What to eat in Singapore. The national dish is chicken rice, a simple dish elevated to the level of perfection. Poached chicken cooked with ginger and scallions over rice cooked in the remaining stock. Ridiculously easy and yet we’ve yet to find as tasty an offering here in the U.S. that even comes close to the $3.99 lunch special sold in the MRT (on a subway platform!)
Chili crab is a must-try, this above all else is what we miss the most from Singapore. Sri Lankan crabs are stir-fried in a thick, sweet and savory tomato and chili based sauce. Despite the name they are mildly spicy (not spicy at all by SE Asian standards). Eat with your fingers this dish is well worth the mess and mop up the mouth-watering gravy with Chinese mantou (buns). Not a first date dish!
Malaysian comfort-food is readily available in the form of laksa, a rich and creamy noodle dish that is a combination of Malay and Chinese styles of cooking. This dish is often the source of great debate among Singaporeans with several variations available, seafood being the more popular. The long simmering times of the spicy coconut broth brings out the flavor and often the heat so be aware of the amount of spice, disguised by the initial sweet-smoothness of the coconut it can take you by surprise.
Satay grilled meat on a stick, what else is there to say? While there is an abundance of complicated tastes and combinations of spices on this little island, the simplest dishes are often the ones you remember most and can duplicate least in your own kitchen. Chicken and prawn satay hot off the grill and a cold Tiger beer on a sultry Singapore night…ahhh…..and oh yes, be sure to get lots of the delicious peanut sauce for dipping.
Fish head, fish head, roly-poly fishhead…curry. The song does a disservice to the yumminess that is some of the most delicious meat in the fish – and it is an honor to be offered the eyes so don’t flinch. They really don’t taste like much, so be a good guest and wash them down with some Tiger beer.
Bak ku teh translated as pork rib tea is a delicious soup that is often consumed for breakfast and don’t forget the Chinese crullers for dunking.
Crab be hoon should be on your list as well – another popular seafood noodle dish made famous in a delicious bit of food porn footage on Anthony Bourdain’s No Reservations.
Where to eat in Singapore? It is difficult to be removed from Singapore and stay current with which shop has the best (insert any Singaporean dish) not to mention the onslaught of back lash from the foodie corner of the Internet. So how do you find the best of each dish? It’s simple, ask a Singaporean! The fastest way to make friends in Singapore is ask them about food, but be aware Singaporeans are quite passionate about food. In a one-party democracy, there is no sense in talking politics, so they replace it with talk about food. Another tip is see where the lines are the longest, chances are if the locals are willing to wait in line there is a good reason.
Little India is the the place to eat Indian food and our personal favorite is Khansamas on Serangoon @ Norris Rd. Don’t let the touts discourage you, we are normally put off by people shoving menus in the face of tourists, but this place was well worth stopping for and we became regulars. Khansama’s was among the last places we ate before we moved back to the US. The only down side was that we almost always ordered too much food, but we were treated like family except we were never asked to help clear the table. The Arab Quarter had excellent options for Middle Eastern food but be aware if you want a beer with dinner this is not the place to go. Chinatown, in our opinion, was not the place to dine, though there was a great little brick oven pizza place nearby.
One of the best and least intimidating places to break out of your food comfort zone is a Food Republic. It is a large bustling themed food court but it offers a wide variety of options in an air-conditioned space, a great reprieve for a sun baked country just 80 miles north of the equator. It offers you the time to walk around and observe and yes, even figure out what you are ordering. And if you don’t like it, it wont set you back but a couple dollars. Food Republic is a chain and has several locations including one above the shopping-crazy street Orchard Road and on the top floor in Vivo City Mall on the southern tip of the island.
Safe travels and bon appetit!
Part one of this article Surviving Singapore A Cultural Guide Part 1 Dining Etiquette