What to eat in Singapore
A hotspot for culture and cuisine, explore what to eat in Singapore and discover a mouth-watering melting pot from street food heaven to swanky eateries.
Food is a national obsession in Singapore and thanks to its cultural makeup it is the very essence of the proverbial melting pot. Get set to devour lots of Chinese, Malay, and Indian food. It’s one of the world’s most famous foodie destinations and that it has such a supercharged food scene is remarkable given its compact size. The enticing aromas and 24/7 buzz of the hawker food centres are the big draw. Oodles of noodles, satay, chilli crabs, melt in the mouth chicken rice…the list goes on and on.
What to eat in Singapore for dinner? You are definitely not short of options whatever the mood. Singapore is Southeast Asia’s epicentre of high-end haute cuisine too and the sheer diversity of fusion flavours is truly mind boggling. It must be doing something right when even hawker stalls bag their own Michelin stars. Planning a food-centric stay in the Lion City? Narrow down the list and save yourself the time and effort of a deep Google search with these insider tips.
Must Eat Singapore food
Where to start? The rich cultural makeup of the Little Red Dot means each of its trio of ethnic communities have their own iconic dishes. Yet even then, the lines blur with a dash of Hokkien, Tamil and Malay flavours all thrown into the Singapore food culture pot. The influences may trace back to Mainland China, South India and Malaysia but are all quintessentially Singaporean in their own way. Singapore Chili Crab is a must for the culinary bucket list, and drizzled in a gravy of chilli and tomato sauce is my favourite variation. It’s definitely best enjoyed the traditional way by the beach in one of the East Coast hawker centres. Don’t pass up the chance to chow down on Hokkien Mie noodles and Hainan Chicken Rice too.
If you have a Malay cuisine dream, satay, Nasi Lemak and creamy laksa are top picks. Head to the Golden Mile Food Centre to savour them all for just a few dollars. When in Little India, I love to snack on dosai and savoury martabak, washed down with a masala milk. For a swift and tasty journey through the sub-continent with a Singapore twist, check out the always buzzing Tekka Centre.
No matter how long you hang out in Singapore, you simply won’t have the appetite or time to sample every little gorgeous treat. There are many dried and non-perishable Singapore delicacies to bring overseas, so why not take home a culinary reminder? Top pick for me is Kaya spread, to replicate the super delicious Kaya Toast. The infamous Durian fruit is banned from all transport (including planes) but if youcannot do without its stinky aroma, grab a few packets of Durian shortcake to nibble on back home. For something even more offbeat, how about Nasi Lemak flavoured cookies?
Hawker Food Heaven
There are a ton of options for street food snacking right across the Lion City, but for me East Coast Lagoon Food Village beats the lot for evening cheap eats. It may be closer to the airport than the city, but it’s sure worth the effort heading out east. It has that rare commodity of breezy sea views and ample space compared to the city’s cramped offerings and you won’t pay a premium for these more salubrious surroundings. Where else in Singapore can you grab a steaming bowl of satay bee hoon noodles, kick off your heels and go barefoot on the beach? Unsurprisingly seafood reigns supreme here. Check out Long Beach Seafood for the chilli crab or spicy BBQ stingray, or seek out the mountains of satay and super tasty $3 laksa.
It is right near the top of Singapore’s top 20 hawker food choices and is arguably the least manic due to its al fresco setting. For this very reason it is undoubtedly the top kid-friendly choice. If you are here early enough you’ll spot the wake boarders in the water and a steady procession of joggers, dog walkers and skaters zipping by along the promenade.
Sky High Dining
When it comes to sky high rooftop dining all the hype suggests Marina Bay Sands is the literal pinnacle. There are numerous other Singapore famous restaurant options in this skyscraper city, and arguably the best of the bunch is just minutes away. Just a short stroll from MBS is one of the city’s most unique dining spots, set in the tallest ‘tree’ at Gardens by the Bay’s SuperTree Grove. The glammed up SuperTree by Indochine restaurant and open air lounge showcases spectacular 360-degree views of the gardens, Marina Bay and the South China Sea. Once night falls its lighting effects take the breath away in dazzling fashion and it boasts a classy menu of Indochinese, Western, and fusion bites.
The interior style is a quirky mismatch of whimsical velveteen and animal print seating next to cool contemporary sleekness. It’s fine spot to set the scene for a romantic tryst and definitely worth a one-time splurge.
Explore on a Food Tour
The best way to take a deep dive into Singapore’s celebrated cultural melting pot is to eat like a local. It would take you months to scoff, sip and slurp you way around all the city’s famed foodie hubs, so the best option is to fast-track the foodie experience with a whirlwind food tour. Get a little off the beaten track for a food crawl of lesser known Katong, the city’s undisputed hub of Peranakan cuisine.
Your Singapore food guide from SingaBites takes you through the neighbourhood’s mean streets to quant little bakeries specialising in the iconic curry puffs and classic cake Kueh Lapis. Manic fresh food markets, mouth-watering Indian style sweets and the signature dishes Katong Laksa and Hainan Chicken Rice all get a look-in. The evening tour also calls in on a family run Laksa cafe with a prestigious Michelin ‘Bib gourmand’ award, where you’ll get the lowdown on some secret Singapore food recipes.
It’s a great district to get a good grounding in the seemingly complex foodie scene with some of the very best Malay-Tamil-Chinese fusion eateries in the city, while the area boasts some of Singapore’s best preserved pastel-hued shophouses. As a predominantly local food hotspot, Katong also allows you to take a walk on the culinary wild side. If you’re a fan of extreme cuisine, start licking your lips at the prospect of chowing down on crocodile tail stew, fried bugs and other even less palatable concoctions.
High Tea Singapore style
If the wallet can’t quite stretch to a slap-up feast in one of Singapore’s swanky hotel restaurants, never fear, heavenly high tea gets you access to all the poshest, palatial hotels. The St. Regis Singapore hits the sweet spot for tea lovers in the ritzy Brasserie Les Saveurs. You’ll satisfy all those chai cravings with a myriad of classy fruit and herb infused brews, but it is the delectable sweet and savoury goodies that everyone lusts after.
The Grand Astor Afternoon Tea offers a typically aristocratic array of scones, dinky cupcakes and cucumber and smoked salmon sandwiches. The gleaming silver three-tiered trays also come loaded to the max with dreamy duck foie gras profiteroles, lobster cup pies, and homemade chocolate pralines. It’s an enticing spread that perfectly matches the flawless colonial-style vibe beneath gorgeous French crystal chandeliers.
Gut-busting gastronomy – AKA the all-you-can-eat buffet blowout – is big business in Singapore. All the top hotels have their own immense buffets, a good option for mindless indulgence on a grand scale. For Asian persuasion, the Pan Pacific Hotel quite literally has the edge. The Hotel’s Edge Food Theatre is a journey through Singapore street food with a sheen of five-star style.
Chefs at the interactive food stations get busy crafting a la minute Chinese, Malay and Indian dishes, including dim sum, Peranakan classics, Tandoori meats and more. Lobster, shucked oysters, sushi and succulent carvery meats add yet more gloss to the heaving displays. A special mention too for the Sunday Champagne brunch which ramps up the style even further. There is a Farmer’s Cheese Theatre, Caviar Bar and mountains of sweet treats. Just come prepared with an oversized appetite.
Edge Food Theatre, 7 Raffles Boulevard, Level 3, Pan Pacific Singapore
Kaya Toast, coffee, cake…and air con! For me these are the must-haves when hopping between coffee shops across the city. There are innumerable cool coffee hangouts right across the island, and many of the best are hidden well off the tourist track. Right up there with the best is Combi Rocks. It’s definitely one for the vintage loving hipster, with a true retro 60s vibe. Walls are plastered with Beatles memorabilia and old movie posters but the big draw is the eye-catching Instagram-friendly VW Combo vans parked out front. It’s a regular haunt for vintage glam photo shoots.
The interior is deliciously cluttered with old time pieces and vintages toys – many of which are for sale. The Thai inspired menu is pretty unique too. Tasty bites include ‘Kombo’ platters, Thai deep fried eggplant, Thai codfish tofu and lots more. Sweet treats are more western-orientated and old school including cheesecake and apple crumble. The VW vans are not just for show. You can book ‘meals on wheels’ with private dining aboard one of the ‘hippie vans’ or simply cruise the streets.
So you want a booze-filled buzzing night out but with top notch nosh to match. Luckily The Lion City is not short of tasty options. The Screening Room at Ann Siang Road has taken the gastro pub buzz to a whole new level. It’s a humming bar, movie theatre, restaurant and al fresco rooftop lounge all rolled into one. The décor is typically quirky boudoir chic one minute, and sleek minimalist the next.
If you love munching on Mediterranean fare, the Greek Platter and Lamb Kebab are top picks among a wide array of cool tapas bites.
Another option is Kabuke on Telok Ayer Street, which has been creating its own buzz among Sake guzzling aficionados. Set in a period shophouse, the interior decor harks back to a darkened speakeasy, contrasting with vibrant Japanese graffiti murals. There are dozens of Sake varieties to sip and is one of the area’s classier food-focused drinking dens. Menu highlights include grilled dried stingray fin and a wide array of tempura tapas.
In Conclusion – Welcome to a city of food fanatics
The beauty of Singapore and its rich ethnic diversity is that everywhere is so accessible. There is hardly a dearth of fine dining or café hopping options either – an average of two restaurants open every day in Singapore. That means food glorious food wherever you wander on this compact island. If you have the appetite and willpower, you can get the full spectrum of Singaporean hawker cuisine for $2-3 a dish or nonchalantly blow $200 for a swanky meal. Speak to any local Singaporean about food and the joys of eating – be it an ethnic Malay, Chinese of Tamil – and they could well wax lyrical for an hour or more. At very least you’ll have made a friend for life. When it comes to an unbridled passion for food, there is no place quite like it.
More local food: Like a Local: Eat Your Way Through Taipei ▸
Ray Montgomery is a seasoned travel copywriter and journalist based for more than a dozen years in Southeast Asia. Ray’s big passions are eating, tweeting and constantly seeking the next perfect ocean sunset.