Where to Eat: Singapore Edition

For a city of its size (1 hour by car from east to west or so our cab driver said), Singapore definitely packs in its eateries. Or maybe it’s just an Asia thing (see the Hong Kong post).

It feels like the entire city is linked by an underground labyrinth of shopping malls. Most of these malls contain quality food courts... No Sbarro or McDonald’s here! It makes finding your next meal simple and convenient, but also challenging thanks to the number of choices. There are also great outdoor food markets like Lau Pa Sat if that's more your style.

The following are a few highlights from a whirlwind 48 hours in Singapore.


I heard that the best place to get satay is off Lau Pa Sat market (an outdoor covered food court). At night, the bordering Boon Tat Street is blocked off and filled with locals and visitors alike enjoying cold Tiger beers and freshly grilled satay.

There are numerous vendors set up along Boon Tat Street all attempting to hustle customers to their seating area. According to local sources, all the meat comes from a central supplier; it is the sauce that varies between stands. I went to stall number 8, mainly because there were plenty of patrons in the seating area and also because they claimed to have been featured in a Hong Kong travel publication.
The fan is used to control the flame on the charcoal grill. There are piles of satay in those plastic bags, waiting to meet the heat.
Chicken, beef and mutton skewers with peanut sauce and rice cake
There's something about sitting outdoors in the smoke laden air eating copious amounts of charred grilled meat that feels authentic. I felt a little like Anthony Bourdain, who has a penchant for eating probably-bad-for-you food in foreign outdoor settings. (The irreverent Mr. Bourdain is a foul-mouthed, steel-stomached celebrity chef who travels around the world eating crazy stuff like beating cobra hearts. He's a real badass in the food world, unlike one Mr. Ramsay... who's just a big bully.)

Hainanese chicken

Speaking of Mr. Bourdain, he visited Tian Tian Hainanese Chicken Rice in the Maxwell Food Center and so I followed. If you ever go to Singapore, this is the “national dish” to seek out.

The chicken rice was probably the best 3 USD that I ever spent. The soup was mediocre (tasted like salt water to me) but the “oily” rice was so amazingly fragrant you just want to stick your face in it. I was also surprised that boiled chicken could taste that good.

(more after the jump)

Malaysian/Indonesian Cuisine

One impression I got in Singapore was that it is a mishmash of several cultures including Chinese, British, Indian, Indonesian and Malaysian. This last one is very apparent in the cuisine, which is unsurprising considering the fact that Malaysia is Singapore’s neighbor to the north. 
I had an excellent Southeast Asian feast at Grandma’s Restaurant, conveniently located in Raffles  City mall (there are other locations around the island). The Nasi Bukhari and Nasi Lemak were two combination plates of several specialties. Succulent is the only appropriate word to describe their fried chicken: light and crispy on the outside, ridiculously juicy on the inside. The combo plates are also a great way to sample the beef rendang (coconut beef stew), ikan bilis (anchovies), chicken curry and coconut rice. 


A friend recommended going to Bengawan Solo for traditional baked goods. And now I also recommend it to you.

If you only try one thing from there (but why would you?), the spongy, moist pandan chiffon cake is like heaven in your mouth. It tasted of coconut with the delicate fragrance of pandan (a nutty, almost floral quality). I bought more to take home with me.
Pandan chiffon cake
Kueh lapis is another specialty. Making this cake is extremely laborious since each of its many layers must be cooked separately. It is firm in texture and I could taste spice (nutmeg?).

Kueh lapis
Ondeh ondeh are chewy pandan-infused tapioca balls, rolled in coconut and filled with palm sugar. The filling has a pretty strong burnt taste that took some getting used to. Remember to put the whole thing in your mouth or else the filling makes a real mess when you bite into it.  
Ondeh ondeh

Although not expressly Singaporean, I saw a stand for “Original Durian Pancakes” in the Takashimaya food court. It was a little “dumpling” consisting of a thin pancake wrapping pure mashed durian. This odiferous fruit is an acquired taste (one that I do not have yet). I would describe it as a sweet, vanilla and garlic pulp. It had all the sharpness and pungency of raw garlic and the taste would not leave my mouth until I got my hands on some toothpaste.

Approach with caution


If durian is the devil, the mangosteen has to be the angel fruit. I was so excited to finally have fresh mangosteen (although the specimen was from Thailand). The flesh is silky but fibrous with a single seed. The flavor is very concentrated and very, well, fruity. It’s like a combination of mango and melon and lychee. SO delicious. 

(If you’re buying fresh mangosteen, here are some tips from the nice lady at the market who picked some out for me: Look for dark, smooth skinned specimens. They should feel soft if you squeeze them. That’s how you can tell that they’re ripe, and this way you can break them open with a squeeze to reveal the creamy white fruit inside.)

Eat here!

Boon Tat Street for satay

Tian Tian Hainanese Chicken Rice
Stall 10 at Maxwell Food Centre on Maxwell Rd.

Grandma's Kitchen
Raffles City Food Court
252 North Bridge Rd

Bengawan Solo (chain)
391A Orchard Rd.

Four Seasons Durians
391A Orchard Rd.

Images property of beetsandbites

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