All Articles Eat your way around Singapore

Eat your way around Singapore

A local's guide to the Lion City, whether you want a casual bite or to go all out.

Audrey Phoon
By Audrey Phoon19 Mar 2024 4 minutes read
Heirloom Beetroot at Odette, in Singapore

In Singapore, we don’t ask “how are you,” but “have you eaten?” It’s telling: food is omnipresent here. The smoky aroma of stir-fries swaddles our hawker centers and you’re reminded of eating every time you see the tens of thousands of food delivery drivers that dot the roads in their bright pink or green uniforms.

We’re so obsessive about food, our hawkers were the first in the world to earn Michelin stars on the quality of their cooking alone. But there are many other ways to eat in the Lion City, whether you want to experience elevated Southeast Asian flavors at a fancy restaurant, sample homestyle cooking at a local kitchen, or soak up a communal hotpot.

I’ve spent more than 10 years exploring Singapore’s culinary scene and along the way have produced two guides on the city’s best restaurants and hawker food. More significantly, I’m your typical food-obsessed, picky Singaporean—and these are my top choices for the meals here.

For a splurge

Candlenut

Dinner at Candlenut, in Singapore

Most Peranakans—descendants of early Chinese migrants who settled in Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia, and married local Malays—will tell you that their grandmother makes the best Peranakan food. But my pick goes to chef Malcolm Lee (sorry, grandma!). There aren’t many other cities where this complex cuisine exists, and Lee owns it with his refined take on traditional recipes. The restaurant’s high-ceilinged dining room—a revitalized army barracks—is beautiful too.

What to order: It’s not a classic, but the punchy blue swimmer crab curry is a must. Pair it with the chicken buah keluak (perhaps the definitive dish in Peranakan cuisine, made with a poisonous nut that has to be detoxified before cooking), the tender beef rib rendang, and the briny braised cabbage chap chye for a perfect meal.

Odette

Dining room at Odette, in Singapore

With its trio of Michelin stars and ranking as Asia’s top spot in the World’s 50 Best list of restaurants, celebrity chef Julien Royer’s fine-dining spot is the city’s toughest table to get. The waitlist is weeks-long (it would be longer if reservations didn’t only open 60 days in advance), but the experience itself is a lot more accessible, which is why it’s so popular. The service is warm, the dining area—in the neoclassical National Gallery building—is light and bright, and the precise French-Asian flavors are always presented with flair.

What to order: The omakase-style menu features dishes that change seasonally, which could be anything from deliciously earthy mushroom tea to delicate langoustine ravioli. There’s a bunch of optional add-ons ranging from entrees to desserts, but honestly, I always skip them and leave stuffed (that said, I have a weakness for the bread, especially their fabulous truffle brioche).

Seroja

Oyster and Ginger at Seroja, in Singapore
Image: Kevin W/Tripadvisor

The thing that makes Seroja so special is its sense of place. Chef Kevin Wong works magic with ingredients from the Malay Archipelago, like red rice from a Borneo tribe and dainty round-leafed vegetables from a Singapore vertical farm that taste shockingly like oysters. His elegant restaurant is parked, fittingly, in the Kampong Glam area, the former seat of Malay royalty. No surprise that it won its first Michelin star within a year of opening.

What to order: The prix fixe menu stars seasonal dishes like beef tartare with ginger torch flower, chicken wings stuffed with sticky rice, and grilled spiced duck. You’ll have the option of doing a wine or non-alcoholic drink pairing with your meal; I recommend the latter. The zero-proof drinks are made in-house with the restaurant’s veg and fruit off-cuts, and each one is distinct.

For a casual bite

Serangoon Garden Market & Food Center

Kway Chap at Garden Street, in Singapore
Image: KTLim99/Tripadvisor

The sheer variety that Singapore’s hawker centers present can be mind-boggling for visitors. This local favorite in a residential neighborhood is smaller, with a simple layout, relaxed vibes, and a well-curated spread of options that make dipping into hawker food decidedly less intimidating. If you’re visiting alone, feel free to chope (Singaporean English for ‘reserve’) a table for yourself before you order by leaving a tissue pack at your chosen spot, which will indicate to other diners that it’s taken. On weekends, buskers serve up sing-along songs as you eat.

What to order: The longest queues are always for Garden Street’s kway chap (flat rice noodles in herbal gravy, usually accompanied by sliced duck, pork intestines, and braised eggs) and Soon Huat’s peppery pig’s organ soup. Other favorites include Aliff Nasi Lemak, for aromatic coconut rice topped with fried chicken wings and potato cutlets, and Siang Hee Seafood, where you can pick from pumpkin cream prawns or a one-plate meal of fried rice. Don’t leave without getting a takeaway of chewy filled buns from Serangoon Garden Bakery.

Beauty in the Pot

Hot Pot at Beauty in the Pot, in Singapore

Singaporeans love a communal hot pot meal, and the main differentiator between one restaurant and another is the type of broth available. BITP—as we locals call it—serves up a sticky-on-the-lips, collagen-rich soup boiled with herbs, chicken, and pork bones; you can pick everything from posh Hokkaido scallops to meatballs filled with nacho cheese (weird, I know, but insanely tasty) to simmer in it. This is where I go if I need a late meal—most outlets in the chain open till the wee hours of the morning.

What to order: The fried tofu skin rolls—which you dip for three seconds in the broth so they melt into silky smooth sheets with crispy edges—are terrifyingly addictive. And don’t miss the fresh sea prawns, because where else will the staff peel them for you?

Long Ji Zi Char

Crab at Long Ji Zi Char, in Singapore
Image: Shawn W/Tripadvisor

At Long Ji, the vibe is distinctly ’80s, the walls are bare, and the chairs are plastic. But there’s air-conditioning and beer, the service is polite, and the consistently good food and creative menu prove that chef-owner Mac Kong is much more deft with his cooking than decorating.

What to order: You can’t come here and not have the dish that’s sitting on everyone else’s table: the signature crab bee hoon. The thin rice noodles are fried, then doused in a rich gravy simmered with fat Sri Lankan crabs and sweet cabbage, topped with crunchy fried cubes of lard. My other go-tos are the tender pork belly deeply flavored with fermented bean curd, and the umami salted egg corn kernels.

Audrey Phoon
Audrey is a travel and lifestyle writer and social media consultant based in Singapore. She has written for Conde Nast Traveler, The Wall Street Journal, The Telegraph, Elle, South China Morning Post and more. A sometime professional glutton and full-time travel addict, she's on a mission to eat every street snack around the globe.