shoulders at anonymous tables for a bowl of laksa before heading back to work. Opinions vary widely regarding the best spots, but wherever you go, you will almost never go wrong.
The Chinatown Complex Food Centre should definitely feature on your list, if only for its sheer size. It is located in the heart of Chinatown, and offers more than 200 food stalls and even more market stalls (food and market stalls often share the same roof in Singapore). An excellent spot in the centre is the Good Beer Company, or Heng Ji Chicken Rice. If you want to be outdoors, walk to the New Chinatown Food Street – it is worth the detour but does not really provide as authentic experience as the stalls inside the Chinatown Complex.
If you want a Michelin star with your street lunch, and are ready to queue, head to the Hong Kong Soya Sauce Chicken Rice and Noodle – you cannot miss it, but if you arrive too late, chances are that the stall will have closed for the day such is the sheer buzz created by an otherwise unassuming stall.
If you want to go further back in time, head to the Old Airport Road Food Centre. The building houses some of the oldest stalls in Singapore, and offers an impressive diversity of options at affordable prices. Nam Sing Hokkien Mee is a great stop, but indulge in some window shopping before you make your pick. Other centres worth the detour include Tiong Bahru Market which, as the name suggests houses both food stalls and market stalls, Hong Lim, or the ABC Brickworks Market, which should insulate you from tourists for a short while. For some excellent chicken rice, head to the Redhill Market’s Hua Kee Chicken Rice.
Classier treats in Singapore
Whilst street food can be the source of your daily staple, rest assured that a wide range of high end options are also available in Singapore. The growth of Singapore, the increasing number of expatriates and the transformation of the country into a major international hub has drawn an impressive array of chefs. They have taken Singapore by storm and many have been decorated with Michelin stars, including the excellent Shinji by Kanesaka, which takes sushi to a whole new level.
Another worthwhile spot is the iconic Raffles Hotel, founded in the late nineteenth century. The hotel is worth the detour in and of itself, and you should definitely start any culinary adventure with a signature Singapore Sling at the Bar & Billard Room. The hotel has featured in numerous films and offers numerous options, such as the Tiffin Room, which serves a North Indian buffet, and the Raffles Grill. For French elegance coupled to outstanding views of Asian skyscrapers, head to Jaan, which is one of Singapore’s best restaurants. The restaurant offers inspiring and creative dishes. If sushi is your thing, a stop at Shinji by Kanesaka is not to be omitted.
The Collyer Quay is also a great spot, especially at night. During the cooler period of the year, the outdoor seats are a great way of enjoying good food whilst enjoying the vibe of the waterfront area. Customs House is home to a diverse set of restaurants, including an excellent Mexican option. After your meal, head to the Fullerton Bay hotel for a night cap with an unbeatable view of the Marina Bay Sands hotel.