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Singaporeans don't just love to eat – they live for it. Bring your appetite and loosen your belt, because few cities have better or more varied dining. From cheap-and-cheerful hawker centres to elegant top-end restaurants and everything in between, here's your go-to guide to some of the best spots to indulge in all that Singapore's food scene has to offer.
Budget flavour: hawker centres
For a showcase of Singapore's multicultural heritage, nothing beats hawker centres, which are akin to food halls and can be indoors or open-air. You can eat well and cheaply, enjoy a huge choice, and soak up the neighbourhood atmosphere.
There are over 6,000 hawkers in more than 110 hawker centres in Singapore, preparing delicious meals everyday, so you'll not have trouble finding one. However, if like the locals, you are obsessed with visiting the award-winning stalls, some of the best hawker centres to visit include Maxwell Food Centre, Amoy Street Food Centre, Tiong Bahru Market, and ABC Brickworks Food Centre, to just name a few. Additionally, the delightfully named Chomp Chomp Food Centre caters to midnight cravings, while Old Airport Road Food Centre has five Michelin-mentioned stalls.
Dishes to try include poached Hainan chicken, fried carrot cake and barbecued satay skewers. Also not to be missed are the variety of real "Singapore Noodles", including Hokkien noodles fried with pork, prawns and beansprouts, Singapore-style laksa (which features coconut milk and cockles) and char kway teow, a staple of rice noodles served with sausage, fishcake, vegetable and egg in dark sauce.
The Tekka Centre in Little India has vindaloo curries, tandoori chicken, murtabak (meat inside and curry atop roti) and rojak, a jumble of battered vegetables doused in sweet & savoury peanut sauce.
Mid-range eats: zi char
Literally translated as "cook and fry", zi char is a uniquely Singaporean dining experience at usually open-air, family-run eateries offering extensive seafood, meat and vegetable dishes designed for sharing. The cooking is sophisticated and innovative, but the ambiance is unpretentious and relaxed.
Expect traditional Chinese home-style cooking, although younger chefs are now getting more creative, and you'll also find Malay and Indian influences. Zi char restaurants are a great place to try Singapore dishes that draw influences from multiple cultures – such as fish-head curries and mee goreng– which fuse Chinese, Malay and Indian influences.
Among great zi char restaurants is Keng Eng Kee Seafood, which has been running since 1970 and pleasing customers with its coffee pork ribs, New Ubin Seafood which serves up hits like "heart attack" fried rice and har cheong kai (fried prawn paste chicken), and old-school Kok Sen Restaurant, most famous for its bee hoon (rice vermicelli) soup with prawns.
Given the Chinese love of seafood, zi char are great establishments to try fish-head curries, steamed fish, squid and the famously finger-licking Singapore chilli crab. JB Ah Meng Restaurant, a favourite haunt of well-known chefs, specialises in white-pepper crab, and Ka Soh restaurant is renowned for their fish-head noodles.
Chef SM Pang from New Ubin Seafood Singapore serving up his “heart attack” fried rice. Photo: STB.
Taste treats: Fine-dining restaurants
Singapore has a world-class dining scene, with over 40 restaurants awarded Michelin Stars, close to 60 with the Bib Gourmand recognition and 8 entries in the list of Asia's 50 Best Restaurants. You'll find international dining options in sophisticated, elegant settings, among them Odette for French fare, Una for Spanish and stunning Koma for Japanese.
Candlenut is the world's first Michelin-starred Peranakan restaurant, showcasing an updated, contemporary version of this distinctive fusion cuisine. Its elaborate tasting menu saves you from making the tough choices.
Even tourist destinations have great restaurants. Innovative Bordeaux-born chef David Thien brings Asian-French fusion to Corner House in the Botanic Gardens. National Kitchen in the National Gallery sees Violet Oon, one of the doyennes of Singapore's food scene, serving classical Peranakan dishes and updated Singaporean classics, while Labyrinth at the Esplanade serves up "New Singaporean" cuisine, with hits like Chilli Crab Ice Cream.
Don't overlook hotel restaurants. Jade serves top-quality Cantonese cuisine in a gorgeous setting – the Hokkien egg noodles with Boston lobster and XO chilli sauce is a must-try. At Wah Lok, crab-meat dumplings and BBQ pork buns take dim sum to new levels, while Summer Pavilion has superb seafood. If you want a change from Asian, Jaan features innovative modern British cuisine with a side of stunning views. Tuck in.
For more insider information to reimagine your next Singapore trip, join Singapore actress Fiona Xie – famous for her role as Kitty Pong in the Hollywood blockbuster Crazy Rich Asians, as she explores Singapore with Aussie and Kiwi expatriates, in the three-part video series SingapoRevealed.
Dive into 7 Things You Didn't Know About Singapore's Food Scene in the player below, where you will go on a mouth-watering journey into Singapore's exciting culinary world, with a historian, a professional MMA fighter and an entrepreneur.
Also check out the Singapore's Best Kept Secrets and Singapore-The Garden City videos, as well as top tips from Fiona, at visitsingapore.com/en_au/singaporevealed/