Singapore, A Food Safari

by Alexis Cheong

It’s a jungle out there. Don’t let the neat and sterile image of this country fool you. When it comes to food, culture and things to do, it’s amazing how much is packed into such a tiny place. But it all makes sense. After all, we are at the heart of South East Asia, where races, religion and languages all merge in a geographical melting pot. Navigating such a jungle, concrete or otherwise, is no easy task so I’ve planned a 3-day itinerary that’s guaranteed to ensure a sampling of our best food and attractions.

Day 1 – Friday

Singapore, A Food Safari

10am: Killiney Coffee

Start off your day with some local breakfast from one of the most iconic coffee shops in Singapore – the Killiney Kopitiam at 67 Killiney Road. Order the kaya toast, kopi/teh and half-boiled eggs set to give you the energy boost you’ll need for the rest of the day, while soaking in the unique atmosphere.

11am: Chinatown shopping, Tea Chapter, Buddha Tooth Relic Temple

Walk around Chinatown and buy some souvenirs from the teeming markets here. Observe the mixture of Chinese and Indian architecture, check out the temples on Temple Street and North Bridge Road and perhaps spot some locals playing chess! Don’t miss a visit to Tea Chapter on North Bridge Road, which has a wide variety of rare and premium tealeaves for sale.

12pm: Lunch at Maxwell Food Centre

Grab some lunch nearby at Maxwell Food Centre, which is popular among office workers so be sure to head there early! Here there is a good selection of local cuisine so you’ll be spoiled for choice. The famous Tian Tian Chicken Rice, reviewed by Anthony Bourdain, is located here and a perennial favorite among those who prefer the more heavily flavoured version. Personally I prefer a bowl of fish soup with rice noodles.

2pm: Singapore Zoo

If you are in Singapore, you must go to the zoo, which is a truly world-class destination. With its blend of fantastic displays, dedication to animal welfare and large collection of exotic animal life, it truly is one of the world’s best. If you have time, the Night Safari and River Safari are also worth a look but for me the zoo is really the main attraction.

6pm: Ban Leong Chili Crab

Both Malaysia and Singapore claim that the chili crab hailed from their shores, but I don’t really care where it came from – only where can I get the best without being charged an arm and a leg! The answer lies at Ban Leong Wah Hoe Seafood Restaurant on Casuarina Road – the best chili crab in town in my opinion. Don’t miss other specialities like their prawn paste chicken and sambal kang kung. Reservations are recommended for evening sittings at 6pm or 8pm.

10pm: Marina Bay Sands  + Ku De Ta

End the night by heading to Marina Bay Sands, home to a convention centre, restaurants, theatres, museums and many flagship stores. Ignore all ground-floor temptations and head up to Ku de Ta to enjoy an unforgettable view of Singapore with drink in hand!

 

Day 2 – Saturday

 

10am: Breakfast at Tiong Bahru Market

Start your day with a hearty local breakfast at the Tiong Bahru Market, where the usual rules apply – follow the queues! Try the famous steamed rice cake with preserved radish and chili from stall #02-05 Jian Bo Chwee Kueh – the rice cakes are made by hand daily! Grab your local kopi from 238 Coffee at #02-81, which has the local stamp of approval!

11am: Tiong Bahru shopping

After you’ve finished your breakfast, take a stroll around Tiong Bahru and admire the art deco architecture of this atmospheric housing estate. Dotted with eclectic cafes, restaurants and boutiques, this happening neighbourhood includes one of my favourite shops, Books Actually on Yong Saik.

1pm: Lunch at 40 Hands 

Pop into 40 Hands across the road for lunch, one of Singapore’s better bistro and cafes, where the menu offers fresh sandwiches, hotdogs and very good coffee.

3pm: Haji Lane shopping

Take some time to explore the indie and local designer quarter on hip and trendy Haji Lane and the surrounding streets of Kampung Glam, near Bugis. What used to be a mainly Muslim enclave has recently been gentrified to include lots of fashion and fun, so there’s lots to see and plenty of places to enjoy a refreshing snack or drink – this is where to head for sheesha pipes and mint tea.

5:30pm: Little India walkabout

After scouring the streets of Kampung Glam, continue your exploration of Singapore’s cultural hubs in Little India. In contrast to Singapore’s ordered streets, this chaotic, but so very authentic neighbourhood is almost like travelling to India without taking a flight! Enjoy the intoxicating aroma of exotic spices, curry and incense. For a quiet escape and some well-earned refreshment, pop into Rouse on Dunlop Street. This newly established cafe has managed to hold its own with a blend of good service, great coffee and creative interior decor.

8pm: Potato Head Folk Dinner & Drinks

Next head to Keong Saik Street in China Town to one of Singapore’s hottest new additions for some well-deserved dinner and drinks. Potato Head Folk is the newest offering from the Indonesia-based Potato Head, serving up exotic cocktails and reputedly the best burgers in town (see review page 56). Make sure to try one for your own verdict!

10pm: Clarke Quay Live Music

After China Town, take your night into the next gear and head to Clarke Quay for some live music. There are many bars here with regular bands like Pump Room, Fern and Kiwi, Octapas or Cuba Libre. There is always a lively atmosphere in Clarke Quay so walk around and make the most of it before hitting one of the legendary clubs like Attica or F Club.

2am: Supper

If you still have energy and hunger beckons, take a taxi to Makansutra’s Glutton Bay, near the Esplanade, for the Singaporean institution ‘supper’. End your day with some satay and spicy sambal stingray, or soak up the booze with some roti prata with curry.

 

Day 3 – Sunday

 

10am: Seasons Bistro Brunch

On the last day why not head into town to do some shopping! But first, enjoy breakfast at American diner Seasons Bistro at TripleOne Somerset. Try their Freedom Toast, or have the classic Big Breakfast. Both dishes are excellent and should set you up for the day. After that, take a stroll down Orchard Road and pop into stores like Abercrombie & Fitch, Tangs and Robinsons to pick up a gift for a loved one or indulge in some retail therapy.

1:30pm: Lunch at Quayside Aisle

Take a taxi to Sentosa Cove across the sea for lunch at Quayside Aisle, which has a wide variety of international dining options overlooking the picturesque marina. Head to Saint Pierre’s for gourmet French cuisine, Mykonos by the Bay for Greek, Sabio for tapas or Solepomodoro for Italian wood-fired pizzas.

3pm: Sentosa

Sentosa offers heaps of adrenalin-fuelled fun, be it for families, couples or friends. Visit Universal Studios for Hollywood-inspired rides and fun, Wavehouse for surfing and the Skyline Luge for some downhill go-karting action. Or jump into the unknown on Megazip, an exhilarating 450-metre ride to the beach from Imbiah hill. Alternatively simply chill out at Tanjong Beach Club, where the beautiful people congregate on Sunday afternoons to people watch and relax.

8:30pm: Skirt at W Singapore

To ensure that your 3-day tour comes to a gastronomic climax, have dinner at the acclaimed steakhouse, Skirt at W Hotel. Serving high quality meat in a stylish setting, this is the ideal way of ending your 3-day food safari in Singapore. Be warned though, there is a dress code so bring suitable attire to look your best!

 

Singaporean Alexis Cheong is an avid food blogger whose work is available at www.alexischeong.com

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