Hawker Centers: Despite their small size and slight frames, eating is a national pastime for Singaporeans. The typical “Singlish” (local slang) greeting is “Sudah makan” or “Have you eaten” — a testament to how much social interactions here revolve around eating. And there is no better (or more affordable) place to eat than at one of the city’s many hawker centers. To the untrained eye of the recent arrival, these can be quite overwhelming! A single hawker center might contain 50 individual stalls selling anything from fish porridge to sugar cane juice and mooncakes. Organized in rows, none of these stalls are alike: some will focus on a single type of dish—like duck meat, soup, curry rice, or crab—whereas others have a wide menu like a restaurant. Dishes rarely cost more than $8, but most will total about $5, and all food is ready in just a few minutes.
Malls: In the US, the idea of eating dinner in a mall generally conjures up images of fast food or cafeteria style dining—but such is not the case in Singapore. Many of the city’s finest restaurants are actually located in shopping malls! Singapore’s malls, including Orchard ION, Paragon, Shoppes at Marina Bay, and Raffles City, already offer a 5-star experience, and the dining options are no exception. Particularly on rainy weekend days, the mall is a very popular place to spend the entire day: you can wander around the shops, and then sit down for a long meal. However, be prepared to shell out a pretty penny for your meal (think $25 hamburgers!). Malls are also very popular during lunch time. A sea of suited men and high-heeled women descend upon the basement levels, where restaurants are typically found, around noon to get their fix of soups, noodles, and stir-fry.
Grocery Stores: The two largest grocery store chains in Singapore are Cold Storage and FairPrice. As the name suggests, FairPrice is a bit more affordable, and subsidized by the Singaporean government. Most Singaporeans shop there, as do expats who don’t mind buying local brands and trying their hand at the local cuisine. Cold Storage is the pricier option, but you can find almost anything there that you would have in the UK or US – from Greek yogurt and Brussels sprouts to brie and organic frozen pizza. However, with the abundance of inexpensive hawker center food, you won’t necessarily save any money by doing your own shopping – that is, unless you are making local dishes. Dairy and organic products can be quite expensive, and gluten-free or vegan options are best found at a dedicated health food or gourmet grocery store. Market Place, Jones the Grocer, and SuperNature are good specialty options.
Fresh Produce: Singapore is known for its wet markets—mazes of stands selling anything from fresh fish to Roma tomatoes. Even if you aren’t in the market for groceries, these markets are well worth a visit just to see (and smell) the various goods for sale. Some of the foods and produce are from Singapore while others are imported, catering to Singapore’s diverse palate and taste for cow tongues, eels, and frogs. The best time to go is early in the morning—many open as early as 4am, and are known to close by noon because all the produce is already sold. So go early and come hungry! Some of the best wet markets are Tekka Market in Little India, Chinatown Market in the Chinatown Complex, Tiong Bahru Wet Market, and the Kurlya Japanese Fresh Fish market in Jurong Point.
Take Out and Delivery: Too lazy to cook—or even leave your apartment for food? No problem! Take-out and delivery options are widely available in Singapore. Orders range from $4–$20, and you’ll often have to pay a delivery surcharge, but the service is quick and reliable. Hawker centers also have take-out options, and will usually only charge an extra 50 cents if you want your meal to go. Food Panda, Room Service, and Gourmet To Go are great options for take-out meals, while Alcohol Delivery, Mabuk Monkey, and Liquor Bar will cater your drinks.
Favorite Picks: There are a few up-and-coming eateries that are worth mentioning. In Duxton Hill, a beautiful tree lined street with colorful shop houses, Latteria Mozzarella Bar, Lucha Loca, and Maison Fatien are great options (and be sure to swing by Littered With Books - a quaint bookstore down just down the road). On Club Street in Chinatown, Ding Dong, PS Cafe, Beaujolais, and Spizza are all popular with young expats - and Luke’s Oyster Bar and Chop, just around the corner on Gemmill Lane is well worth a visit. And just two streets over on Telok Ayer and Amoy Street, Urban Bites has great Mediterranean fare, Annalakshimi is a “pay-what-you-want” Indian restaurant, and The Market Grill serves up a great burger. When in doubt, just check out Hungry Go Where for great reviews and recommendations. TripAdvisor and Yelp are also good options but they will tend to cater more towards tourist destinations. Honeycombers is another good alternative, which reviews new restaurants and bars each month.