Try to get acquainted with all the famous cuisines of Singapore. Also, check out the catering establishments, from street stalls to cafes on the embankments and restaurants at luxury hotels. Ask the locals for advice, read restaurant ratings in newspapers and magazines, or buy the Singapore Restaurant Guide at your local bookstore.
If you are going to dine in a restaurant, especially on a weekend, it is better to book a table in advance, otherwise you will have to stand in line.
Street café-complexes and food courts
Street café complexes are Singapore’s answer to fast food. The food here is very cheap: a main course costs only a few dollars. Each vendor usually has a picture on the counter with pictures of the dishes and the owner’s name written in English. Most vendors offer freshly prepared Chinese, Malay or Indian recipes. Sometimes food is brought to the table, but more often you take it away on a tray.
The most popular outdoor café complexes in Singapore are Maxwell Food Center near Chinatown, Newton Circus opposite Newton MRT station and Lau Pa Sat near Raffles Place MRT station.
Food courts are more comfortable than street café complexes, and above all thanks to air conditioning. The dishes and the procedure for ordering them are the same, but the prices are usually higher.
Most Singaporeans are ethnic Chinese, so regional Chinese cuisines are very well represented here. Cantonese dim sum and Peking duck, Taizhou rice porridge and Sichuan mala (spicy) hot pot – the choice of dishes in Chinese restaurants is truly endless.
Be sure to try the Chinese food at the street stalls. The most popular are char kyai tee (fried rice noodles with shrimp, Chinese sausages and eggs, mixed with spices and soy sauce), podia (rolls with various fillings),
wonton me (noodle soup with pork or shrimp in dough) and young maul Fu (tofu stuffed with meat). Without a doubt, the most popular dish is Hainanese chicken with rice (boiled chicken with fragrant rice cooked in chicken broth, with a spicy chili sauce). It is a staple in street café complexes, food courts, and most Chinese coffee shops.
Malay dishes are mostly spicy, flavored with ingredients such as lemongrass, chili, cloves, tamarind, and shrimp paste. For religious reasons, the Malays do not eat pork.
Here are some more spicy Malay dishes: mi rebus (egg noodles in a thick spicy sauce), gad gad (vegetable salad dressed with coconut and peanut sauce; served with shrimp crackers), nasi goreng (Malay fried rice), soot ayah ( spicy chicken soup with rice cakes), rendang (beef simmered in spiced coconut milk) and curry.
The food prepared by the Nena (Peranakan women, or “Chinese of the Strait” – those who descend from mixed marriages between Chinese and Malays) is the most “Singaporean”. There are several Peranakan restaurants in Ka-tong, in the eastern part of Singapore.
Coconut milk, batter (beacon) and chili give Nyonya dishes a unique taste. The batter, chili and lime juice are whipped together to make a condiment called sambal beacon. Recommended dishes include bah kalua (chicken and black nuts in tamarind sauce).
laksa (rice noodles in curry sauce), lyonia Kuehl (glutinous rice cakes, often made with coconut milk and palm sugar) and otak-otak ( minced fish seasoned with lime and coconut, wrapped in banana leaves and grilled over charcoal).
Indian cuisine in Singapore is in no way inferior to those prepared in India itself. You will be served the best of North and South Indian cuisines, as well as unique Singaporean inventions.
North Indian cuisine is mild and sophisticated, often using yogurt, wheat bread and clarified butter (ghee) instead of vegetable oil. The most famous dish is tandoori (marinated meat or fish cooked in a clay oven).
Singapore has developed local variations on traditional North Indian recipes such as mi goreng (bean curd, lamb and peas sautéed with thick noodles in tomato sauce) and lambing (mutton soup served with French bread).
South Indian cuisine is spicier and often cheaper. This cuisine is often served in banana leaf restaurants, where banana leaves replace plates. Rice is spread on a banana leaf in a ladle, chutney (a spicy mixture of finely chopped vegetables or fruits with sugar, ginger and spices), dal (lentil puree) and curry are placed on it.
They eat this dish with their hands, holding a pinch of rice between their fingers. There are several inexpensive vegetarian restaurants in Little India. Muslim Indian restaurants do not serve pork, but generally meat is prepared; it is included, for example, in biryani, a dish based on basmati rice.
Indian cuisine is also famous for bread products – from unleavened chapatis to pure. In Singapore, roti prate is a large, thin flatbread fried in a pan. If you wrap spicy lamb (or chicken) with an egg in it, it will turn into multibank, a dish often sold by street vendors.
Interestingly, the most famous Indian dish in Singapore, fish head curry, is not actually Indian at all, but rather a local invention. The head of a red-headed tortoise is usually used for its preparation – it is boiled in a spicy curry and placed on a dish so that the eye is visible.