International Travel / Singapore

Singapore Eats

Singapore’s cuisine reflects its unique multicultural demographics.  I won’t say too much, since Wikipedia has a surprisingly good description of available offerings.

Hawker Centre.  Basically food courts scattered throughout Singapore. Whereas in other SE Asian countries you’ll find random food carts everywhere, Singapore uses these economical yet permanent food stalls to improve the health of street food. The Singaporean government is sort of that way. Nevertheless, these places still carry cheap and legit food.  Each hawker has a wide variety of options, the usual suspects being: Hainan chicken rice, Chinese economic rice (means Panda Express style, point at what you want), Yong Tau Foo, Halal,  Indian, Western, fruit/juice, dessert (shaved ice).

Portions are smaller than US portions, but prices are very low. Most orders range from $1.80-3.50 SGD, which is $1.00-3.00 USD. It’s so cheap that many Singaporean families use take away (to-go) as a supplement to cooking. For example, a family might prepare rice and some side dishes at home, but supplement that with hawker food. That’s what I learned in my Sociology of Food class at the National University of Singapore (NUS), but can’t otherwise verify.

Recommendations: Pretty much everything, but seriously, Popiah is insanely good.  It’s basically a spring roll filled with everything you see in the pic – WTF, I know, and only $1 SGD!  Also, no napkins anywhere, so B.Y.O. !

Fruit Stalls.  There are also fruit stands everywhere.  If you’d like to try Singapore’s famous durian fruit, I recommend doing so at one of these establishments.  They’ll cut those spiky bastards open for you and serve you their flesh in a nice syrafoam container.  I’m not a fan of the fruit, but it’s still a must try, since they are only sold frozen in the U.S.  FYI, texture is like toothpaste and the taste is like its smell.  You’ve been warned.

Casual Restaurants.  There’s sort of two types.  The more local places (one location only) always seem to have these cheap plastic table cloths and napkin dispensers, lol.  They’re also always sort of outdoors–so in other words, no privacy and no A/C.  Prices are low though, so I accept those terms.  Master Crab is nearby NUS, and it’s got the most heavenly Chili Crab in the world~ I still dreaaaaammm about this dish.  That fried bread (in back of pic) is heaven when dipped in the sauce.  Prices are so cheap too, like $15-20 SGD per person for a good portion of Chili Crab and sides.

There are also more stylized chain restaurants.  These usually have nicer design and are located indoors (which means A/C and more privacy).  Pasta de Waraku is a Singaporean chain, which serves Japanese-stye pasta and ramen.  Crystal Jade, a Taiwanese chain, is especially nice since it serves A.Y.C.E. hot pot and xiao long baos!

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American Fast Food Restaurants.  It’s interesting to see very everyday American fast food chains be reinvented into much more lux establishments in Asia.  Examples include KFC, Pizza Hut, and the like, which are often located inside malls.  If you think about the economics, I suppose it makes sense.  If Singaporeans can eat very cheaply at Hawkers, then why would they pay more for less ambiance at an American fast food restaurant?  So to continue charging relatively high prices, Pizza Hut reinvents itself into more of an Italian restaurant.  It’s not just the decor that’s altered, the menu is also unique from its American counterpart.  For example, the pic is of a cheesy mussel appetizer served at Singapore’s Pizza Hut.

Of course Singapore has many upscale restaurants, as well, but being the budget traveler that I am, I decided to reserve those options for another future trip.

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