If you invite a friend over to Singapore, where would you bring this guest? To share your favourite local dishes, to bring them to a place of interest, to show a slice of Singapore.
This got me thinking, “Where would you bring them and why?”
In fact, I have been asked this question countless times. While food is always the focus, my choices could have a combination of hawker centres, cafes and restaurants.
Of course, “must-eat” is rather subjective.
Some factors for my choices – it should be worth going or have certain significance, hopefully be near an MRT station for convenience, and within walking distance to some of Singapore’s most famous landmarks. I do agree it can be a “touristy” list.
So allow me to suggest 26 places to bring this friend of mine. The A-Z List Of Where To Eat, Where To Go Around Singapore.
Amoy Street Food Centre located in the central business district continues to offer quality hawker fare at very affordable prices.
Located just a few minutes’ walk away from Telok Ayer and Tanjong Pagar MRT stations, the place is very crowded during lunchtime when office workers head down in droves for lunch, although that is also the only time most of the stalls are open.
One of the highly recommended stalls is “A Noodle Story” which serves “Singapore-style ramen”, and is also listed on the Michelin Bib Gourmand.
You get a bowl with Japanese style charshu, soy-flavoured braised egg, Hong Kong style wontons, potato wrapper prawn fritter for that crunch.
Address: Amoy Street Food Centre 7 Maxwell Road Singapore 069111
MRT: Tanjong Pagar MRT Exit G)
Two words: Pandan cake. Some friends overseas always get me to ‘tompang’ a few of Bengawan Solo’s pandan chiffon cakes when I travel, especially to Hong Kong.
On a usual day, I get just one slice, and enjoy the pillowy soft goodness, humming that famous song in my head, “Bengawan Solo, Riwayatmu ini…”
JJ Lin brought this cake to a Chinese variety show to share with other celebs, and this got more popular than ever.
Address: Various, such as Ion Orchard, Takashimaya, Plaza Singapura
MRT: Orchard MRT
After the slice: Shopping at Orchard Road.
Rarely do I get so excited about a buffet restaurant. Colony at The Ritz-Carlton, Millenia Singapore has a gorgeous British-colonial setting.
Eight different conservatory kitchens incorporating live cooking offer Singapore heritage cuisine and more. One place where you can bring your foreign friends to try out our local delicacies all at one go.
While you are here, it is a necessity to leave with the signature Colony Laksa with Homemade Lobster Ball. The gravy is lemak (coconut-y), mildly spicy and out-and-out satisfying.
Address: Level 3, The Ritz-Carlton, Millenia Singapore, 7 Raffles Avenue Singapore 039799
After the meal: A short walk to Singapore Flyer, that giant Ferris wheel, for a different view of Singapore.
Department Of Caffeine, now rebranded as Populus located at 146 Neil Road)
I thought I should include a hipster café in somewhere.
Well, the Telegraph listed Singapore’s Department Of Caffeine (D.O.C.) as one of the world’s best coffee shops, and it is now rebranded as “Populus” with a bigger space, larger variety of food.
Many of my overseas friends also love visiting Chye Seng Huat, Strangers’ Reunion, Common Man Coffee Roasters, Nylon Coffee Roasters, and 40 Hands. If you are looking for at other choices.
Address: 146 Neil Road Singapore 088875
MRT: Chinatown or Outram (10 min walk)
After the meal: Surrounding areas such as Duxton, Keong Siak, Ann Siang, and Chinatown are great places to explore.
I personally would recommend Edge for its spread of dishes to buffet lovers. The restaurant offers a heritage lunch called Makan Makan (means ‘eat and eat’) on Saturday afternoons, with nostalgic treats including Babi Pongteh (a Peranakan dish), Lobster Ngoh Hiang (minced meat rolls), Tai Lok Mee, Ice Kachang (ice shavings) and Orh Nee (yam paste dessert).
Address: Pan Pacific Hotel 7 Raffles Boulevard Singapore 039595
After the meal: Pan Pacific Hotel is connected to Suntec City, and a short 15-20 minutes’ walk to Marina Bay Sands, Esplanade – Theatres on the Bay, Singapore Flyer, Gardens by the Bay.
Douglas Ng is a ‘hawkerpreneur’ I would like to introduce my foreign friends to, for being one who makes fishballs by hand. Douglas is very outspoken and not afraid to share.
His fish balls are made at 4am in the morning, using all pure fish meat and no flour, which he proudly said “Quan yong gong fu da chu lai de”, which means they were all produced by true skills.
Address: Timbre+, 73A Ayer Rajah Crescent #01-32, JTC LaunchPad @ one-north Singapore 139957
MRT: One North
After the meal: Explore the other food containers at Timbre+.
Goodwood Park Hotel
Described to “taste like heaven, but smell like hell” – Durian is many Singaporean’s favourite fruit.
Goodwood Park Hotel’s Durian Puffs are some of the best known, and a must-have even for non-durian lover like myself. The puff looks like a profiterole with light mousse-y durian flesh, is dainty, and fits into one mouthful.
Address: Coffee Lounge, Goodwood Park Hotel, 22 Scotts Road, Singapore 228221
MRT: Orchard (10 min walk)
After the meal: More Orchard Road shopping, especially affordable fashion items from Far East Plaza a 5-minute walk away.
The story of HarriAnn touched me. The stall was founded by couple Harry and Ann who learnt traditional Nonya kueh making from Harry’s mother.
Harry’s mother Mdm Chia had to raise the family single-handedly. Other than its glutinous rice (which tastes almost like what my grandma used to make), I think our foreign friends should try our local version of the ‘rainbow cake’, the Nonya-style Rainbow Lapis.
Address: 230 Victoria Street #01-01A Bugis Junction Towers Singapore 188024, and Tiong Bahru Food Centre
After the slice: Bugis Village for bargain hunting and young fashion buys.
Imperial Treasure Super Peking Duck
Our very own Imperial Treasure Super Peking Duck is ranked one of Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants 2015, making it the only Chinese restaurant from Singapore on that list. I once brought friends from New Zealand here, and they left feeling satisfied, saying “This is the best Chinese meal we have ever eaten.” Plus having and wrapping Peking Duck together, helps bonding.
Address: Paragon #05-42/45, 290 Orchard Rd. Singapore 238859
After the meal: Some higher end shopping at Paragon with up-market and luxury products.
Jian Bo Chwee Kueh
Many Singaporeans would agree that Jian Bo offers one of the best chwee kuehs around, a simple dish of smooth and soft steamed rice cakes topped with oily preserved radish.
This is actually what I eat regularly since I was a child. Simple, yet so very satisfying and nostalgic.
Address: Tiong Bahru Market & Food Centre, 30 Seng Poh Road, Singapore 168898
MRT Station: Tiong Bahru (15 min walk)
After the meal: Order more food around, such as Tiong Bahru Pau, Zhong Yu Yuan Wei Roast, Koh Brother Pig’s Organ Soup, and Teck Seng Soya Bean drink. Then go downstairs to have a look at the local wet market.
Kopitiam is a common part of Singapore, where a typical drink stall would sell coffee (kopi), tea (teh), milo and other soft drinks, along with breakfast items such as kaya toast and soft-boiled eggs. This is our way of life.
There are Killiney Shops around, but what better way to have it at… Killiney Road!
I will introduce friends to slurping half-boiled eggs with pepper and dark-soya sauce, both disgusting-looking but delicious. Also, our Nanyang-style coffee is in a class of its own.
Address: 67 Killiney Road Singapore 239525
MRT: Somerset (5-10 min walk)
After the meal: A Killiney Curry Puff a few shops down, or back to Orchard Road which is 5 minutes away.
Restaurant Labyrinth exemplifies creativity in cuisine, a Mod-Sin (modern Singaporean) restaurant which presents “familiar flavours with a twist”.
Self-taught Chef Owner Han Li Guang creates items such as Chilli Crab – deep fried soft shell crab with a scoop of chilli crab ice cream; Siew Yoke Fan – a tender slab of roasted pork served on risotto cooked in ramen broth and topped with quail egg cooked sous-vide style; and Hainanese Curry Rice made of quinoa. Some of the dishes I tried were quite mind-blowing.
Address: 8 Raffles Avenue, #02-23 Esplanade Mall Singapore 039802
After the meal: Of course it would be a walk around “the durian”, the other name for Esplanade – Singapore’s most important arts venture. We can watch some performances here, or do a guided tour which takes us through the front-of-house facilities.
Muthu’s Curry at Race Course Road has a long history of over 40 years, and has emerged as an icon serving hearty South Indian fare.
Having their Fish Head Curry with rich gravy blended with aromatic spices plus a glass of Mango Lassi can be an unforgettable eating experience.
Add: 138 Race Course Road #01-01 Singapore 218591. Other branches at Suntec City Mall, Dempsey Road Blk 7
MRT: Farrer Park (for Race Course Road)
After the meal: Mustafa Centre, one of my favourite malls, which sells almost EVERYTHING. Plus, Mustafa is opened 24/7.
Chilli crab can be said to be one of Singapore’s most representative dishes, and I like dipping deep fried mantou into that gooey spicy-sweet-orange sauce. So good. This is also the kind of food that can get our hands dirty with lots of laughter from sharing stories around the round table.
Address: 414 Geylang Singapore 389392, Vivocity, The Central at Clarke Quay, The Esplanade
After the meal: A walk down Geylang for the king of fruits – durian.
Old Chang Kee Curry Puff
My mum looooooves Old Chang Kee curry puffs (even though I will try not to let her eat so many deep fried stuff). This is also one of the snacks we grew up with, though OCK is more commercialised now.
Their hot crispy potato and chicken filled curry puffs can be considered the most popular in Singapore. Sometimes, I grab one on-the-go when my mouth is itching for food.
Address: Various outlets, many in Central area such as Orchard Road. One of the most original places is at Rex Cinema, 2 Mackenzie Road #01-01 Singapore 228673
MRT: Little India
After the snack: Off to Little India to immerse in this historic district of vibrant cultures and ethnic-inspired shopping.
Punggol Nasi Lemak
Nasi lemak is a fragrant rice dish cooked in coconut milk and pandan leaf. Punggol Nasi Lemak serves theirs with favourite add-ons such as crispy wings, fried fish, egg, luncheon meat, long bean, spicy shrimp floss, homemade archar and lady’s fingers.
Thai Hom Mali grain is used for the rice, which did give it an edge – long grained, aromatic, resonating with flavours of coconut milk.
Address: 371 Jalan Besar #01-01 Singapore 208998, or 965 Upper Serangoon Road Singapore 534721, 238 Tanjong Katong Road Singapore 437026
MRT: Lavender (15 min walk)
After the meal: To café hotspot of Jalan Besar
Queensway Lau Tan Tutu Kueh
“Tu Tu” comes from Hokken word “push push”. (My dad is Hokkien.) These Tutu cakes came about in the 40s, where immigrants with the surname Tan sold these snacks on the streets on push carts, therefore the name.
These cakes made of rice flour with sweet coconut and grounded peanut are still meticulously hand made to retain its original flavour.
Address Queensway Shopping Centre, Ion Orchard, Chinatown Point, Bedok North St 1
MRT: Orchard (for Ion Orchard), Chinatown (for Chinatown Point)
After the snack: A tour down Chinatown for some Lim Chee Guan at New Bridge Road, souvenirs at Pagoda Street, and other shophouses along Smith street.
Rendezvous Nasi Padang
A long time ago, I had a family lunch at the original Rendezvous Restaurant Hock Lock Kee and I remembered sitting at a long table, enjoying those homely and varied Western Sumatran Nasi Padang dishes.
Even though the restaurant has moved, we can still go back time to time, to have our regular favourites of beef rendang, chicken curry, and sambal sotong.
Address: 6 Eu Tong Sen St, #02-72 to 75/77/92 Clarke Quay Central, 059817
MRT: Clarke Quay Central
After the meal: A walk down the scenic Singapore River and the neighbouring famous quays: Boat Quay, Clarke Quay and Robertson Quay.
Satay By The Bay
There is a part of me that misses the old Satay Club. The Satay By The Bay is a good alternative, with many stalls selling satay and local barbecued fare.
All these while being surrounded by lush greenery before a waterfront, and a walk away from the beautiful Gardens by The Bay.
With that said, I think locals don’t come here THAT often.
Address: 18 Marina Gardens Dr, Singapore 018953
MRT: Bayfront (Long walk though)
After the meal: Gardens by the Bay.
Tian Tian Chicken Rice
Probably one of Singapore’s most famous chicken rice stalls, Tian Tian’s winning formula to me has to be its rice.
Even Anthony Bourdain said that the chicken rice is so fragrant and delicious that it can be eaten on its own. The rice is warm, fluffy, fragrant, good enough to just eat with the chilli sauce.
HOWEVER, I did think that the standard of Tian Tian has dropped, ironically after winning in the “Gordon Ramsay vs Tian Tian” Hawker Heroes Challenge.
Fame has found the stall, tourists all over the world come here to queue for a plate.
Address: Maxwell Food Centre, 1 Kadayanallur St, Singapore 069184
After the meal: Too many stalls not to miss out at Maxwell. Zhen Zhen Porridge, Jin Hua Sliced Fish Bee Hoon, China Street Fritters, Lao Ban Beancurd, Hoe Kee Congee, Lim Kee Banana Fritters, Fried Sweet Potato Dumplings, Maxwell Fuzhou Oyster Cake and Hum Jin Peng.
It can be quite fun with unexpected tastes when it comes to trying out offerings from a local ice-cream shop. Local-inspired flavours from Udders include Mao Shan Wang Durian, D24 Durian, Coconut Sherbet, and Nian Gao.
Outlets: Novena, Serangoon Garden, Upper Thomson, Siglap, Lor Kilat
After the ice cream: A short bus ride to Balestier or Orchard.
Violet Oon has been described as “Singapore’s Julia Child”. Her traditional Nyonya dishes are some of the MUST TRIES in Singapore, because they are unique, hard-to-find, time consuming to prepare and contain an explosion of tastes.
Address: 881 Bukit Timah Road. Opening at National Gallery Singapore, 1 St Andrew’s Road Singapore 178958
MRT: City Hall (for National Gallery)
After the meal: Visit National Gallery and its exhibitions. This is Singapore’s brand new visual arts museum, refurnished from the former Supreme Court.
Singapore’s Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong brought his foreign friends here. Of course we should be proud of our homegrown chef Willin Low.
Plus, this guy is an auntie-charmer I tell you, and he can make guests feel right at home.
He is also one of the first Singaporean friends to introduce ‘Mod-Sin’ cuisine, incorporating local Singapore flavours into restaurant food.
Address: The Hangout Hotel, 10A Upper Wilkie Road, Singapore 228119
MRT: Dhoby Ghaut
After the meal: A walk to Tekka Centre, Singapore’s largest indoor ‘wet’ market. (Perhaps Chef Willin can give you tips on what to buy there.)
Xiu Ji Ikan Bilis Yong Tau Fu
Not many stalls make Yong Tau Fu like Xiu Ji anymore – handmade, fresh and simple. Plus add the deep fried anchovies for some flavours and crunch. Long queue though.
Address: Chinatown Complex Market 02-88, 335 Smith Street, Singapore 050335
After the meal: So much more to eat at Chinatown Complex. The shops downstairs are interesting to explore too.
Ya Kun Kaya Toast
Ya Kun Kaya Toast is probably THE shop that started the entire wave of local kopi toast chains. Founded by Loi Ah Koon in 1944, one of its most original shops is at Far East Square.
After they started franchising in 2000, Ya Kun never looked back. Many Singaporeans love their thin, brown crispy grilled bread, spread with homemade kaya comprising of coconut milk, sugar, eggs and fragrant pandan.
Address: Various locations, including 18 China Street #01-01 Singapore 049560
MRT: Raffles Place / Telok Ayer
After the meal: Telok Ayer near the CBD is actually home to many Chinese temples and Muslim mosques, including the Thian Hock Keng Temple (built for the Hokkiens), Fuk Tak Chi Temple (for the Hakkas and Cantonese), Nagore Durga Shrine (for Indian Muslims), the Al-Abrar Mosque and the Telok Ayer Methodist Church.
Zam Zam, opposite the famous Sultan Mosque, is popular with its Nasi Briyani and Murtabak. Do you know that they have been around since 1908? That makes it 107 years old.
The restaurant is supremely crowded, the service staff exude an air of arrogance, and note that you MUST order either a briyani ($6.80) or murtabak ($8.00) if you sit on the second level.
Some say the murtabak is the best in Singapore; while others say the standard has dropped. Still, how many restaurants in Singapore can say they have been around more than a century?
Address: 697-699 North Bridge Road Singapore 198675
After the meal: Visit the colourful Arab Street, filled with shops selling textile, jewellery, Persian carpets and local souvenirs.
* This entry is brought to you in partnership with Singapore Tourism Board.