What and Where to eat in Singapore – from cafés and restaurants to street food stands and hawker centres, here are some of the best dishes to try in Singapore
A paradise for foodies looking to taste a plethora of Asian dishes – that’s how I’d define Singapore from a culinary perspective!
In fact, tasting food from all around Asia might be one of the best reasons to visit Singapore.
Dazzled by all the available choices, I often found it hard to decide on what to go for first, and it certainly wasn’t enough room to taste every yummy thing in sight.
There are simply too many choices of every Asian cuisine known to man, and even European and American cuisines make their way onto the plates of some cafés and restaurants in Singapore.
With so many culinary influences (Malay, Chinese, Indian, Indonesian, British, and even Middle Eastern), there are fewer dishes that we can call traditional, but you’ll surely not see a problem in this when confronted with a world of enticing flavors.
Since there’s a myriad of dishes for you to try in Singapore and I haven’t even tasted a quarter of them, this is more of a foodie’s journal that might inspire you to try some new things and help you choose from the tons of cafés and restaurants out there.
It’s not one of my usual food tours built around traditional dishes, that’s for sure!
Where to eat in Singapore + 11 food experiences
1. Taste the Ice Cream Shaped as Singapore’s Symbol
The Merlion is Singapore’s symbol, and it’s a mythical creature with a lion’s head and the body of a fish.
There’s a big statue of the Merlion across Marina Bay Sands you might want to visit before leaving Singapore.
The milky-white statue you’ll find during the day comes to life in rainbow colors during the night, around 8 p.m., when the light and music show starts across the bay.
It’s also where you’ll find the two “Durian-shaped” green buildings, one of them a concert hall called Esplanade Theatres on the Bay. This place has a few shops, among which LeeuSG, the artisanal ice cream shop that created this beauty.
The milk and fruity ice cream shaped as a Merlion tastes good, and the LeeuSG shop looks beautiful, all dressed up in pastel colors.
They also sell other cute things like tiny inflatable flamingo birds that can act as cup holders for drinks at the pool…it was hard to resist the urge of getting one. Food props hoarder here, please don’t judge, occupational hazard. 🙂
Eat with the locals at Hawker Centres in Singapore
If local food experiences are what you’re after, then eating at Hawker centres in Singapore is a must.
Hawker centres are like food courts where locals come for lunch and dinner, and they’re scattered all around the city-state. They serve no-fuss traditional dishes that taste fantastic, from all Asian countries, and at low prices.
We tried two hawker centres in Singapore: Albert Hawker Centre and Satay by the Bay.
2. Share a table with the locals at Albert Hawker Centre
Kung Pao Frog Legs / Spicy Frog with Ginger, Chili Peppers, and Scallions with two Youtiao / Chinese Oil Sticks was my choice, and I must say it was a treat.
It wasn’t my first time eating frog legs, but that Sichuan-style marinade makes this dish taste heavenly, especially when cooked in a clay pot and served while still sizzling.
10 SGD for this meal felt like a bargain, and you can find these delicious spicy frog legs at Li Fang Congée food stand.
I would have loved to try a soup at the food stand where locals queued to order, but I was too hungry to wait. Still, every food stand had at least one enticing dish, therefore I circled all of them twice before deciding on what to eat.
Albert Hawker Centre doesn’t look like much, it’s more of a street market with a roof inside a shopping center, but I loved its local vibes.
We were the only travelers there, and we shared our table with a local, as everybody else did. It doesn’t get more authentic than that!
3. Try a Seafood Dinner at Satay by the Bay
Almost every traveler in Singapore knows Satay by the Bay, or so I thought because of its proximity to the South Gate of Gardens by the Bay.
It turns out that most people who eat at Satay by the Bay are locals, and not many travelers find their way through the lush, dark alleys, at least not for dinner.
The few signs teaching you how to react when meeting otters might make you feel uneasy at times while walking on the luxuriant paths of the park.
I was ready for this type of wild encounter by day, but courage left me during the night, and the road to Satay by the Bay felt bizarre, to say the least.
Seeing the lights at Satay did restore my good mood, and we circled around the stands and smoky barbecues to decide once again what dishes to have that evening.
This hawker centre is more about seafood dishes and satay than anything else, and we had a bit of everything that looked good that night.
Well, except for Bamboo Clams which were more expensive than oysters.
Ever since my mother brought me some Bamboo Clams shells from Greece, I wondered if they were edible, and now I had my answer. But 3 pieces for 30SGD seemed a bit too much, and I had no idea if they were good or not. Well, maybe next time.
Instead, we had prawns satay and chicken satay, both accompanied by the customary peanut dipping sauce, and then oysters in garlic and tomato sauce.
Everything was great, and even if this hawker centre was a bit more expensive (36€), it felt like great value for money.
4. Find Uncle Chieng’s Rainbow Ice Cream Sandwich
Rain or shine, Uncle Chieng is on duty at his ice cream stand on Orchard Road.
People stand in line for this funky rainbow ice cream sandwich, and I now understand why.
I tasted many bizarre ice cream combos so far and even had bread ice cream with salted caramel and rosemary recently (at Bastard Restaurant in Malmö, Sweden), but I never had an actual slice of bread with ice cream.
Uncle Chieng’s ice cream sandwich tastes oddly satisfying, not to mention its visual appeal.
We had them on the street, next to his stand, in the rain, thinking about buying a second round.
Just to have an idea about how good this rainbow sandwich is, please consider that there was an empty Häagen-Dazs shop only 3 meters away from Uncle Chieng’s street stand. Ok, the sandwich is cheaper – 2 for 2,45 SGD, but people formed a queue in the rain for a chance to have one.
5. Explore all Asian Cuisines in one place
I discovered Asian food courts last year in Thailand, in a Bangkok shopping mall, while I was searching for a certain pair of sunglasses.
That’s when I realized that Europeans got this food court concept all wrong because serving local food is always better than the same old international fast food chains.
Eating at the food court inside The Shoppes at Marina Bay Sands is like taking a culinary trip around Asia in less than an hour.
Pork Bao / Steamed Buns with pork, egg-custard Bao, Char Kway Teow Beef / Fried Rice Noodles with Beef, King Prawn with Noodles, Spinach Crystal Dumplings, and California Maki Sushi were some of the most delicious eats we tasted at this food court.
During the wet season, the big food court inside The Shoppes at Marina Bay Sands is very crowded, especially during the 2 or 3 rainy hours per day. You can easily wait 15 minutes to get a table (like we did), therefore it is recommended to eat before or after the rainy hours.
Two noodle dishes or four steamed buns go for 26SGD, making this place one of the most affordable eateries in Singapore.
6. Visit Singapore’s beautiful cafés
Singapore has lots of great cafés and coffee shops, so I had to visit at least one of them, although they weren’t part of my itinerary.
Knots Café and Living is a lovely place that serves decent food in a green setting.
Their concept – a café mixed with a flower shop – isn’t new to me, but I still like this type of interior.
Local crowd is made of expats and locals, and even if the café’s dishes aren’t Asian, it’s a nice place for a coffee and quick brunch or lunch. We had waffles, coffee, and burgers.
It’s affordable when compared to other cafés in Singapore, probably an outcome of being half self-service.
We got the last table because the place was packed at the time we got there, at lunchtime, on a workday.
When it comes to interior design, Knots Café and Living isn’t much, but you might find it nice if you’re into eclectic spaces.
7. Have lunch with the corporate folks near Haji Lane
People make a city great, and the nice lady at Blue Jazz Café who served our lunch is the living proof.
After wandering Kampong Glam for a couple of hours, we sat down at one of the many cafés around Haji Lane. We wanted to have a quick brunch before exploring more of Singapore and we sat down at a random café.
The good waitress offered us lunch instead of brunch and a discount. It was already noon when we got there, and she had some lunch options for corporate people.
She brought us a cup of great lentil soup, probably an outcome of the café’s proximity to the Arab Quarter, and a delicious cake, in addition to the steak Vlad had and the Dory fish I ordered.
The food was decent, nothing spectacular, but it’s a nice place for lunch, if you find yourself hungry near Haji Lane, in Kampong Glam.
8. Drink handmade beer at Albert Court
Since we were staying at Albert Court Hotel, spending a couple of hours at one of the terraces there was more of a convenience than a choice.
We didn’t expect much, but then this pub owner showed us his menu of craft beer, all made by him, after a Czech recipe.
The local handmade beer tastes pretty good according to my partner, so do find your way to this small terrace at Albert Court to try it.“Hospoda Czech Craft Beer” is the name of the pub, in case you want to taste it.
The Albert Court area is beautiful and of historical significance. It’s also very close to Little India, a neighborhood in Singapore you’ll surely want to visit.
9. Have drinks with a riverside view at Clarke Quay
Clarke Quay pastel-colored area is full of terraces and bars where you can sit down and relax while watching boats pass by.
After an exhausting architectural hunt nearby, drinks at a waterfront terrace was exactly what I needed.
The real feel that day was 37°C, so we quickly ran out of energy before exploring the entire Clarke Quay area, but I hear it’s worth experiencing during the night when it comes to life thanks to the many parties held in the bars here.
10. Enjoy dinner with a view at OverEasy, Marina Bay
If you need a break from all the Asian cuisine in Singapore and want to enjoy dinner with a view, then OverEasy is the place for you.
They serve American food, and we had Spicy Linguini with Prawns and a Burger.
OverEasy ‘s interior is inspired by the ’60s American diners, and they have a lovely terrace overlooking Marina Bay. There have other locations in Singapore, but I think this one near the Merlion statue has the best view, especially if you go for a late dinner.
If you arrive around 8.30 – 9 p.m. and get one of the front row tables, you can also enjoy the light show at Marina Bay Sands.
Since it’s so close to the Financial District in Singapore / CBD, corporate people make the most of its crowd.
With great food, lovely view, nice and fast service, decent prices (58€ – dinner for two, drinks included), and beautiful interior design, OverEasy was a good option for our last night in Singapore.
11. TWG Teahouse Experience in Singapore?
Tea is such an important part of Singapore’s heritage, and tea lovers from all around the world will surely appreciate the chance to taste some of the world’s best flavors at TWG.
Even though I’m not very fond of tea and I vaguely remembered the history of the tea trade in Singapore from school, I entered the first TWG shop on my way.
To begin with, tea tasting was more of a curiosity for me, but I was ready to give it a try.
That was until I laid eyes on a 1600 SGD tea set and a 200 SGD tea box at TWG. Well, I can’t possibly spend 100€ on 2 cups of tea, no matter how good it is. Needless to say, we skipped this experience without any regrets.
But if you’re a tea lover and want to taste some the finest assortments in the world, then you’d better put some money aside for a TWG teahouse experience in Singapore.
To finish off this food tour in Singapore, I have a confession to make: we didn’t have a single bad meal during this trip. Also, all the places to eat in Singapore were more affordable than anticipated.
Even though I knew that Singapore was a foodie’s Heaven, I never anticipated the scope of this culinary destination. All the Asian dishes and street eats we tried in Singapore delighted our taste buds and enriched our palate, and for that I’m thankful.
Also, I’m well aware of the Michelin star restaurants in Singapore, many of them affordable, and although I am a curious foodie, I always prefer eating with the locals to fine dining experiences. It always seems to be more to learn about food and people from this type of local experience.
Hope you’ll try some of the dishes and sweets on my list when visiting Singapore.
Singapore| December 2018 | All Photos ©Ana Matei > Instagram: @MateiAna