Food, food, food everywhere

January 3, 2017

When it comes to a gastronomical experience, the little red dot is as rich and diverse as any other place on God’s beautiful earth. So, if you are visiting the island nation and have a fondness for anything edible, we welcome you to foodie paradise! The city state is brimming with cuisines and cooking cultures that bring together the very best of Asia as well as the world. 

Now it is possible for a first time visitor to get confused and lose themselves in the many, many options that Singapore offers. But worry no more. We bring to you a low down of 10 types of food establishments in Singapore

1. The buzz of hawker centres 

Such is the importance of the street food in Singapore that you will find them anywhere and everywhere housed in hawker or food centres. This is a compliment. What it means is that no matter the time of the day, you can always tuck into a delicious and cheap meal at a hawker centre nearby. 

Depending on the size of the hawker centres, there can be 10 to 30 over stalls selling various local delights. Before deciding on what to order, you should walk around and browse the stalls’ menus (usually pictures with prices on the signboard or on a list). If you are travelling in a group, it will be great to order and share dishes from various stalls.

Average cost of food + drink per pax: $4

Recommended venues: Maxwell Food Centre, Tekka Centre, Tiong Bahru Market

2. The coffee shop experience

You may be surprised to find that the coffee shops here are not quite the coffee shops you see back home. The local coffee shops or ‘kopi tiams’ in Singapore are actually scaled down hawker centres with less than 10 stalls. They are usually scattered around residential heartlands to serve the residents in that locality. 

That said, you can definitely find traditional coffee or kopi (usually less than $1!) at the drinks stall of any coffee shop. Many drink stalls also serve one of Singaporean’s favourite breakfast – Kaya toast (coconut jam on toast). In fact, there are also popular ‘kopi tiam’ chains that specialize in traditional coffee, tea and toast.

Another common sight in the coffee shops are ‘zi char’ stalls that specialize in chinese stir-fried dishes for family style eating. At dinner time, you will notice groups of friends or family members sharing hearty dishes of seafood, meat, vegetables and soup.

Average cost of food + drink per pax: $6 ($15 for ‘zi char’)

Recommended venues: Keng Eng Kee Seafood for ‘zi char’, Killiney Kopitiam and Ya Kun Kaya Toast for traditional coffee and toast

3. Fine food courts

Shopping and eating often go hand in hand in Singapore. The sight of people with shopping bags having a meal or a drink is quite common. What helps matters are the string of food court chains located inside almost every shopping mall. 

Food courts are basically air-conditioned hawker centres that offer affordable international food, like Japanese bentos and Thai dishes, in addition to the local variety of food. The air-conditioned comfort combined with delicious and inexpensive food draws a crowd during all meal times.

Some stalls are a staple for the locals, e.g. you can almost always find a mixed rice or ‘cai fan’ stall (choice of a few meat or vegetables dishes to eat with rice) and ‘yong tau foo’ stall (where you can pick tofu or fish/meat paste based products or vegetables to be cooked with your noodles). 

Average cost of food + drink per pax: $7

Recommended venues: Kopitiam, Food Republic and Koufu

4. Fast food fanatic

McDonald’s, KFC, Pizza Hut, Long John Silver’s... we have them all and more! A&W Family Restaurant was the first fast food restaurant that opened in Singapore in 1966, and boy was it popular. Sadly, stiff competition from various new fast food chains led to its closure in Singapore back in 2003. 

Today, you can locate at least 1 fast food chains in any mall, offering customers a quick and satisfying meal. Find them at ground or basement levels in the shopping malls. 

Average cost of food + drink per pax: $7

Recommended venues: Carl’s Jr., Popeyes, 4 Fingers, Komala’s etc 

5. Café hopping

Who doesn’t love a lazy brunch or tea on the weekends. The perfect time to recoup and rejuvenate your energy levels after a busy week. And if the food is tasty to boot, then there is nothing more you can ask for. Singapore has its fair share of exquisite cafes that dish out sumptuous fare and some stunning menus. Many homegrown cafes have infused local flavours into western classics like eggs benedict and French toast. Specialty is the name of the game, as you will find an array of niche and exclusive foods. 

Average cost of food + drink per pax: $20

Recommended venues: Kith, Drury Lane

6. Popular enclaves 

After a day of roaming the city, shopping, having fun, it’s time to fuel up and chillax. Fret not, good food and drinks are always close by. Centrally located dining enclaves offer you a plethora of options ranging from cafes to dessert bars to pubs to fine dining. The dining enclaves have all the bases covered and can be an interesting experience in itself. You could easily spend a day there exploring and trying out the different options. 

Average cost of food + drink per pax: $40

Recommended venues: Chijmes (pronounced chimes), Holland Village and Dempsey Hill

7. Restaurant galore

The foodscape of Singapore is such that you are always spoilt for choice no matter the kind of food you want to have. The island nation is dotted with fine restaurants that offer you the very best of local and international cuisine. You can taste the superior Chinese broth in one restaurant, the spicy cuisine of India in another, or be transported to Europe with some fine French food. Depending on your mood and your taste, you can find a restaurant that caters exclusively to that. 

Seafood is another stellar star of the restaurant experience. Think savoury chilli crab, crunchy fried squid, tasty cereal prawns and perfectly steamed fish.

Average cost of food + drink per pax: $40

Recommended venues: Komala Vilas, National Kitchen by Violet Oon

8. Exclusive dining 

Things go up a few notches with exclusive dining concepts, also known as celebrity restaurants. These have mushroomed over the island city in the past few years with Singaporeans developing a fine palette. The food masterpieces served at these places are well worth the hype and the money, if you are willing to spend it. You may have to make reservations a month ahead for some of these places.

Average cost of food + drink per pax: $150

Recommended venues: Resorts World Sentosa, Marina Bay Sands

9. Snacks on the go

If you are feeling peckish or want to catch a quick bite, it’s pretty easy to grab snacks on the go in Singapore. Many food kiosks are located at the basements of shopping malls and often offer an international variety from Japanese takoyaki to Taiwanese fried chicken cutlet. Popular local food kiosks sell curry puffs, mini pancakes, cakes and many more. Tip: there are usually some standing cocktail tables for customers to eat at.

Outside of shopping malls you can also grab quick bites like waffles and bread from local confectionary stalls. Pork floss buns, despite sounding suspicious, are a must-try!

Average cost of food + drink per pax: $4

Recommended venues: Mr Bean, Old Chang Kee, Breadtalk 

10. Late night suppers

Still hungry after hitting any of the above places? There is one last food establishment that exists to satisfy any late-night cravings — midnight supper spots. Expect to find Singaporean’s favourite roti prata as well as the ever-popular dim sum at casual restaurants that open till late. Drinks like milo dinosaur (ice milo topped with milo powder) are also popular supper beverages.   

Average cost of food + drink per pax: $5

Recommended venues: Al-Azhar, Swee Choon Dim Sum Restaurant