Singapore is a teeming hotbed of locally designed and crafted products. Several emblems of our diverse yet unique nation can be brought home by tourists, in the form of quirky and functional souvenirs. The nuanced labours of love by Singapore’s growing artisanal community, these thoughtfully fashioned items are not only functional—they’re symbols of our many cultures and ethnicities.
1. An iconic dispensary of traditional Chinese medicine, Eu Yan Sang stocks a plethora of herbal remedies, which have been proven effective against everything from common colds and flus, to high blood pressure and cardiovascular ailments.
2. As you explore Singapore’s eclectic neighbourhoods, pop into a mama shop (traditional sundries store) to buy some local candy. While children today crave trendy desserts and sweets, treats like ais gem (iced gem biscuits) and haw flakes (Chinese sweets made from the Chinese hawthorn) were integral parts of many adult Singaporeans’ childhoods.
3. Toys from the pre-electronics era may not be on the wish lists of kids today, but you can still find them on display at the Children Little Museum in Kampong Glam. You can also take home some of these knickknacks by purchasing them at Loof, an acclaimed rooftop bar in the Civic District.
4. Make your own version of traditional Singaporean dishes at home—go for instant pastes and powders by Prima Taste and Hais, both of which offer Halal-certified, ready-to-cook versions of laksa (spicy coconut milk-based noodle soup), Hainanese chicken rice and Cantonese soups, among others. Available at most supermarkets here.
5. Don’t leave Singapore without having a can or pint of Tiger Beer, our home-grown brew that has found acclaim all around the world. Besides the usual light lager, the suds now come in two new variations: wheat beer and dark lager.
6. Soothe your aches and pains with Tiger Balm, a traditional ointment that can be found in most convenience stores and supermarkets. Locals have been dabbing the elixir on their sore joints and muscles for almost a century, and some even claim it helps with headaches and colds. Even if you don’t suffer from any of these ailments, Tiger Balm’s iconic hexagonal bottle—the design of which hasn’t changed much since it launched—makes for a great curio for your home.
1. Singlish got you stumped? Perhaps the new beers from Archipelago Brewery can help. The local microbrewery has launched a range of beers that bear cheeky, Singlish-inspired names such as Sibeh Ho Witbier (“sibeh ho” is Hokkien for “extremely good”) and Ki Siao Brown Ale (“ki siao” is Hokkien for “go insane”).
2. Tea-lovers, you’ll find your sanctuary at one of the tea salons of Singapore’s home-grown luxury tea brand, TWG. Pick up a beautiful tea tin containing your blend of choice—local versions of international strains include the Singapore Breakfast Tea and the Weekend in Singapore—or a box of exotic loose tea leaves.
3. If you’re a fan of our national flower, the Vanda Miss Joaquim orchid, you can take home a bloom that will not wilt: a gold-plated one. Visit local goldsmith and jeweller Risis, and browse a collection of orchid-inspired jewellery.
4. Leaf through books by local authors at boutique bookstores like Littered with Books or BooksActually. From poetry collections to short story compilations to bona fide novels, you’ll find that the Singaporean literary scene is brimming with talent. One book you have to check out is The Art of Charlie Chan Hock Chye by Sonny Liew. It’s a sprawling graphic novel—and winner of an Eisner Award—that presents a fictionalised account of our history.
5. If you’d like to purchase some locally made crockery and furniture, head to Supermama and Scene Shang, located side by side in Kampong Glam. Vintage homeware enthusiasts interested in heirloom furniture can pick up a gem or two at Hai Seng Porcelain in Chinatown.