Singapore stands out in many ways. Its sharp, modern skyline shines above a mix of richdiverse communities. Blues, yellows and reds frame the island's different areas: Chinatown, Little India and Arab Street are scattered with religious temples, a sign of the country's diverse and rich history. Chinese, Malay and Indian make up the the largest demographics in the country but it’s also home to a large population of ex-pats. It really is the melting pot of Asia.
With this deeply woven mix of cultures, demographics and traditions, comes one of the word’s most diverse and exciting food scenes. Singapore is a place where you can partake in any type of dining: from high-end conceptual tasting menus to downright delicious street eats. From the spicy to the refreshing, the surprising to the comforting, the open-air hawker centres packed with street food to the top-floor Michelin spires. It's a place to do some serious dining.
You can’t say you’ve been to Singapore until you’ve worked your way through the fish head curries, crispy ducks, tandoori chickens and sweet coffees found in almost every Hawker centre. These, often open-aired spaces, house a variety of different stalls: each one offering up their own unique delicacy.
East Coast Lagoon Food Village
Lots of the hawker centres are located inside the city, however, for a more local vibe and one that gets you close to the water, head to the East Coast Lagoon Food Village: the only beachside hawker centre in Singapore. There are lots of options but here’s some of the best shouts.
Eastern Red Seafood
Mr and Mrs Er have been operating this stall for over 20 years and there's a reason people go back. The fish head curry is one of the best plates I had in Singapore. Be ready for a real kick in spice levels but there's a deep, moorish, umami hit in the sauce thanks to the bones in the head releasing lots of flavor.
Han Jia Bak Kut Teh
Operated by Mr. Han, this stall was founded in 1963 and is a place that’s built a solid reputation on the back of their mastery of pork. Go for the trotter or the knuckle, both of which have that lovely sticky, gelatinous hit you want from well cooked pig.
Ms. Lynna is in charge here and there's no way this stand won't catch your eye. With a set-up of charcoal grills lined with dripping sticks of chicken satay, this is a place to sample the dish done right with that hypnotic smokey hit of char and sweet peanut sauce.
Fried Oyster Omelette: Ah Orh Seafood Restaurant
One of the country's most contested dishes is oyster omelette where baby oysters are tossed in creamy eggs, some flour for crispiness, chili and often spring onion. This creates a mix of texture with the chewy pop of oysters offset by the sometimes crispy, sometimes runny egg. Everyone seems to have a preference for how they like the oyster omelette in Singapore - personally I suggest Ah Orh Seafood Restaurant which has been perfecting it since 1927 and is found inside Block 115 Jalan Bukit Merah. This is a great dish to ask locals about because everyone will send you somewhere different.
There are some wonderful restaurants found across Singapore, with many Michelin starred chefs making the country their home.
First of these is Odette by chef Julian Royer. Housed inside the National Gallery of Singapore, the beautiful dining room, designed by Sacha Leong, is a soft and elegant space that nudges you to relax. The walls are filled with amazing pieces of art that are inspired by Royer's modern, fresh and unique take on French gastronomy. One of the chef's signature dishes is Rosemary Smoked Egg: iberico chorizo, smoked potato and toasted buckwheat served with a soft, smoked egg.
Jaan by Kirk Westaway
Second is Jaan by Kirk Westaway where the chef is cooking up a fun, nostalgic and delicious modern British tasting menu. Pimm's in the park, fish and chips and sausage roll all make an appearance on a menu that will send any fellow Brits into a nostalgia induced head-spin. Located 70 floors up, the restaurant also offers some of the best views of Singapore's amazing night-time skyline.
Islamic Seafood Paradise
This is the place to get into some serious breads as the maestros behind the counter flip, smash, stretch and fry all kinds of classic Indian breads: prata, martabak, roti and crispy dosa. All of it is mopped up with dahls, sweet chutneys, sour yogurt dips and wonderful soups. Go for the mutton soup, aka Sup Kambing, the martabak which is a fried and stuffed pancake and grab a big side of prata to do some dipping. The tandoori chicken is also worth the order, perfectly moist with delicate smokey notes.
Do not skip this place on a trip to Singapore. Chef Dave Pynt has built himself an awesome, monstrous grill that hits almost every ingredient in the restaurant with a smack of smokey, charred goodness. The meat marmalade is something you will remember for a long time, king crab is another favorite and the leek thrown right in the fire and topped with truffle is perfect.
Keng Eng Kee
A restaurant that's been in the works for three generations of the same family and one that's loved by locals and some of the world's greatest chefs. There's too many great dishes to mention here: claypot liver is a must for those who like offal, the chili and black pepper crab is great. Moonlight Hor Fun is ordered by most tables, this is wok-fried noodles topped with a raw egg. Then there's the coffee ribs and, of course, the restaurant's very own Mingzhu Roll: pork, salted egg yolk, ham, prawn, mushrooms and parsley wrapped in deep-fried beancurd skin.
Meatsmith - Little India
Also by Dave Pynt, this place focuses on Indian flavors with BBQ and smokehouse techniques and it works on so many levels. The full spit-roasted butter chicken is a must, crab rice is some of the fluffiest I've ever had and the meat platters will certainly impress. The suckling pig is also one of their specialties. The combination of rubs, spice mixes, tandoori and spit make for some messy, finger-licking food.
For a refreshing, zesty and spicy kick you have to head to Daniel and Tamara Chávez's Peruvian restaurant, Tono. A testament to just how diverse Singapore is and just how popular Peruvian cuisine has become, Tono kicks out a selection of precise Peruvian classics: go for a ceviche tasting and Chicharrones and make sure to sample their cocktails.
Another take on Modern Indian. Chef Mano Thevar uses a grill and a fine array of sharp spice mixes to create a menu that pops and hisses with character. Oyster with a rasam granita carries all the classic flavor of an Indian rasam but this is frozen and shaved on raw oysters. The Chettinad chicken roti is really great and the crispy pork served taco style in betel leaf is another must.
This really is just a tiny selection of what the country has to offer. The list should serve you well but half of the fun in a place like Singapore is getting lost and discovering your own delicious.