Screw those shirts that say “[City name] is for lovers”. Everyone in Singapore needs one that says its for eaters. I have not seen a city so full of people willing to line up for up to an hour to get something just because they’ve heard about it since I was last in California. So while the friend I was helping to move in was at her day job I went on eating adventures. I saw some old friends from Los Angeles, San Francisco, even Hawaii from earlier in this trip, and made some new Couch Surfing friends to get the full gamut of eating buddies. I am told by most that Malaysian food is better than the otherwise similar Singaporean food, I assume due to the fact that fat and dirt aren’t bad words there like they are in Singapore. However I didn’t let that stop me from getting what I felt was great eats in Singapore.
The place to go for cheap eats in Malaysia and Singapore is in food centre/hawker centres. This is where former street vendors have been brought in an effort to clean up the places and improve sanitation and comfort. Much improved from American food courts however I find it weird that the stalls all open different hours and close random days so I never saw a centre with every stall open at once. The prices are still relative, it’s cheaper than America but more expensive than the rest of Southeast Asia. However for eats this good, I’m willing to keep going.
The most tourist known and easily accessible from nicer hotels food centre is Maxwell Food Centre in Singapore’s Chinatown. Anthony Bourdain visited a chicken rice shop here that makes a decent plate. I’m amused that all the Trip Advisor reviews raved about how there were locals here. I meanwhile had never seen so many foreigners in my darned food centre or market.
I rather lucked out that my friend lives near the old school Tiong Bahru food centre and quite a few other food centres all in a one kilometer range. My last meal in Singapore was a restaurant nearby that served a Teochew porridge, a sludge like congee that you can get with raw fish slices that you either eat as is or throw into the hot rice soup to cook a bit.
Some things I had to travel a little bit for and wait in queues with all the Singaporeans. We went on quite a misadventure looking for chili crab with my Hawaiian couch surfing friend that I had met up with again. Alas he had to hit the airport before we finally found some.
There’s a strong Indian presence here which means delicious food for me.
Onto the sweet, or should be sweet, things! I was told Malaysian durians are superior to the gross ones I had in Thailand and Vietnam. Nope, still disgusting.
I am also here for the ramp up to the lunar festival. This is when you eat mooncake and carry lanterns around. I consider mooncakes to be the devil spawn fruitcake of Asia. It’s a sickingly sweet cake usually involving red bean or lotus paste and is made fancy by shoving as many egg yolks whole into desserts as they can muster.
I spent quite some time looking for good kaya toast. I found the Ya Kun Kaya Toast franchises everywhere quite disappointing and drab. The original location is an improvement with toast still grilled on charcoal but the service kept asking if we were from Korea which was a bit annoying. I know they get a lot of tourists but can I not enjoy toast in peace?
I was once again looking for old fashioned coffee and pulled tea here and the sign of that was the sock filter. I saw some shops where the filter was placed in a very tall metal container with a very long pour spout.
Well I don’t agree with that sign but otherwise I found Singapore both enjoyable and absolutely delicious. In this city, I recommend following this particular blog for a good breakdown of must eats and endless reviews. There is also a great book call the Makansutran if you can find it in stores that looks like a Zagat guide but is for hawker centre level food. I wish we had this in America, as books seem reserved for fancier fare. For the cleanliness conscious, Singapore is a better stop than still Asia-like Malaysia, however the food is so good I would recommend Singapore for any eater!