Singapore is certainly a slice of heaven for food lovers: With 50 establishments being awarded the Michelin Bib Gourmand and 39 eateries nabbing Michelin stars in 2018, the number of quality food options on offer in our sunny city can certainly seem endless. Which begs the question: Where does one begin?
Whether you hail from Lyon or Lijiang, you’re certain to find a local food option that will broaden your culinary horizons, excite your palate and add to your memories of unforgettable dining experiences.
From traditional favourites to bold interpretations of these classics—also known as modern-Singaporean cuisine (Mod-Sin)—here’s the lowdown on some of the culinary gems the Lion City has to offer.
Local culture on a plate
Hailing from a hybrid heritage unique to this region, Peranakan* food is a blend of Chinese ingredients with the various distinct spices and cooking techniques of the Malay community, and an apt symbol of Singapore’s melting pot of ethnic cultures.
To experience how tradition and originality merge into new forms, pay a visit to Candlenut. Helmed by local chef-owner Malcolm Lee, Candlenut is the world’s first and only Michelin-starred Peranakan restaurant. The establishment serves innovative dishes that both modernise and pay homage to traditional Peranakan flavours, including buah keluak (black nut indigenous to Southeast Asia) ice cream and Westholme Wagyu Beef rendang (braised meat cooked in coconut milk and spices).
Alternatively, pay a visit to Michelin Bib Gourmand eatery True Blue Cuisine for Peranakan fare that eschews innovation for traditional preparation. Located in the Peranakan Museum along Amoy Street, this restaurant has been dishing out authentic Peranakan delicacies (without pork or lard) since 2003. Chef-owner Benjamin Seck started True Blue Cuisine with the assistance of his mother, serving traditional dishes like minced chicken ngoh hiang (meat rolled in beancurd skin) and udang ketak (crayfish fried in spicy paste).
The traditional décor, beautiful antiques and sweet scent of bunga rampai (a potpourri of flowers and leaves) culminate in a multisensory dining experience for food lovers.
*The term is an Indonesian/Malay word that means “local born”, which generally refers to people of Chinese and Malay/Indonesian heritage.
Candlenut. 17A Dempsey Road, Singapore 249676. 1800 304 2288 (local calls only).
Mon-Thu, Sun noon-3pm, 6-10pm; Fri & Sat noon-3pm, 6-11pm.
True Blue Cuisine. 47/49 Armenian Street, Singapore 179937. +65 6440 0449.
Mon-Sun 11.30am-2.30pm, 5.30-9.30pm.
Great food in local neighbourhoods
With a legion of hawkers serving up local dishes, Singapore is home to some of the world’s most affordable Michelin-starred meals, many of which can be found in Singapore’s traditional enclaves, from the bustling streets of Chinatown to the vibrant district of Little India.
To get a taste of Singapore’s long tradition of excellent street food, pay a visit to Liao Fan Hong Kong Soya Sauce Chicken Rice & Noodle. The restaurant is home to the world’s most affordable Michelin-starred meal in the form of its famous soya sauce chicken rice. Chef Chan Hong Meng also whips up other traditional Chinese hawker fare, including roasted pork rice and pork rib hor fun (flat rice flour noodles).
Spice lovers and food aficionados looking to add zest to their food adventure should venture into the ethnic enclave of Little India, and sample the fish head curry at Muthu’s Curry. This local staple is made with a unique recipe, concocted by the establishment’s founder Mr. Muthu, and which remains in his sons’ safekeeping to this day.
For a Michelin-worthy snack while on the go, get your hands on a curry puff which bears influences of the British Cornish pasty, the Portuguese empanada and the Indian samosa. J2 Famous Crispy Curry Puff is a Michelin Bib Gourmand-awarded establishment that serves up both the traditional version (filled with curry chicken and potatoes) and interesting twists like black pepper chicken and sardine—for the more adventurous.
Liao Fan Hong Kong Soya Sauce Chicken Rice & Noodle. 78 Smith Street, Singapore 058972. +65 6272 2000.
Mon-Tue, Thu-Sun 10.30am-8pm.
Muthu's Curry. 138 Race Course Road #01-01, Singapore 218591. +65 6392 1722.
J2 Famous Crispy Curry Puff at Amoy Street Food Centre. 7 Maxwell Road #01-21, Singapore 069111. +65 9475 8425.
Peppered with passion: Singaporean chefs
While there’s certainly a wealth of traditional local eateries in Singapore, the city’s chefs are no strangers to invention. Pay a visit to these establishments, and get a taste of how local flavours, techniques and ingredients merge into bold new tastes and forms.
Run by chef-owner Jason Tan, Corner House is a Michelin-starred restaurant located in a 1910 bungalow, amidst the greenery of the UNESCO-listed Singapore Botanic Gardens. Chef Jason’s penchant for experimentation finds form in the establishment’s ‘gastro-botanica’ cuisine, which centres on fresh herbs and plants. Chef Jason’s idiosyncratic philosophy towards cooking is deeply inspired by the garden’s heritage and the Lion City’s horticultural history.
For a playful take on Singapore’s traditional cuisine, head to Labyrinth and lose yourself in the complex flavours it presents. The domain of chef-owner Han Li Guang, this Michelin-starred restaurant has a new menu that fuses much-loved local flavours in whimsical modern ways, exemplified in dishes like rojak (a sweet and savoury salad of vegetables, fruits and dough fritters) made from edible garden herbs, stingless bee honey and soy bean curd made with bird’s nest.
Labyrinth’s menu is a testament to chef Li Guang’s love for Singaporean produce, with 80% of the ingredients used in the restaurant’s dishes sourced from local farms, orchards and seas.
Corner House at Singapore Botanic Gardens. 1 Cluny Road (Nassim Gate Entrance), Singapore 259569. +65 6469 1000.
Tue-Fri noon-3pm, 6.30-11pm; Sat & Sun 11.30am-3pm, 6.30-11pm.
Labyrinth at Esplanade Mall. 8 Raffles Avenue #02-23, Singapore 039802. +65 6223 4098.
Tue-Fri noon-2.30pm, 6.30-11pm; Sat & Sun 6.30-11pm.