Even a stopover in Singapore en route to your final destination will provide the perfect introduction to all the best dishes and flavor combinations that this food-forward island nation has to offer. Plus, a short trip will give you all the more reason to plan your itinerary around experiencing Singapore’s most prominent dishes and the eateries that offer them.
10 Must-Eat Places During a Stopover in Singapore
There are delicious places to eat on every street, just waiting to be discovered, from the lively hawker stalls to world-class restaurant fare.
Travelers can experience some of Singapore’s—and Asia’s for that matter—most memorable dishes without spending more than a few Singaporean dollars. Try these top 10 recommendations, which cover the gamut of food options for all budgets from solo travelers to families.
1. Scaled by Ah Hua Kelong
Seafood takes center stage at this modern eatery, where its local farm-to-table concept is more accurately described as sea to table. Mussels, fish, crabs and more arrive fresh from the waters surrounding Singapore. Be prepared for their simple yet creative presentation, which brings out the best flavors of each dish.
A Michelin-starred restaurant for two years in a row, Labyrinth labels itself as “a new expression of Singapore cuisine.” Chef LG Han sources local ingredients to cook up age-old recipes that are elevated by contemporary techniques. Try the chef’s tasting menu, which is a multi-course meal created in homage to the chef’s memories of growing up in Singapore.
Candlenut carries the proud distinction of being the first and only Michelin-starred Peranakan restaurant in the world. Peranakan cuisine sprung out of the merging of Chinese and Malaysian cuisines and can be found throughout Singapore, but the fresh, high-quality ingredients combined with creative execution at Candlenut gives its guests a new appreciation for traditional dishes that are easily taken for granted.
4. The Coconut Club
The Coconut Club was borne out of its creators’ passion for a meal starting with nasi lemak as an entree, followed by Chendol as dessert. Nasi lemak, a popular local meal, is a coconut-flavoured rice meal accompanied by crispy ikan bilis (small fishes), chicken and sambal chili. The Chendol is even more tantalising; an iced sweet dessert containing coconut milk, small strips of jelly and red bean. It is so delicious that it leaves you wanting more. The chefs here focus on developing fantastic depth of flavor for each meal. In fact, the restauranteurs behind this concept spent two years seeking out the best ingredients – and that effort is apparent in each bite.
5. Open Farm Community
This open-plan restaurant sits on 35,000 square feet of green land and focuses on sustainability through locally sourced ingredients and a commitment to recycling and limiting waste. Expect to find wonderful seasonal dishes like tiberias golden snapper ceviche, Sumatran crab tagliolini, and coconut semifreddo with calamansi and pandan.
6. National Kitchen by Violet Oon
Inside National Gallery Singapore, National Kitchen by Violet Oon is known for adding Asian flair to high tea. Instead of traditional English tea sandwiches, expect to find bold flavors like a spicy dried shrimp floss finger sandwich and sweet-and-spicy beef in a steamed bun. Beyond high tea, you can also enjoy classic Singaporean dishes in an elegant environment.
7. Makansutra Gluttons Bay
This outdoor food court with ample seating offers numerous food stalls right on the Esplanade, giving visitors a view of Marina Bay while they nosh on authentic Asian fare. Think of it as an upscale, yet affordable hawker center with an unmatched backdrop of Singapore’s iconic Marina Bay Sands hotel.
8. Kok Sen Restaurant
Awarded Michelin Bib Gourmand status, Kok Sen combines high quality fare with affordability. As a typical Singapore coffee-shop-style eatery, Kok Sen provides simple seating arrangements, but it wows visitors with a variety of tasty signature dishes like cereal butter prawns, fried crispy roast pork with black sauce and homemade tofu with minced pork.
9. Newton Food Centre
This renowned hawker centre resembles an open-air food court with dozens of budget-friendly food stalls. Diners have the opportunity to create infinite meal combinations as they enjoy the freedom to order multiple dishes from different vendors to try a little of everything.
10. Birds of Paradise Gelato Boutique
Gelato is a favorite tasty treat around the world, but this dessert is made special by Birds of Paradise Gelato Boutique, where native Southeast Asian ingredients celebrate the region’s unique flavor profiles. Choose from pandan, chrysanthemum, strawberry basil, lychee raspberry and more.
5 Local Dishes You Must Try
Modern techniques amplify dishes that have drawn influences from Chinese, Indian, Malaysian and Indonesian flavors and traditions for centuries. The outcome is a culinary experience that is uniquely Singaporean, no matter whether you dine at a high-end restaurant, an affordable open-air hawker center, or anywhere in-between. Try these dishes as you eat your way around Singapore.
1. Chicken Rice
Chicken rice is a hawker stall staple. While it appears to be a simple dish, the flavor combination from aromatic rice and tender chicken are what make this dish a favorite among locals and visitors alike. One hawker stall was even recognized with a Michelin star for its exceptional chicken rice.
2. Chili Crab
This meal is quite ubiquitous around Singapore. In essence, it’s stir-fried crabs with a thick sweet-and-savory tomato chili sauce. As one of the signature dishes of the island, it is not to be missed.
3. Kaya Toast
Kaya is a type of coconut jam that is typically made of sugar, coconut milk, eggs, and sometimes pandan, the leaf of a tropical plant that adds a distinctive (vanilla-like) flavor to the mixture. The jam is served on sliced and toasted crust-free white bread.
4. Fish Head Curry
This dish hails from the early 1900s when a cook from southern India combined a fish head (beloved by the Chinese) with fragrant spices from where he grew up. Each local ethnic group puts their own spin on it, like adding coconut milk for a sweet flavor or tamarind paste for a sour contrast.
5. Fried Carrot Cake
The name is misleading, as this isn’t a cake (or dessert) and carrots are not one of the ingredients. Instead, this savory food’s ingredients are rice flour (made into soft, fried rice cakes), white radish (a white “carrot”) and scrambled eggs. Seafood is sometimes added to this local comfort food.