By Chris Dwyer
May 13, 2022
IT’S HARDLY BREAKING NEWS that Singapore is one of the world’s greatest places to eat – but now that the Lion City is open to pretty much every vaccinated traveler, there has never been a better opportunity to remind yourself, and your stomach, why.
What makes Singapore among the best dining destinations is the brilliant diversity of dishes at every level and price point. You’re covered whether you’re indulging in beautifully crafted, Michelin-starred haute cuisine, checking out hawkers doing their thing for decades or just diving into a steaming, fragrant bowl of laksa.
We took time to reconnect with some of the city’s finest foods and left replete and happy that this culinary wonderland is just as tasty as ever. Here are our top 9 best dishes that are worth the trip to Singapore alone.
1. Roast duck noodles
Few questions are as divisive as asking a Singaporean to choose the best hawker center, but handily there are currently 112 of them that alone make this city-state a food heaven. Newton Food Center may have featured in Crazy Rich Asians, but Maxwell Hawker Center in Chinatown is one of our favorites. Amid many standout stalls, Oriental Duck Stall serves bak kut teh and kway chap, but it’s their duck noodles that have us in raptures. Why? They’ve been serving the same home recipe since 1946. That’s all you need to know.
There are almost as many tweaks to laksa recipes as there are Singaporeans. A bowl at The Fullerton Bay Hotel reminded us of its epic deliciousness – especially as we helped craft it. Kinda. Their Heritage Cuisine Cooking Experience was a masterclass, from prepping the rempah spice mix to adding the coconut cream at the end… a stunning total of 26 ingredients featured in what is still seen as a humble dish. The result? A brilliant symphony of flavors and textures.
3. Lamb chop with beetroot and chili chutney
Private members’ spot The Mandala Club is a chic hideaway in the heart of Chinatown with a special culinary secret – open to all – in the form of their Mandala Masters pop-ups. Argentine superstar Mauro Colagreco of Michelin-three-starred Mirazur was one, but currently it’s the Indian maestro by way of Bangkok, Gaggan Anand, packing them in for the very last chance to try his rock star menu. Highlights include his lobster dhosa and foie gras waffle, but the signature lamb chop with beetroot and chili chutney was our pick of a stellar line-up.
4. Oyster cake
Oyster Cake. Courtesy of Maxwell Fuzhou Oyster Cake (2)
Another sure-fire winner at the Maxwell Hawker Center, another family who have been serving the same dish for decades. In business since the 1950s, Maxwell Fuzhou Oyster Cake sees Mrs. Hoon get up at 4 a.m. every day to start crafting these crunchy maritime beauties, combining oysters with prawns, cilantro and pork in her secret recipe batter before deep frying them to a golden brown. Served with chili sauce, they are a delight that begs to be reordered, especially as they somehow still only cost S$2 each.
5. Chicken rice
It’s chicken rice, Jim, but not as we know it. ‘Poularde de Bresse au Vin Jaune‘ pays homage to perhaps the best-known of classic Singapore dishes in dazzling style at Michelin-three-starred Odette. The sublime temple to contemporary French cuisine from Julien Royer sits elegantly at the National Gallery and continues to reign as one of Asia’s very finest restaurants. Royer’s take includes morels, Niigata rice from Japan and one of the finest fowl available, brought together in total harmony for an absolute show-stopper of a dish.
6. Nasi Lemak
With the Malay classic nasi lemak, it’s all about the rice. Cooked in coconut milk infused with pandan leaf, it’s the perfect base for the toppings including crunchy fried anchovies, peanuts, a fried or hard boiled egg – and of course a whack of heat and funk in the form of a burnt red sambal spice paste. Optional protein toppings include ayam goreng, a.k.a. fried chicken, making it truly our definition of a breakfast of champions. Alley on 25 at Andaz Singapore does a great version as part of a local breakfast spread – or take your pick from countless spots around town.
7. Cheese kulchette with pulled pork
Gruyère Kulchette. Courtesy of Revolver (2)
Did someone mention an insanely decadent cheese-stuffed flatbread? Which is then topped with pulled duck that has been slow cooked for 12 hours? This outrageously tasty creation, a ‘Gruyère Kulchette,‘ is a major star on the menu at Revolver, one of the hottest tickets in town. That’s thanks to brilliant modern Indian cuisine, cooked over open flame, from chef Saurabh Udinia and his team. Among the other best dishes that tickle our tastebuds here are a Boston lobster Malabar, a brilliant golden pomfret with ‘Goan risotto’ and fresh paneer cheese in tomato espuma, all underlining why absolutely everyone in Singapore wants to eat there.
8. Uni slider
Burnt Ends is such a must-visit for gastronauts in Singapore, it’s easy to forget that they’ve been open for less than a decade. Now in a new and more spacious setting in the food nirvana of Dempsey Hill, chefs Dave Pynt and Patrick Leano continue to smash it, thanks to their four-ton oven, elevation grill and mastery of deliciousness. A case in point: the uni slider, a fried brioche enveloping king crab and mayo, topped with creamy sea urchin. We didn’t say it’s for calorie counters, but holy moly is it good.
9. Wagyu kofta skewers
Finally, a confession. We love a hotel buffet – especially somewhere like the Lion City. It’s the endless possibilities, as dozens of iconic Singaporean dishes are lined up before you putting their best feet forward. Hilton Singapore Orchard has just reopened after an S$150 million facelift and offers Michelin-starred Sichuan and the return of Nancy Silverton’s Osteria Mozza. But save room for their epic buffet at Estate where the only challenge is where to start. Their skewers had us especially hooked, from classic satay to black miso chicken, Kurobata pork teriyaki and the wagyu kofta. The best part? Going back for seconds.