A Foodie’s Guide to Singapore

28 November 2013

Singapore is a gastronome’s paradise, with broad cultural diversity making it an absolute melting pot of flavour.

Teetering on the edge of the Malay Peninsula, Singapore’s culinary scene is a tasty fusion of Malaysian, Chinese, Indian and Eurasian influences that inevitably see hungry travellers leaving with a little extra holiday weight – off with the jeans and on with the sweats!

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Trademarks of the Singaporean food include fragrant fluffy rice, noodles swimming in rich broth, and dumplings jam-packed with scrumptiousness among the 12 (yes, 12!) national dishes.

Start your day off right with “kaya” coconut jam on toast at your closest kopitiam (coffee shop), schedule in a midday street-food feast at a Hawker Centre, and see sundown on a high note with a smorgasbord of seafood and a Singapore Sling accompaniment.

Let this foodie’s guide inspire your epicurean excursions in Singapore but remember: if you stop at just one course, you’re doing it wrong.

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For tasty cheap eats: Maxwell Road Hawker Centre

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 Singapore's Chinatown (Image: Singapore Tourism Board)

Hawker Centres are the heart and soul of Singapore’s food culture. Perpetually crowded and perfumed by a thousand sizzling woks, Hawker Centres put our conventional food courts to shame.

These bustling feeding-frenzy hubs can be found all across Singapore, but Maxwell Road is a favourite for locals and expats alike.

Plonked in the heart on Chinatown, Maxwell Road is a stalwart on the Hawker Centre scene and famous for its Tian Tian Chicken Rice – so good it even earns the Anthony Bourdain seal of approval.

Chicken rice is a staple of the Singaporean diet, where steamed or poached chicken is served atop aromatically oiled rice, sometimes accompanied by slivers of fresh cucumber and hearty lashings of chilli sauce.

Over-indulged in chicken rice already? Try the savoury, gelatinous Zhen Zhen porridge or Special Shanghai Tim-Sum dumplings, which enclose juicy fillings in crispy jiaozi pastry.

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For signature Singaporean delights: Geylang

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 The golden Geylang Food Centre (Image: Singapore Tourism Board)

Geylang is known for two things: its notorious (but above-board) red light district, and its notoriously delicious authentic meals. When night falls, ladies of the evening, gaggles of teens, families and foreigners alike mingle among Geylang’s inner lanes.

Looks may deceive at Sin Huat Eating House. The 'dive' restaurant serves legendary crab bee hoon, plus snails and frogs for the adventurous palette. Pro-tip: keep your wits about you when ordering from acclaimed chef Danny Lee!

A little taste of Taiwan can be sampled at the Yong He Eating House (think doughy youtiao and sweet soya bean curd), while 24-hour dim-sum stalls satisfy those last minute cravings for squishy dumplings of every shape and size.

If you can get past the odour, the bitter-sweet durian fruit is a favourite among locals, albeit an acquired taste for most Westerners. Swing by Sims Avenue and see for yourself, otherwise mangosteens might be more to your liking.

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For an iconic cocktail (or four): Riverside

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 Clarke Quay at dusk (Image: Singapore Tourism Board)

The Singapore Sling – a long cocktail made on gin, cherry liqueur, fresh pineapple juice and a medley of sweet additives – is the cherry-red star of Singapore’s bar scene.

The iconic concoction, once simply known as a “gin sling” has been kicking around for about a century and continues to earn fans for its fresh, fruity tang.

Long Bar at the lavish Raffles Hotel is arguably the best place to take a tipple, but there are plenty of places along the river to keep the night young.

The Quays (Boat, Clarke and Robertson) feature the lion’s share of nightlife in the Lion City. Clarke Quay is the place to rub elbows with high society, with favourite nightspots like Attica keeping the speakers pumping and bubbly flowing.

Speak easy at the velvety jazz haunt Bar 84, enjoy a premium night out with unrivalled river views at Le Noir, or dance well into the wee hours at mega club Zouk.

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For top-notch wining & dining: Marina Bay

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 Marina Bay Sands. Image courtesy of the Singapore Tourism Board.

Once you’ve had your fill of Hawker-style char kway teow (deliciously greasy flat rice noodles stir-fried with soy sauce and pork lard), cleanse your palate and relieve your arteries at one of Singapore’s superior bistros. Upscale restaurants are continuing to pop up around the CBD, including several “celebrity” establishments.

Michelin Star-awarded chef Guy Savoy has set up shop at the Marina Bay Sands, bringing French flair to the island nation with offerings of pan-seared peppery duck and chocolate fondant, while Japanese Chef Tetsuya boasts fine dining finesse at his establishment Waku Ghin, adding prestige with his official Sake Ambassador status.

Marina Bay is Singapore’s most modern pocket, delightfully touristy with the Singapore Flyer and glittering Supertree Grove bedazzling your evening as you walk off your meal and make room for another day of decadence.

Ashton Rigg

When I'm not at home in Brisbane, you’ll find me wanderlusting around hipster bars, eclectic boutiques and arty nooks. From bagels in Brooklyn to strudel in Salzburg, I believe the best way to experience a destination is by taking a bite! Tweets & 'grams at @AshtonRigg