Singapore is proud to be the culinary capital of Asia, receiving influences of Chinese Malaysian, Indian and Indonesia cuisines, as also Sri Lanka and Thailand. Arise even traces of Portuguese and English presence in the region, were the “portuguese egg tart” which is no more than the famous pastel-de-nata.
Singapore like any big city offers a wide range of choice in terms of restaurants, not only in terms of cuisine, where Asian food dominates but also with many Western and World option, but also in terms of cost of a meal.
And through the city, we are faced with the simplest and informal restaurants, whose space is open to the street, to the most sophisticated places, passing through many restaurants “a la carte” that feature a wide range of prices. In between is a myriad of choices, showing that food plays an important role in the social live of Singaporeans, that given the high purchasing power fill up restaurants, especially on Fridays and Saturdays.
And here we are faced with the question what really is the typical Singaporean food… the answer is: that’s a bit of everything, not a mixture of influences from which resulted an own cuisine that reflects the geographical position, climate, fauna and flora of the region, but an offer of diversity in terms of gastronomy that reflects the ethnic and religious diversity is what best defines this country-city-state.
The areas of Little India, Kampong Glam and Chinatown are the most attractive in terms of food, with any of them with options for all pockets. The shopping centers also have many options in terms of restaurants apart from fast food and big international food chains.
In Singapore the food although more expensive than in neighboring Asian countries is affordable, as you stick to food-courts and markets, as there isn’t in Singapore “street food”. These sites provide meals from 4 S$, which corresponds to € 2.5.
A bit all over the city, with the exception of the most sophisticated and wealthy areas (Wafles Place, Marina Bay, etc…) there are food-courts that comprised several kiosks, stall or small restaurants grouped in the same space sharing a common area consisting of tables and chairs, were people have meals or drinks. Each of these places has it own type of food that usually is served in take-away system. These food-courts could be huge to the point where a person almost get lost in there or of more modest dimensions, but they are always the cheapest and quickest option and the one that attracts most of the local people.
Usually these places offer several options in terms of food, Chinese, Malay, India … but some are more targeted to Chinese food, where it is sometimes difficult to find vegetarian food. The fried-rice and fried-noodles are easy to find and are a good vegetarian option, as the food is made in the moment and is possible to ask to replace the meat or seafood, for vegetables and sometimes tofu. Also very popular is the so called fast food or simply rice or rice plate, where food is exposed on trays with many vegetarian options, and each person make his own plate, based on rice, paying for the number of varieties that are served. This type of meal can cost around 4 to 5 S$
With so much diversity is not difficult to find vegetarian or even vegan restaurants, but these usually in more sophisticated areas of the city, and not so affordable. But Singapore brings together different types of cuisines and almost everywhere have at least one vegetarian option, with the Chinese food the most difficult in this field, and the Indiana the easiest since in Singapore there are a big Hindu community. The Malaysian food also has some traditional dishes, that depending on the restaurant may have or not animal products, but you can try to ask to replaced meat, fish or shellfish by tofu, which due to Chinese influence is quite popular.
But attention because sometimes the pastes that seasoning the food are often made with fish-source or other animal condiments. For vegans is more difficult as the eggs are a constant presence in many of the dishes.
Kampong Glam, the so-called Arab Quarter featuring up around the mosque Masjid Sultan, one can find food from Morocco, Tunisia, Turkey and Iran, as also many more options being an ideal place to enjoy traditional Malaysian dishes: laksa, lontong, nasi lemak, nasi goreng … where “nasi” means rice, that could be steamed or stir-fry in various forms and flavors, with vegetables, egg, chicken, beef or seafood… pork is excluded from Malay gastronomy as this is Muslim country.
The nasi lemak can be considered one of the most popular dishes from Malaysia and is usually consumed at breakfast, simple and very easy to prepare is based on rice with fried anchovies, fried peanuts, cucumber slices and egg (boiled or fried) at the side. The nasi lemak can be served on the plate or wrapped in banana leaf to take-away. But what makes this special dish is the sambal, a red paste resulting from a mix of chilies, onions, garlic, ginger and a few more spices, resulting in a spicy mixture, but very tasty.
Laksa is another popular Malaysian dishes easily found in Singapore, comprising a curry based on coconut milk, sweet and spice with ginger and lemongrass, which involves rice noodles and some vegetables. It may also served with shellfish.
Lontong is a traditional Indonesian dish that was built in Malaysian cuisine, and also popular in Singapore. Made with pressed rice forming a roll which is then cut into pieces seasoning with a vegetable curry cooked on coconut milk, to which joins tofu, tempeh and boiled egg. Like the nasi lemak, it adds a fish-based sambal.
Kampong Glam is one of the best places to try the biryani, an Indian dish made of rice, traditional in Muslim areas, but with a Malay “twist” with a strong meat presence. Here you can also appreciate the roti prata, or simply roti, or paratta, which is traditional South Indian specialty but that was incorporated in Malaysian cuisine being also very popular in Singapore. It is a flat bread, unleavened, but whose dough is extended to be very thin, with the help of much oil and then worked and flattened, in order to create rough layers, which later sintered in metallic surface until becomes slightly crispy. It is served with a small dish of curry, were pieces of the roti are soaked. We can find many versions of this dish, with the roti stuffed with egg, banana, sweetened milk…
For those who like Indian food, Little India is the place that offers best variety, especially focus traditional food of South India, as most of the Indian community resident here has his origins the state of Tamil Nadu. In addition to all the most popular type of snacks are the thalis with many restaurants serving this meal, vegetarian or non-vegetarian, in a banana leaf. Here are also the popular rotis, the dosa, uttapam, vada, puri, etc … Little India is also the best place to buy Indian origin products such as spices and condiments, lying in grocery stores a large variety of vegetables .
In Chinatown, even more than in other parts of the city, buzzing with activity around the food, dominating the food-courts, where you can meet hundreds of food stalls and find a bit of everything in terms of Asian cuisine, attracting thousands of people and open from morning until the evening, with food being served throughout the day. One of the most popular is the Chinatown Complex, where the environment is noisy and busy but it provides an interesting insight into the way of life, culture and way of being of the population. A meal in these food-courts can cost between 4 to 5 S$, with the meat and seafood dishes higher-priced.
One of Chinese specialties is the popiah, a very thin dough roll involving a mix of lettuce, soy sprouts, peanuts, cooked carrots and a spicy sauce. They are delicious, and a great vegetarian option for a snack.
Also in Chinatown, the Buddha Tooth Relic Temple, there is a canteen in the basement where only vegetarian food is served, but according to Chinese recipes, where the meat is replaced by derivatives from vegetable origin that resemble meat in appearance and consistency. A ideal way to explore the rich Chinese cuisine for vegetarians. Each meal, which consists of a rice dish with two dishes cost 3 $S. Only open till 3 pm. The food is good, the atmosphere is calm and has charitable purposes.
In terms of drinks tea is very popular among the Chinese community, being seen for medicinal purposes; but it is the milk-tea that gained in popularity, which is tea with sweetened milk that can be served hot or with ice. A sweet and refreshing drink that goes well with the hot and humid climate of Singapore. Addictive.
The coffee is also very popular and can be found at sophisticated coffee shops, coping the western style with espresso, cappuccino, latte, etc… or alternatively you can taste the Singaporean coffee, kopi, a filtered coffee extremely dense and very strong in terms of caffeine, which is served in different ways:
- Kopi: coffee with condensed milk, served hot
- Kopi C: hot coffee served with milk and sugar
- Kopi: with sugar
- Kopi Kosong: without sugar and without milk
Where to eat in China Town:
- Tooth Relic Temple: canteen with Chinese Vegetarian Food: 3 S$.
Address: 288 S Bridge Rd, Singapore 058840
- Chinatown Complex: the fresh market in the basement, laundry on the ground floor and food on the first floor where the options are so many it’s hard to choose with different types of cuisines and specialty stalls in specific dishes; meals from 3 S$.
Where to eat in Little India:
- Komala Villas: Typical South Indian food at affordable prices; thali served in a banana leaf.
Address: 76 Serangoon Road, Singapore 217981
- Famous Indian Curry Food Restaurant: serving delicious thali in banana leaf, in a informal and quiet restaurant in with vegetarian options. 6 S$
Address: 30/32 Upper Dickson Road, Singapore 207489
Where to eat in Kampong Glam (Arab Quarter):
- Kampong Glam Cafe: good food with a wide variety of Malaysian dishes (lontong, laksa, nasi lemak, nasi goreng and many more), rotis and also with the self-service option where based on rice can compose the dish with various side dishes to choose from a big range of option, and where you can also find vegetarian Optimal location for a meal or just for a drink (no alcohol) and watching the local way of life. Meals from 3.5 S$.
Address: 17 Bussorah St, Singapore 199438
- Singapore Zam Zam Restaurant: very popular for byriani (only meat) and the rotis
Address: 697-699 N Bridge Rd, Singapore 198675
Where to eat in Geyland:
- Rice House (Wang Da Zhou): This casual restaurant confeciona the recipes of Chinese cuisine but using derived from vegetable products, mainly soybeans, which are similar in texture to the meat, and we can thus enjoy “hainanese chicken rice” without sacrificing animals ☺
Address: Blk 129 # 01-102 Geylang East Avenue 2, Singapore380129, Singapore
- Rochor Beancurd House: here are produced and serve to soy-based products, for example soy-milk and beancurd (also called soybean pudding) a pudding made of very soft and smooth tofu that is served as a dessert or snack, washed down with sugarcane syrup, a typical product of Chinese cuisine. In addition, there is the “portuguese egg tart”!
Address: 745 Geyland Road (Lor 39), Singapore 389653