Food-obsessive Singapore offers a food scene that caters both to budget and premium travelers. Low-cost travelers can visit the island nation’s hawker centers and ethnic enclaves, while high-end visitors can dine at the abundance of Michelin-starred restaurants. The list below covers both ends of the budget scale, mixing up the Zam Zams with the Spring Courts to offer foodie tourists an awesome dining experience at whatever cost they can afford.
Now on its third generation of ownership, Samy’s Curry has served up delicious Tamil Indian cuisine from the same shop on Dempsey Road for the past half-century. Spacious yet airy, it’s a perfect setting to encounter traditional, reasonably-priced fare like biryani (spiced rice mixed with your choice of meat or vegetables), masala chicken (Indian-style roasted chicken) and the ever-popular curry fish head (a curry-stewed fresh snapper fish head). Dishes are served on banana leaves, a throwback practice that also adds flavor to the food. Eat like the locals do, with your hands—you can wash up at the sinks behind the restaurant afterward.
The Peranakan culture of Malaysia and Singapore can now proudly claim a Michelin-starred chef: Malcolm Lee. Lee represents his heritage through a 92-seat restaurant serving utterly traditional Peranakan cuisine. Lee makes his own Peranakan spice paste (rempah) from scratch, and all the dishes meet the approval of even the most exacting Nyonya (grandmother): kueh pie tee, or crispy pastry shells filled with turnip shoots and condiments; beef rendang, wagyu beef stewed in a traditional Peranakan spice blend and coconut milk; and braised pork cheek. Order the 10-course “Ah-ma-kase” to experience the full breadth of Lee’s take on Peranakan cuisine.
Warong Nasi Pariaman
The Indonesian nasi padang tradition has long had a foothold in Singapore—as Warong Nasi Pariaman will attest, having served the Indonesian all-you-can-eat favorite since 1948. The authentic Minangkabau padang-style food at Warong Nasi Pariaman has not been moderated for a foreign audience: order their sambal goreng, green beans and fermented soybean cake stir-fried with chilli paste; beef rendang, or beef cooked in coconut milk and spices; and ayam bakar, charcoal-grilled chicken. As a relatively low-cost restaurant in Singapore, the atmosphere is unpretentious and no-frills. Given its location in Kampong Glam near the Sultan Mosque, watch out for the Friday afternoon crowd, when worshippers crowd the restaurant for their post-worship meal.
Spring Court Restaurant
One of the oldest Chinese restaurants in Singapore, Spring Court Restaurant first opened its doors in 1929 and has remained a local favorite since. Families congregate at Spring Court’s four-floor shophouse location in Chinatown for very special occasions—from birthdays to weddings to Chinese New Year feasts—and the menu reflects the patronage. Generations of diners have enjoyed their signature dishes, including a claypot chili crab, roast chicken with minced prawn, and Spring Court popiah. Birthday celebrants can ask for Spring Court’s longevity buns, and enjoy the calligraphy performance and birthday song that comes with the order.
Chili crab is as close as you can get to a Singapore national dish, and Jumbo Seafood is where you can have the best of the lot. Mud crabs weighing up to 2 pounds are simmered in a special sauce made of blended Malay and Indian essential spices; fermented bean paste; and (surprise!) ketchup. To eat the crabs, drop the utensils and attack it with your hands to get at all the delicious meat inside. You won’t want to waste a drop of the sauce—soak it up with the mantou buns and eat the buns, sauce and all. You’ll find six branches of Jumbo Seafood throughout Singapore, but the first (at East Coast Park) is still arguably the best.
For a premium Singapore dining experience, head to the two-Michelin-starred Waku Ghin, set on the top floor of the iconic Marina Bay Sands. Diners enjoy a 10-course degustation menu at one of three “cocoon” dining rooms, sampling signature dishes like marinated Botan shrimp with sea urchin and caviar, and seared wagyu beef with wasabi and citrus soy. The menu uses only seasonal produce shipped from Australia daily, prepared using French techniques and finished with Japanese-style flair. For a finale, you’ll be escorted to the restaurant’s drawing room overlooking Marina Bay to enjoy a post-dinner dessert and coffee.
The custom-built, 4-ton wood-fired oven at Burnt Ends is at the heart of its success. Everything on the menu—from meat to fish and even quail egg—is touched by the oven in some way, from being slow- or hot-roasted, grilled, to being smoked, or baked, almost always to perfection. Burnt Ends’ award-winning chef Dave Pynt rewrites the menu daily, as the team finds new ways to give some oven-lovin’ TLC to beef, pork, chicken, fish, and even vegetables. Book the Chef’s Table (good for up to eight people) to enjoy a personally curated menu.
Zam Zam Singapore
For over a century, this unassuming corner shop at Kampong Glam has served up different variations of the Arab dish murtabak, consisting of fried dough pockets filled with minced meat, vegetables, and a hard-boiled egg. Their murtabak comes in different sizes and various types—you can order one filled with mutton, beef, chicken, sardine, even venison! Each order comes with a saucer filled with curry sauce to dip the dough in. Prices are low by Singapore standards, which accounts for the long line of local diners. Beyond murtabak, you can enjoy other Singapore Muslim dishes here, among them nasi biryani and fish-head curry.
If UNESCO World Heritage Site status isn’t enough reason for you to visit the Singapore Botanic Gardens, maybe Corner House will seal the deal. The two-floor colonial bungalow that once housed the Gardens’ British assistant director now houses a Michelin-starred restaurant serving French cuisine, elevated with what chef Jason Tan calls “Gastro-Botanica”, promoting vegetables beyond garnishes. Don’t leave without ordering the signature dish, Oignon doux des Cévennes—Cévennes onion “done four ways” as onion tea, crunchy onion chips, onion tart topped with onion confit and parmesan cheese, and sweet onion purée with sous-vide egg topped with black truffle. Ask for the eight-course Discovery Menu Experience for a taste of Corner House’s best.