Singapore is the culinary crossroads of Southeast Asia, where Malayan sambal hot sauces meet Chinese noodle dishes and curries from Kerala. Dining out here is a way of life – the local greeting is “Have you eaten yet?” – so make sure you pick the best places to eat in Singapore with the help of our guide to its far-reaching food scene.
Where to eat in Singapore now
For local favourites
Laksa, the fiery coconut soup of prawns, beansprouts and thick rice noodles, is proper Singapore comfort food, introduced by Peranakans (Straits-Chinese) and now pretty much beloved across the city-state. Debate rages around where to find the best version – everyone has their favourite – but for an authentic introduction to this deliciously addictive dish, head to East Coast Road in the Peranakan stronghold of Katong, where the creamy broth served at 328 Katong Laksa comes loaded with cockles and a side of fishcake grilled in banana leaves. The cut noodles here, shorter than at most other laksa joints, make it easier for first-timers too.
Laksa, a Singaporean favourite © lydiarei / Shutterstock
For hawker food with a difference
Hawker centres – large open-air complexes, typically found in busy urban areas, that house a myriad of stalls selling inexpensive cooked food – and Singapore go together like pubs and London. Without exaggeration, they really are some of the best places to eat in Singapore and the mounting fear that they may soon be a thing of the past has got Singaporeans in a sweat. Step forward the “hawkerpreneurs”, a new generation of young hawker-centre chefs who remain dedicated to a single specific dish but are intent on giving a modern twist to their culinary classics. To get a taste of this growing trend, head to Prawnaholic, in the new Pasir Ris Central Hawker Centre, where the 24-year-old chef uniquely serves his Special Prawn Noodle with rich chunks of charred pork belly, a radical revision for prawn mee enthusiasts. Or try One Kueh at a Time, where the owner’s innovative teochew kuehs (savoury dumplings) attracted some of the world’s best chefs to his stall in the Berseh Food Centre. They’re moving to new premises in November – check their Facebook page for updates.
Special Prawn Noodles at Prawnaholic © Prawnaholic
For cheap eats with status
Michelin stars are rarely synonymous with budget dining, especially in a place like Singapore, but Chinatown’s Liao Fan Hong Kong Soya Sauce Chicken Rice & Noodle certainly bucks the trend. This unassuming but brilliantly titled hawker stall dishes up the cheapest Michelin-starred meal in the world: crispy-skinned slices of tender chicken in a secret soya sauce. The signature dish still only costs a few Singapore dollars, but buoyed by the extra custom that comes with winning such awards, they have now opened several other branches across town – brave the likely queues at their original stall in the Chinatown Food Complex on Smith Street for the real deal.
For modern-Singaporean magic
Fine dining in Singapore is seeing a similar shake-up, as chefs at some of the country’s best restaurants continue to push the boundaries of Modern Singaporean (or Mod-Sin) cuisine. Fusing traditional recipes with Western flavours – think durian crème brûlée – the concept was pioneered by Willin Low, who is now creating such concoctions as fettuccine with Thai red curry confit duck and Laksa pesto with pasta at his Wild Rocket restaurant on Mount Emily. You’ll have to be quick to catch these, though, as Low is closing Wild Rocket at the end of October to concentrate on spreading Mod-Sin beyond Singapore. Otherwise, try Labyrinth, in the Esplanade Mall, where chef LG Han’s new menu marries Mod-Sin cuisine with a ground-breaking (for Singapore) emphasis on local produce; expect fresh takes on street-food favourites such as fish maw soup.
Grandma’s Fish Maw Soup at Labyrinth © John Heng, Da Photography
For the best neighbourhood nosh
To experience some of the absolute best places to eat in Singapore, head to the city’s oldest housing estates. The resurgent creative quarter of Tiong Bahru is fast establishing itself as a serious foodie haven. Quirky cafés and coffeeshops are dotted amongst the Art Deco buildings, and the mural-laden streets are home to everything from hawker centres to high-end restaurants. Start with flaky pastries at Tiong Bahru Bakery, lunch on nasi ayam penyat (soft fried chicken with a spicy sambal sauce) in the Tiong Bahru Food Centre and finish up with a range of Nonya dishes at the cosy House of Peranakan Petit.
Norwegian fly direct from London Gatwick to Singapore 4 times weekly; from £170 each way, it’s officially the world’s longest budget flight. The stylish Shangri-La Singapore is a stone’s throw from Orchard Road and well located for all of the places recommended above – though their own buffet breakfast would put many a hawker centre to shame.
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