Fresh soy drinks, beancurd and tasty mee chiang kueh Chinese pancakes.
This self-proclaimed "designer bread" chain has taken not just Singapore but much of South-East Asia by storm. Everything is jazzily shaped, funkily named eg. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Bacon and baked on premises. Just note that, to the Western palate, almost everything is rather sweet.
Offers a variety of soya bean drinks, ice-creams and pastries snacks.
Serves kaya toast, kopi and ginger tea with ice or without; waiters at the original Somerset location shout your order towards the back with gusto.
Old Chang Kee
Famous for their curry puffs, but their range now covers anything and everything deep-fried. Take-away only.
Singapore version of Indonesian cakes, Chinese pastries and everything in between. The name is taken from the name of a famous river in Java.
International fast food chains like McDonald's, Carl's Jr., Burger King, KFC, MOS Burger, Dairy Queen, Orange Julius, Subway etc are commonly found in various shopping malls. Prices range from $2 for a basic burger and $5 upwards for a set meal. All restaurants are self-service and clearing your table after your meal is optional. In addition to the usual suspects, look out for these uniquely Singaporean brands:
Kee-ping up with the Lims
Ever wonder why every other Chinese hawker stall and restaurant in Singapore has a name that ends in Kee? The answer is simple: the character kee è®° is Chinese for "brand" or "mark", and is used much like the trademark symbol in the West. A name like Yan Kee thus means "run by the Yan family", and should not be taken as a political statement!
Singapore offers a wide variety of full-service restaurants as well, catering to every taste and budget.
As the majority of Singapore's population is ethnic Chinese, there is an abundance of Chinese restaurants in Singapore, mainly serving southern Chinese mostly Hokkien, Teochew or Cantonese cuisines, though with the large number of expatriates and foreign workers from China these days, cuisine originating from Shanghai and further north is also not hard to find. As with Chinese restaurants anywhere, food is eaten with chopsticks and served with Chinese tea. While Chinese restaurant food is certainly closer to authentic Chinese fare than hawker food is, it too has not managed to escape local influences and you can find many dishes little seen in China. Depending on where you go and what you order, prices can vary greatly. In ordinary restaurants, prices usually start from $20-30 per person, while in top end restaurants in five-star hotels, prices can go as high as more than $300 per person if you order delicacies such as abalone, suckling pig and lobster.
Being a maritime city, one common specialty is seafood restaurants, offering Chinese-influenced Singaporean classics like chilli crabs. These are much more fun to go to in a group, but be careful what you order: gourmet items like Sri Lankan giant crab or shark's fin can easily push your bill up to hundreds of dollars. Menus typically say "Market price", and if you ask they'll quote you the price per 100 g, but a big crab can easily top 2 kilos. The best-known seafood spots are clustered on the East Coast, but for ambience the riverside restaurants at Boat Quay and Clarke Quay can't be beat.
Singapore also has its share of good Western restaurants, with British and American influenced food being a clear favourite among locals. Most of the more affordable chains are concentrated around Orchard Road and prices start from around $10-20 per person for the main course. French, Italian, Japanese and Korean food is also readily available, though prices tend to be on the expensive side, while Thai and Indonesian restaurants tend to be more affordable.
One British import much beloved by Singaporeans is high tea. In the classical form, as served up by finer hotels across the island, this is a light afternoon meal consisting of tea and a wide array of British-style savoury snacks and sweet pastries like finger sandwiches and scones. However, the term is increasingly used for afternoon buffets of any kind, and Chinese dim sum and various Singaporean dishes are common additions. Prices vary, but you'll usually be looking at $20-30 per head. Note that many restaurants only serve high tea on weekends, and hours may be very limited: the famous spread at the Raffles Hotel's Tiffin Room, for example, is only available between 3:30PM-5PM.
Singaporeans are big on buffets, especially international buffets offering a wide variety of dishes including Western, Chinese and Japanese as well as some local dishes at a fixed price. Popular chains include Sakura (http://www.sukigroup.com....), Pariss (http://www.pariss.com.sg/), Vienna (http://www.viennabuffet.com/) and Todai (http://www.todaisingapore.com/).
Most hotels also offer lunch and dinner buffets. Champagne brunches on Sundays are particularly popular, but you can expect to pay over $100 per head and popular spots, like Mezza9 at the Hyatt on Orchard, will require reservations.
Singapore is an easy place to eat for almost everybody. Many Indians and not a few Chinese Buddhists are strictly vegetarian, so Indian stalls may have a number of veggie options and some hawker centres will have a Chinese vegetarian stall or two, often serving up amazing meat imitations made from gluten. Chinese vegetarian food traditionally does not use eggs or dairy products and is thus almost always vegan; Indian vegetarian food, however, often employs cheese and other milk products. Be on your guard in ordinary Chinese restaurants though, as even dishes that appear vegetarian on the menu may contain seafood products such as oyster sauce or salted fish — check with the waiter if in doubt. Some restaurants can be found that use "no garlic, no onions".
Muslims should look out for halal certificates issued by MUIS, the Islamic Religious Council of Singapore. This is found at practically every Malay stall and many Indian Muslim operations too, but more rarely on outlets run by the Chinese, few of whom are Muslims. That said, the popular Banquet (http://www.banquet.com.sg/) chain of food courts is entirely halal and an excellent choice for safely sampling halal Chinese food. Many, if not all, of the Western fast-food chains in Singapore use halal meat: look for a certificate around the ordering area, or ask a manager if in doubt. A few restaurants skimp on the formal certification and simply put up "no pork, no lard" signs; it's your call if this is good enough for you.
Jews, on the other hand, will have a harder time as kosher food is nearly unknown in Singapore. Nevertheless, kosher food is still available near Singapore's two synagogues at Oxley Rise and Waterloo Street in the Central Business District; check with the Jewish Welfare Board (http://www.singaporejews.com/) for details.
Celiac disease is relatively unheard of in Singapore, so don't expect to find information on menus about whether dishes contain gluten or not. A few exceptions to this include Cedele (http://www.cedeledepot.com/) and Barracks @ House (http://www.dempseyhouse.com/).
Coffee, see, and tea, oh!
Coffee and tea in hawker centres and kopitiam goes for under a dollar a cup, a steep discount on Starbucks prices, but you'll need to learn the lingo to get what you want. If you order just kopi the Malay word for "coffee" or teh Hokkien for "tea" in Singapore, it will definitely be served with a heaped spoonful of sugar, and more often than not with a squirt of sweet condensed milk. Kopi-C or teh-C substitutes unsweetened evaporated milk, while kopi-O or teh-O makes sure it's served with no milk. To get rid of the sugar, you need to ask for it kosong "plain", but if you want a plain black cup of joe, you need to ask for kopi-O kosong! If you want your drink cold, just add a peng to the end of the drink name, eg. kopi-O-peng, teh-peng, teh-C-peng, Milo-peng etc. and it will be served with ice.
Despite the name, coffee shops or kopitiam sell much more than coffee — they are effectively mini-hawker centres with perhaps only half a dozen stalls one of which will, however, sell coffee and other drinks. The Singaporean equivalent of pubs, this is where folks come for the canonical Singaporean breakfast of kopi strong, sugary coffee, some kaya egg-coconut jam toast and runny eggs, and this is also where they come to down a beer or two and chat away in the evenings. English proficiency can somtimes be limited, but most stall owners know enough to communicate the basics, and even if they don't, nearby locals will usually help you out if you ask. Many coffee shops offer tze char ç ®ç for dinner, meaning a menu of local dishes, mostly Chinese-style seafood, served at your table at mid-range prices.
The usual Starbucks and other local cafe chains such as Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf can be found in any shopping mall but an iced coffee or tea can put you back $5 and up, whereas a teh tarik "pulled" milky tea or kopi coffee runs closer to $1 at any hawker centre.
Found in the basement or top floor of nearly every shopping mall, food courts are the gentrified, air-conditioned version of hawker centres. The variety of food on offer is almost identical, but prices are on average $1-3 higher than prices in hawker centres and coffee shops depending on the area, it is slightly more expensive in tourist intensive areas and the quality of food is good but not necessary value for money.
Singapore is justly famous for its food, a unique mix of Malay, Chinese, Indian and Western elements. The following is only a brief sampler of the most popular dishes.
A plate of chilli crab
Katong laksa, with chilli paste and chopped laksa leaf in a spoon
Satay with peanut sauce, onions and cucumber