Eating Through Singapore: My Recommendations

It’s funny how there’s often a gaping chasm slight disconnect between the aspirational selves we craft in our minds, and who we are in reality. I spend a great deal of mental energy convincing myself that I am a high-minded idealist whose ideal day would be spent making beautiful music and philosophizing about art and society, but if we’re being honest here, I really just live for food.

Which is why I happily hopped on a 17-hour flight to Singapore back in March, with the sole intention of spending my time sleeping and eating.*

*Before you scoff at my lack of culture and refinement, I did visit the National Gallery, which I loved.

To assuage any guilt I had over not practicing with some 57349453 concerts on the horizon, I brought my music with me, as is standard practice when I travel anywhere, and studied it in the hotel room…

…which often was broken up by long breaks in which I added to an ever-growing list of places to get food:

Sadly I was not able to get to the majority of the restaurants and food stalls on my list, but here stands my recommended list of what to eat.


Wah Kee Big Prawn Noodle (8 Raffles Avenue) was one of the first places I stumbled into. Their iPad ordering system (with pictures!) is super handy and the food, of course, is 👌🏻.

The prawn noodles were enough of a meal, but I am greedy and am physically incapable of resisting fresh oysters. And pineapple juice. Shut up, I have a lot of food-related weaknesses.

Quick note: after you’re finished with your meal, pay at the counter in front of the door. Don’t be like me and sit around in confusion doing nothing at your table.


Makansutra Gluttons Bay (8 Raffles Avenue, directions here) is a glorious gathering of food stalls, also on Raffles Ave, with cute hipster lights and plenty of seats. I don’t know if you’re supposed to do this, but I ran around placing orders at three different stalls. The vendors seemed cool with this, and even helped me fit all my food on one tray.

I wish I could have sampled more offerings, but it was just me eating and there’s only so much I can eat. I noticed over the course of several days that eating is very much a social thing in Singapore, and I seemed to get a lot of looks for eating by myself, which hasn’t really happened to me in any of the other cities I’ve eaten through.

This is relevant because after I successfully carried my food to a table without dropping any of it (a serious concern of one of the vendors), I noticed a couple next to me occasionally glancing my way and murmuring in Chinese. I caught a couple of phrases: “…she’s all by herself” and then, a few minutes later: “…must be really hungry.”

I was really hungry, thank you very much.

I felt somewhat vindicated when I spotted a single guy a couple tables over also all by himself with just as much food in front of him as I had, who was taking phone photos of said food just like I was. “Aha, I am not weird!” I thought to myself.

A few minutes later, his friend sat down to join him and they proceeded to eat together.

The place is called “Gluttons Bay,” guys. I am not weird.

In any case, the platter of skewers from Alhambra Padang Satay was phenomenal—I highly recommend it, and have to admit it’s designed to be shared. Bring a friend when you go; you’ll get to order more food, and you’ll escape the locals’ judgment.


Hainanese Delicacy/海南美味佳肴 (14 Scotts Road, 5th floor of the Far East Plaza mall) is one of those hole-in-the-wall places with criminally cheap and delicious food. I couldn’t let myself leave Singapore without trying Hainanese chicken rice, but didn’t want to go somewhere overpriced and touristy.

I was buoyed to see a line of locals out the door here, and was quickly seated at a communal table between strangers. Fine with me. If you’ve eaten at one of those no-fuss alley restaurants elsewhere in Asia, this is just like that.

I didn’t see a prominent menu, so I just asked for chicken rice, and was promptly hit with a barrage of options: steamed or roasted, did I want a vegetable, what type, etc. I answered more or less at random, but was quickly served several plates of utter deliciousness. (That rice!)

By the way, everything in the photo above cost under $10 total. It helps if you speak Mandarin, but is not necessary. Be willing and ready to scarf your food down while seated next to or across from strangers.

Bonus: Sunfirst Fresh Fruits (14 Scotts Road, 4th floor of the Far East Plaza mall) for fresh juice. I got a cup of freshly blended papaya milk—just like grandma used to make.


No Signboard Seafood (414 Geylang Road) is a super-must. Be warned: this is a famous joint so 1) if you go during typical meal times there’ll be a wait, and 2) everyone in the world will tell you the story of how the place got its name. (The story is that it started as a stall with no name, so its customers called it “No Signboard.” That’s it, that’s the story.)

Our cab driver was very chatty, and warned us that the Geylang area of Singapore was not the nicest—as he drove down one street, he pointed out his window and said, “That’s where all the street walkers are.”

Because I am terrible at discerning human speech and I had food on the mind, I heard him say “street hawkers,” as in food vendors. I opened my mouth to ask him which ones he’d recommend, but luckily he kept talking and I realized in time that he was talking about escorts and not delicious food.

Anyway. Go to Geylang for the seafood, not the prostitutes, kthxbai.

  

Recommended: the white pepper crab (their signature dish), fried prawns (I ordered the cereal prawns, which were delicious, but imagined they’d be equally delicious without the cereal), 空心菜/kang kong, and fried 馒头/mantou. This was enough for two people to comfortably eat with a bowl of rice each.

Note: When you’re seated, a server will place a bowl of peanuts on the table and ask if you want them. This is a trap. They charge extra for the peanuts, and in any case you are not here to eat peanuts. You are here to eat white pepper crab. Don’t be a fool.

(They also offer bibs for an extra charge. If you are a messy eater, swallow your pride and say yes.)


If you have more recommendations for places to eat in Singapore, please share! I’m going to attempt to do more of these eating guides from now on because I take eating very, very seriously.

 

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Salmon

Pictured: the lox plate from Ikea! (Only $3.99 or $4.99, I think.) I love salmon in all its incarnations and this was especially delicious, with dill and lemon.

Anyway I’m not that dedicated to blogging at the moment, but I actually don’t feel all that guilty about it. I’m not being paid to blog, I don’t have blogging deadlines, and I have other things to do in my life right now—a lot, in fact. I actually do wish summer would last a little longer, so I’d have time to do all the practicing I want before school starts, as well as actually finish the design projects on my plate and make some progress on a few outside ventures.
Oh well! Summer is winding down, time marches on, and I just have to accept it!
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In which a Taiwanese-American girl walks into a Japanese restaurant in Austria and speaks Chinese

Sunday was particularly lovely; despite sleeping past my alarm and waking up at 1 PM, I enjoyed the entirety of the day.

As soon as I got into town I set my mind to obtaining lunch. I seriously entertained the idea of getting kebap again, but then decided that for experience’s sake, I should try something new every time I eat—well, while I’m here, anyway. So I headed to Getreidegasse to try Austria’s take on Asian food. I passed by one Chinese buffet and found myself in the quiet courtyard of Restaurant Nagano.

I was a little thrown off that I didn’t get tea automatically; I had to ask for it. When my bill came I found that it cost €2.80…oi. To the restaurant’s credit though, it was delicious: loose-leaf green tea (no tea bag!) with a hint of peach.
I’ve heard that the sushi in Austria is awful, so for the sake of trying I ordered a two-piece plate of salmon nigiri. It was pretty good; kudos for the fish not being cold, and it tasted fresh and milky. The only thing was, as you can see from this picture, that the fish was sliced THIN. Sigh!
I felt a little self-conscious when I took out my Moleskine to take notes on the food. I probably looked like a very insecure Anton Ego. I hope no one mistook me for a food critic…

For the sake of my wallet I ordered a simple bowl of udon soup. The price was still a little painful at €8.90, considering that I make myself udon soup all the time for next to nothing. Oh well. The noodles were nice and chewy, the broth was savory, and the vegetables and seaweed tasted fresh. I suppose you can’t ask for more!

While it was unnecessarily pricey, I do have to say the food was satisfying and delicious. The highlight of my meal, however, was my conversation with the waitress. While I chewed my noodles and read a book, I overheard all of the staff speaking in Mandarin Chinese.
So rather than speaking in my limited German sprinkled with English, I addressed the waitress in Chinese when she came with my bill. She immediately brightened up—considerably—and eagerly asked me about myself. “And you came here all by yourself?” she asked in awe, when I told her I had come from the US. She thanked me over and over again, even though I only tipped 50 cents, and even though I had done nothing more than order food and eat it all.
It was a lovely, warm moment; it makes my day every time I make a connection with the locals, though funnily enough I have far more extended conversations in Chinese here in Austria than in German. There’s something indescribably beautiful about breaking out from the confines of a limited vocabulary in one language and finding another soul who speaks your native tongue; even if you have nothing else in common it creates an instant bond.
It may sound silly, but I feel like we are all grains of sand being flung from place to place and we rejoice when we are thrown against another particle that came from the same stone.
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