Singapore Eats: Discovering One of the World's Great Food Cities
This bustling Asian capital offers hungry visitors a non-stop feast, from modest food stands to elegant dining rooms and everything in-between.
1. A Hawker Stand Favorite.
Nasi lemak, rice cooked in coconut milk with a fried egg, fried chicken wings, and spicy sambal at the Tiong Bahru market — a great way to start the day.
2. Singapore Provisions
A stand selling dried and canned vegetables and seafood at the Tiong Bahru market.
3. Surf and Turf
Shark fried in a tempura-style batter and char siew fan, Cantonese roast pork with rice, pickled chiles, and a fiery hot sauce at the Tiong Bahru market.
4. A Singapore Essential
Bak kut teh, peppery pork rib soup, with tea and hunks of yeast bread, like unsweetened doughnuts, for dunking at Old Tiong Bak Kut Teh, near the Tiong Bahru market.
5. A Singapore Essential, Take 2
At Sin Heng Claypot Bak Koot Teh, another version of bak kut teh (top), this one with a bouquet of spices (cinnamon, cloves, angelica, fennel seeds, and more) added to the broth. To the left, braised bean curd. Center, pig's feet in a dense broth full of star anise — excellent.
6. Indian Fast Food, Singapore Style
The food court at the Tekka market in Little India. Here, the Indian flatbread called paratha is spelled "prata" and biryani becomes briyani.
7. Tekka Market Fare
Chicken brianyi (hiding under multi-colored basmati rice), with curried potatoes and pickled zucchini on the side.
8. Miles of Shells
An array of wild and farmed shrimp at the Tekka market. Singaporeans are incredulous when told how hard it is to get fresh shrimp in the United States.
9. For Curry Heads Only
The famous fish head curry — a definitive Singaporean dish, combining Chinese and Indian traditions — at Muthu's Curry Restaurant.
10. Small, Hip, Superb
Ding Dong is part of Singapore's Spa Esprit group, whose other establishments include such popular stops as Tippling Club, Open Door Policy, Forty Hands (a trendy coffee bar), and Open Farm Community — a farm-to-table restaurant that's literally on a farm.
11. In the Bag
Thinly shredded crisp-fried pig's at Ding Dong is dusted with Sichuan pepper and served in a plain brown paper bag with a quartered lime to be squeezed in.
12. In the Black
At Ding Dong, dramatic-looking, wonderfully flavored fresh prawns marinated in red curry, then coated in a carbon batter and fried tempura style.
13. Raw, Fresh, and Bright
Scallop ceviche marinated in coconut milk and wrapped in nappa cabbage, one of the cold plates at Ding Dong.
14. A Parade of Small Plates
A table full of dishes at Ding Dong, including roasted black miso kingfish wing, center.
15. A Study in Black
As intensely flavored as it is dark in color, BMS7+ Wagyu beef in Candlenut's signature buah keluak (black nut) sauce.
16. A Peranakan Salad
Candlenut's salad of wing beans, baby radishes, cashews, lemongrass, dried shrimp, and sesame in a calamansi-lime dressing, with some simply boiled, halved shrimp on top.
17. The Black Nut Returns
One of Candlenut's desserts makes further use of buah keluak, turning it into chocolatey ice cream, with salted caramel crumble and warm chocolate sauce.
18. Singapore Jerky
At Bee Cheng Hiang in Joo Chiat, the Singaporean version of bakkwa, Chinese jerky, made with pork and grilled instead of dried.
19. Singaporean Tamales
Glutinous rice wrapped around ground pork and other fillings, then wrapped tamale-style in a banana leaf, is the specialty at Joo Chiat's Kim Choo Kueh Chang.
20. From the Street to the Sky
At Sky on 57, on the 57th floor of Singapore's landmark Marina Bay Sands complex, far from the streets of Joo Chiat, chef Justin Quek benevolently fools diners with this elegant appetizer: not exactly a tin of osetra caviar, but a tin of custardy mackerel mousse with osetra caviar on top.
21. Fish Salad the Singapore Way
Sky on 57's, a salad of miniature greens and herbs with tissue-thin raw scallops, langoustines, oysters, and hamachi in a light plum-sauce dressing.
22. Serious Fish
Justin Quek's wild Tasmanian coral cod, nearly translucent, in sweet-and-sour chile sauce with winged beans, eggplant, and potatoes, at Sky on 57.
23. A Catalan in Singapore
Actually, there are a number of Catalan and other Spanish restaurants in the city. Jordi Noguera is the chef at Foc (the Catalan word for "fire"), an enterprise of the Michelin-starred Nandu Jubany of Can Jubany in Calldetenes, in Catalonia itself.
24. Patatas Bravas
A modern interpretation of the tapas classic at Foc. Instead of roasted potato pieces, these are little stacks of thin-sliced potato, with shimmering globes of allioli and spicy tomato sauce on top.
25. Beyond Paella
Foc's version of fideuà, in effect a paella made with short pasta pieces instead of rice, topped with langoustine.
26. Seafood Brothers
Paul (left) and Wayne Liew, proprietors of the family-owned Keng Eng Kee seafood restaurant, one of Singapore's best.
27. Another Singapore Essential
Chilli crab is one of the city's most famous seafood dishes, and Keng Eng Kee does it right.
28. Instead of Chilli Crab
There's also black pepper crab, fearsome looking but wonderfully rich in flavor, at Keng Eng Kee.
29. Moonlight at Lunchtime
Keng Eng Kee's remarkable "moonlight horfun" — rice noodles cooked with pork blood, cuttlefish, shrimp, and bean sprouts with a bright moon of egg yolk in the center, to be stirred in.
30. Calamari a New Way
At Keng Eng Kee, squid is "breaded" with potato grits before deep-frying, giving it a new kind of crispness.
32. Ethereal Sashimi
Red snapper (top) and flounder sashimi, with wasabi soy for the snapper and ponzu sauce for the flounder, at Shinji by Kanesaka.
33. ‘Dessert’ at Shinji
Koichiro Oshino, at Shinji by Kanesaka, finishes a dazzling omakase dinner with sea urchin topped with salmon roe and toro that's almost a purée — unforgettable.
34. Fire Man
Australia's Dave Pynt tends the grills and 1350-degree-F double oven, burning a ton of Australian jarrah wood a week. The restaurant is extraordinary, combining faultless live-fire cooking with a minimalist approach to great ingredients — as if Spain's famous Etxebarri and London's St. John had somehow produced a uniquely Australian offspring and moved it to Singapore.
At Burnt Ends, a plump leek is charred right on the smoldering wood in the oven, then the burnt outer layers are removed; it's chopped, and then dressed with brown butter and hazelnuts — elementary perfection.
36. Better Than Lobster
Oversize Western Australian marron, a variety of saltwater crayfish, at Burnt Ends, grilled and moistened with a sauce of smoked butter and the marron's coral. The meat is sweeter and tenderer than that of Atlantic lobster but offers the same meaty pleasure.
37. Oyster Blade
Burnt Ends does steak right: a Wagyu flatiron steak — called oyster blade in Australia — with burnt onion, pickled walnuts, and bone marrow.
38. The Place Is Hopping
Geylang Lor 9, one of the most popular restaurants in the bustling Geylang district, famous (as its sign suggests) for frog porridge.
39. Frog Porridge
Geyland Lor 9's signature dish, a seasoned rice gruel with fresh frogs' legs — live frogs are dispatched and cleaned to order in the kitchen — cooked in a spicy kung pao sauce.
40. The Man to Know
Nobody knows more about Singaporean street food, and especially the Geylang district, than our guide through Geylang, K.F. Seetoh, author of the indispensable Makansutra guide to Singaporean eating.
41. One of the Best
It's a modest street corner eatery with bare tables and plastic stools, but J. B. Ah Meng Kitchen has a justified reputation as one of Singapore's best restaurants. Chef Daniel Holzman, K.F. Seetoh, and myself dig into a tableful of delights.
42. Nothing Goes to Waste
43. ‘Even Chef's [sic] Love It’
That's what it says on the sign advertising J. Ah Meng Kitchen's addictive white pepper crab.
44. One Thing We Didn't Eat
We had to draw the line somewhere, and it ended up circling this bin, at a market in Chinatown. Sorry, cute little Geico fellow, but these are geckos, destined for the table. Smaller lizards are just next door.