Ask any of the locals in Singapore for their favourite spot to eat Singapore chili crab, laksa or chicken rice, the answer will vary greatly. The best bet is to ask any cab driver to take you to their favourite hawker centre and you will be able to taste Singapore cuisine.
From hawker centre to fine dining Singapore has been put on the map as a gastronomic destination. Many of the high end restaurants are award winning and a few have been created by the best chefs in the World. Personally I stick to food that the locals are eating – a queue is always a good sign. Whilst in Singpaore eat like a Singaporean.
Singapore has something for everyone.
I was lucky enough to have met my two new food sisters from Sydney Helen & Jen. We were on a food safari a one day eating stampede. Finding the best Singapore had to offer from chicken rice to roti chanai, searching all the hawker centres. A brief walk through China town at night was a tease on the eve of our adventure, shops selling stone carved stamps and signs for painful looking massages. Food stalls closing up – we just missed them.
On waking for our food safari, our first stop was for roti chani at 8.30am in the morning. We had a full day ahead of us – eating that is. We piled into a cab with excitement about the day of adventure and the possibilities of what we might get to eat. Planning which hawker mall to go to first, second, third and forth. Our last stop for the day was to be be at 7pm for dumplings which I had eyed of days earlier.
Opposite the Sultan Mosque you can watch roti being hand-made through the window of Zam Zam. Winning many awards for their deer murtabak which is a generous sized roti stuffed with deer meat. It is definitely worth the try. Wash it down with a tey and if you love roti chanai this place is worth visiting.
The menu is up on the wall as you walk in, that is if you make it past the man whirling dough which you can watch from the street.
Roti chanai, deer murtabak and cucumbers with chili sauce. Tey with milk and tey with sugar.
Painting in Haji Lane
Kallang Estate Fresh Market and Food Centre
Fancy a bowl of soup head to old airport road at the Kallang Estate Fresh Market and Food Centre. Stalls offer bowls of wonton noodle soup, pig intestine soup, fish head soup or minced meat fish ball noodle soup. Join the locals at a table to experience their lives, watching them dine, gather groceries or social banter.
Carrot cake – tofu fried with egg, dark sauce, shallots and sprouts wrapped in a paper packet.
From one end of the market to another, we weaved through open spaces selling soup, to shops crammed together selling fruit and vegetables, while the meat stands stood on their own. Our taxi driver dropped us off here instead of the old airport road hawker centre. It was a good mistake, we were able to watch the locals do their thing. Except that I stood out like a sore thumb since I am white with blonde hair.
BBQ pork wonton noodle soup, with a side of chili from Ah Ngoh Wonton Noodle shop #08
The minced meat fish ball noodle soup is laced with chili, with a refreshingly light chicken broth – the best I had while in Singapore. Stall No #01-14.
Below is the mess three girls leave behind before getting to the next hawker centre. It was a sampling day, little bits of everything.
The Maxwell Food Centre (Market) was our next stop, we had heard about a place that sold the best chicken rice in Singapore. If you are jumping into a cab to any of the hawker centres please call them a market, for example – Maxwell food market or Maxwell hawker market. The word centre does not always get you where you need to be. On route to the Maxwell centre our driver got very stroppy with me for calling it a centre not a market. The sign out the front says centre, go figure. We got there so no big drama just I found it a little odd, I was the silly white girl in the front asking stupid questions.
Tian Tian is known among locals as one of the best chicken rice dishes in Singapore. However it was good, but not write home worthy. The dipping sauce was missing something, the chicken over cooked and well, maybe the rumour is true. We had heard after we left the Maxwell Centre that the original guy making the chicken has moved stalls, two doors down. Not sure if it is true or not.
Anthony Bourdain has put the Maxwell food centre on the culinary map after visiting in 2008 after eating chicken rice (his picture is proudly on the shop window – photo above). I only saw his photo once someone pointed it out to me, I wanted chicken! Needless to say a bit of publicity goes a long way for a business. Tian Tian has long lines to order lunch and I have n told that it could take up to an hour waiting in the queue.
Around the corner I made the choice of joining the longest line in the centre, which was for porridge at 11am. Just like the locals who travel from near the airport (25min away) each day to come and get their breakfast. This place is famous for the fish porridge and sashimi style salad. Dishes served up by the husband and wife team who have been doing this for over twenty years.
Fish porridge, with shallots and side of chili.
White fish sashimi salad, which is covered in fried shallots, bean sprouts and sesame seeds served with lime to squeeze.
Sugar cane juice with ginger and lemon.
Tables outside of the Maxwell centre.
The Amoy Street Food Centre offer the cheapest lunches in the CBD. Indian to Chinese to Malaysian. The standout for a quick bite was a flaky pastry filled with a spiced chicken and potato mush. The first and only curry puff I have seen in Singapore. If you dare you should try the sardine curry puff.
As it was just after lunch time majority of the stalls were already packing up. Washing-up, prepping and eating before they have to do it all again tomorrow.
Chicken curry puff.
Inside of the Chicken Curry Puff.
In the heart of town this historic looking building stands out among all the sky scrapers it is the Lau Pa Sat Festival Market. The high ceilings and fans keep the place well ventilated.
Our first tasting was soup dumplings ordering off the Shangahai dumpling menu, we watched as our dumplings were placed into the bamboo steamers for cooking.
I have not eaten soup dumplings since I was in Shanghai in China over a year ago. Roy and I searched constantly to find the best while we were there. We stumbled upon a place that had large deep-fried soup dumplings. The casing was soft yet crispy from frying and filled with soup and tasty pork.
I was hoping that I was going to find more authentic dumplings on my food safari – to bring back my fond memories of China.
Shanghai deep fried buns & Crab meat soup dumplings
Did I win? Well the crab dumplings were good, not sure if it was real crab though. The soup inside made me happy. I have not had the experience of being so careful when lifting the parcel of meat and soup to my mouth, making sure it was not going to spill since China so it was a winner for me. As for the deep-fried pork dumplings it was missing soup 🙁 not a happy Liz. These ones had a thicker dough almost similar texture to a pork bun not as thick. Yes they were deep fried and golden the filling inside was ground pork and onions, very subtle flavour.
I have to point out, that when eating with two other food bloggers the fun of food photography becomes somewhat a game. The girls below are taking photos and modeling with the tofu jelly. The three spoons one for us each to try. We all took turns at modelling our hands to get the best shot. Holding chopsticks, dumplings or even the curry puff. Good times.
Mutton, beef and chicken satay skewers from Asli Satay Club
While you are seated at the tables in the Lau Pa Sat you can order satay from the vendors outside on the street. They come over to your table with a menu and you put your order in and pay for it. About ten minutes later a plate of meat arrives to your table along with the satay dipping sauce.
I really love lamb – the fact that mutton is just a little older does not bother me, it was still tasty. The beef for me was the stand out on the plate still tender inside. The dipping sauce was served warm and once you dunked your skewer in you made sure to get it to your mouth real fast.
The girls took me to eat popiah – I had never herd of it before and it is a real Singaporean dish. Convinced that I had to try one, the filling was made of sweet/sour shredded yam, beansprouts, egg, lettuce wrapped in a crepe which is not eggy. Personally I did not love it. If the stuffing was made fresh to order I would probably of liked it more. I still tried it.
The food court at Marina Bay Sands is located on the lower floor tucked away at the museum end of the shops. There is a variety of choices to choose from at an affordable price. I tried some shrimp dumplings and steamed pork with chili and ginger.
Also on the lower level is Toast Box and Din Tai Fung.
Singaporeans love coffee, they love it strong, they love it cold, they love it with sugar or even milk. They can choose how they have there coffee. Toast Box is a small diner were people meet and talk over kaya toast and coffee. Kaya toast is a slice of thick or thin bread covered with a mixture of egg, sugar and coconut milk. It is very sweet and sticky, but goes perfectly with a coffee or in my case a black ice tea with sugar.
Jen posing for the camera with the kaya toast and drinks.
While you wait to be seated at Din Tai Fung you can see the dumplings being made by a team of eight; rolling, stuffing and steaming. Once you have filled out your order card for the Taiwanese dumpling chain, baskets start to fill your table. Drinks are delivered and I get unlimited top-ups of green tea.
Steamed pork soup dumplings
The dumplings have a thin pastry with the ration of meat and soup precisely measured. These dumplings were really good, the taste, flavour and texture were perfect. Eating them came down to a fine art of making sure not to burst the dumpling when picking them up. You don’t want to loose any soup. I really liked the crab soup dumplings with the sneaky soup at the bottom of the parcel, I did not think that there would be soup hiding in there.
Steamed shrimp and pork shao-mai
My motherland! It looks like you guys covered some very good gastronomy ground while you were in Singapore. And I totally agree – eating like a local at hawker centres is the bomb if you’re looking for great food at great prices.
We certainly covered some ground. I love cheap and cheerful.
Terrific pictures – I love the one of the man taking a rest. I haven’t been to Singapore (lots of places I haven’t been), but now I feel as if I’m somewhat acquainted – really exceptional post. Good stuff – thanks so much.
So good to see all my favourite haunts. We travel to Singapore every year, I crave Kaya Toast with Coddled Egg, White Pepper and Ketchup Manis, the one in your photo looks a bit deconstructed, I’ve always had the egg on the side, coconut paste spread over a cube of chilled butter which you dip in like soldiers – amazing. I’ve been going to Maxwell Road for over 20 years and hope to see it heritage listed. So many stalls have closed as modern Singapore gentrifies many eateries. Its good for food standards and I know I will have to venture further into the suburbs to get some of the original flavours of the more obscure street delicacies. I always have an up to date copy of my Singapore food bible Makansutra to give me guidance. Awesome photos too.
Thanks Ronnie. Singapore was amazing. It blew me away, it reminded me a lot of Malaysia. It would be cool if the Maxwell Centre gets heritage listed – Long live street food.
We love Singapore hawker food too! Thanks for sharing 🙂