Singapore: What to Eat

Eating is a national obsession in Singapore. Whether you’re a first timer or frequent visitor, the city-nation is full of culinary delights, many of which are unique to Singapore’s melting pot of Chinese, Malay, and Indian cultures and its British heritage.

I’ve been visiting Singapore twice a year since 2012 for Chinese Metaphysics workshops. (Did you know that the ancient art of Feng Shui has greatly influenced the landscape and prosperity of Singapore?) Most recently I had 10 days to explore the city – the longest time I’d spent since I was a permanent resident there many years ago. So what did I do in my free time? Eat, of course! Here are some of my favorites, old and new. For locations, refer to the map at the bottom.

The new and the trendy

Potato Head on Keong Saik Road, Chinatown, Singapore

The new Potato Head occupies this iconic building on Keong Saik Rd in Chinatown

Singapore has gone through dramatic changes in the past few years. What used to be the red light district around Keong Saik Road in Chinatown is now the city’s coolest block, with new restaurants and bars along side mom and pop shops.

Watching the chefs in action at Esquina, Chinatown, Singapore

Watching the chefs in action at Esquina

Esquina is a must go for its yummy tapas & sangrias – from Chef Jason Atherton of 22 Ships in Hong Kong. It’s fun to sit at the bar and watch the chefs in action right in front of you. I’d love to do one of their Supperclub Series next time I’m back in town – check out their Facebook page for upcoming dates. While at Esquina, ask for the password to enter The Library, a hidden speakeasy-style cocktail bar next to The Study. You can’t miss the iconic building of Potato Head Singapore across the way – it’s whimsical inside, with a rooftop bar, too. If you like BBQ done the gourmet way, Burnt Ends is another super popular spot. Sit at the bar or reserve the one and only table in the back way in advance – I was lucky to share the booth with a friend and two strangers on our visit.

Burnt Ends on Teck Lim Road serves modern Australian barbecue

Burnt Ends on Teck Lim Road serves modern Australian barbecue

Hipsters will love the revitalized Tiong Bahru area. Have coffee at 40 Hands or a cupcake at the adorable Plain Vanilla Bakery before checking out the stores on the same block. Book lovers will be in heaven at BooksActually. Stop by Tiong Bahru Market if you’re hungry for cheap local street food – it’s one of the best hawker centres in Singapore.

Local Favorites

After spending my first few days in the city trying the new, the Asian in me started craving the classic Singaporean food I grew up eating every summer and winter holidays of my childhood.

Must-try local favorites include Hainanese chicken rice, laksa, nasi padang, bak kut teh, Peranakan food (fusion of Chinese and Malaysian cuisines), and Chilli Crab. You’ll see the first four at every hawker centers like Maxwell Food Centre (the Tian Tian Hainanese Chicken Rice stall is a must stop), Lau Pa Sat, or Tiong Bahru Market, and in food courts (a good one is the Food Republic at Wisma Atria on Orchard. I also like the one at Marina Bay Sands). Long Beach Seafood and Jumbo Seafood are known for their Chilli Crabs. Of course, everyone has their favorites and can get very opinionated! For laksa and Peranakan food, explore the shops and cafes on East Coast Rd in the quaint Katong area. Most well known is 328 Katong Laksa.

Peranakan food at Peranakan Inn in Katong, Singapore

Hawker centres, food courts and humble coffee shops are neither glamorous nor comfortable – you sit on plastic chairs under fluorescent lights, and during lunch hour people stand over you ready to take your seat. The dishes don’t look too photogenic on Instagram either, but they’re truly satisfying comfort food, with prices that are easy on the wallet. For sure, these are the true taste of Singapore you’ll remember the most.

Mentioned in this post
  1. Esquina Tapas Bar
    Restaurant in Singapore Singapore

    16 Jiak Chuan Rd
    Singapore Singapore
    6222 1616
    http://esquina.com.sg/
  2. The Library
    Restaurant in Singapore Singapore

    47 Keong Saik Rd
    Singapore Singapore
    http://www.nlb.gov.sg/
  3. Burnt Ends Sg
    Restaurant in Singapore

    20 Teck Lim Rd
    Singapore
    6224 3933
    http://www.burntends.com.sg/
  4. 40 Hands
    Restaurant in Singapore Singapore

    Blk 78 Yong Siak St
    Singapore Singapore
    6225 8545
    http://www.40handscoffee.com/
  5. Plain Vanilla Bakery
    Restaurant in Singapore Singapore

    1D Yong Siak St
    Singapore Singapore
    6465 5942
    http://www.plainvanillabakery.com/
  6. BooksActually
    Attraction in Singapore

    9 Yong Siak St
    Singapore
    6222 9195
    http://www.booksactually.com/
  7. Tiong Bahru Market
    Attraction in Singapore Singapore

    83 Seng Poh Road
    Singapore Singapore
  8. Maxwell Food Centre
    Attraction in Singapore

    1 Kadayanallur St.
    Singapore
  9. Wisma Atria
    Attraction in Singapore

    Singapore
    6235 2103
    http://www.wismaonline.com/
  10. Marina Bay Sands
    Hotel in Singapore

    10 Bayfront Avenue
    Singapore
    6688 8868
    http://www.marinabaysands.com/
  11. Long Beach Seafood
    Restaurant in Singapore Singapore

    1018 East Coast Parkway
    Singapore Singapore
  12. Jumbo Seafood
    Restaurant in Singapore

    20 Upper Circular Road #B1-48
    Singapore
    6534 3435
    http://www.jumboseafood.com.sg/
  13. 328 Katong Laksa
    Restaurant in Singapore Singapore

    51 East Coast Rd
    Singapore Singapore

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