Singapore scares a lot of travelers away because it’s not the cheapest place one can visit in Asia and prices there are comparable with the US or Europe. However, in my opinion the city is still cheaper than Hong Kong. Out of all of the places I’ve visited in Asia, Singapore is one of my favorite destinations and I could definitely live there one day if I had the chance.
Whether you’re a foodie or not, you should definitely try local Singaporean delicacies as they’re very tasty and different from typical Southeast Asian cuisine. Dishes may not always be as cheap as you’d like them to be, but if you’re in Singapore you should spend a bit more money to try everything. Here’s what I’ve been eating in the Lion City and what I recommend.
On my first night in Singapore, I met up with my local friend whom I met during my stay in Tokyo. She wanted to take me to her favorite place, which quickly became my favorite, to try some Singaporean dishes. I’d probably have never managed to find this restaurant myself as the majority of good spots to eat in Singapore are hidden on the top of malls or behind other buildings. There are no billboards or advertisements so unless you know the place you want to go to, you can’t just find from the street.
Anyway, the place I’m talking about is called Tung Lok Seafood, located on the 11th floor of the Orchard Central Plaza, right next to the Somerset MRT station. It’s open for lunch and dinner with the last order at 10PM. We ordered 4 different dishes for me to sample and I have to admit that when I came back to this place a week later, I ordered exactly the same things – that’s how good it all was! My top seafood pick is the deep-fried wasabi shrimp, beautifully presented with a shredded cucumber on top. I have to say I was actually way more excited about the soft shell crab stuffed with cheese and while it didn’t disappoint me, the shrimp were much better.
I’m not a big meat eater and I was originally opposed to ordering sweet & sour pork ribs, but when the dish arrived I was impressed. Small deep-fried pieces of meat with pineapple mixed in a sweet sauce were a good contrast to the spicy shrimp. As I’m a spice lover, I ordered the Kang Kong with sambal that both alone or mixed with rice was a great veggie dish to complement my seafood and meat.
Dinner at Tung Lok is around 30 SGD per person minimum, depending on what you’ve ordered. However, what the restaurant doesn’t advertise is a deal for American Express card holders. My friend paid for our dinner with her AMEX card and we got a 50% discount (I know, sounds unreal!) , so our amazing dinner with all the rice and tea came down to only 20 SGD (16USD) per person!
After dinner we visited the Altitude bar, known for being the highest rooftop bar in the world. The bar has a smart-casual dress code, as it can get very crowded over the weekends, and has a 30 SGD cover, but it’s definitely worth the price! The cover allows you to get one drink and trust me, if you’re a woman that’s enough for the night, as the drinks are huge! As we walked upstairs we were welcomed by palms and fancy colorful lights and served our drinks. I ordered a Singapore Sling – one of the must-try cocktails in Singapore. It’s a mix of gin, cointreau, grenadine, pineapple juice, and lime and it’s delicious! The view was spectacular and I think that combined with the nice atmosphere makes the Altitude bar one of the must-see attractions in Singapore. I had a blast and to my surprise, we were even able to get a table for free since it was Tuesday night!
When my boyfriend arrived the next day, he wanted to go to one of the famous Singaporean Hawker Centers, a kind of Asian food court. The food is not only cheap, but can also be regional so for example you can find Chinese food at Maxwell Hawker Center or Indian food at the Tekka Center located in the Little India district. The Tekka Center in Little India quickly became my boyfriend’s favorite and he wanted to go and eat biryani there very day. I sampled some of the famous Indian palak paneer (spicy spinach with tofu) with chapati and it was excellent, but some might get put off by the fact that most of the people eating at these food courts don’t use any cutlery, following traditional Indian customs by eating with their hands.
Wanting to sample more dishes at different places, we went to walk around the city in order to find a good spot to eat. After an hour of walking around around Raffles Place we stumbled upon a street full of restaurants offering us local food. When we hesitated on deciding whether or not we should eat there because the prices weren’t the lowest, the waitress immediately offered us free alcoholic drinks and a 10% discount. ‘That’s a good deal’ we thought so we sat down and ordered some grilled ribs, spicy vegetables and shark fin soup. Shark fin soup became a very controversial dish over the last couple of years as Greenpeace and other activist organizations started protesting against eating sharks. As usual, everything related to animals is controversial nowadays, but shark fin soup is considered typical for Singapore and this is why I’m mentioning it here.
The restaurants there might have been a bit more expensive than in other parts of Singapore, mostly because of the view. They were all next to the river, overlooking the Marina Bay Sands hotel and its light show, making the place look very romantic.
The one dish I didn’t like very much in Singapore was actually the famous chilli crab. We decided to try it at least once while in Singapore and we probably made a big mistake by ordering a small one. We had to pick out our own crab by pointing at it in the aquarium and the rest was taken care of by the chefs. Our crab was very tiny, so apart from the chilli sauce that I liked a lot, there wasn’t much meat and this is why I didn’t like it very much. I’d say you should give it a try, but order a big crab to fully enjoy it!