Meander through the neighbourhood streets and alleyways, and the locals’ passion for food will be immediately apparent. Whether it’s the aromas wafting through the doorways of quaint shophouses, the hubbub within our hawker centres, or the bars packed with revellers, culinary experiences here will bring out the adventurous foodie in you. So get started on this three-day itinerary, and put your tastebuds through a workout across the island.
Day 1: Big eats in Chinatown
1. Hawker hangouts
Where better to kick off your foodie adventure than at Chinatown Complex Market & Food Centre, the largest hawker centre in Singapore? With 260 stalls under one roof, you’ll get a crash course on our various cultures through a diverse palate. For instance, bubur cha cha, a dessert of coconut milk, taro and sweet potato, harks back to our rural Malay origins. Hainanese chicken rice is testament to the early Chinese settlers, who took the region’s love of spice and marinated rice, and transformed that into a single dish beloved by all.
Chinatown Complex Market & Food Centre. 335 Smith Street #02-127, Singapore 050335.
Mon-Tue & Thu-Sun 10am-8pm.
2. Souvenir shopping
After a hearty breakfast, pop by the district’s many Traditional Chinese Medicine shops, such as Eu Yan Sang in Chinatown Point, to pick up local herbs and remedies. The brand offers traditional Chinese remedies for anything from body aches to chronic coughs. Plants such as ginseng, that can fetch up to thousands of dollars, are what our forefathers relied upon to cure their ailments—so they’ll make great gifts for your friends and family interested in natural or alternative medicine.
Take a short stroll from Chinatown Point, and enter the buzzing Ann Siang stretch of bars and restaurants. Head to Oxwell & Co during aperitivo hour, and order a cocktail to go with your meal of rustic British fare. The housemade Gin & Chronic is a spicy upgrade from your regular G&Ts, thanks to the cinnamon used, and it pairs perfectly with our balmy weather. Score a table on the rooftop for the best views of the area’s low-rise shophouses and the Central Business District’s skyscrapers behind them.
After dinner, head across the road to The Screening Room. The cinema screens indie films a few times a month—best enjoyed while lounging on plush couches in the intimate company of friends. Don’t miss the cinema’s rooftop bar for some pre- or post-film cocktails, too.
The Screening Room. 12 Ann Siang Road, Singapore 069692. +65 6221 1694 (Rooftop bar), +65 6532 3357 (Screening room).
Mon-Thu 5.30pm-late, Fri & Sat 5pm-late.
Day 2: Bites and booze around Bugis
1. Village-style cuisine
Be like a local and start your day with a mountain of rice at Hjh Maimunah Nasi Padang. The nasi padang (rice with a medley of Malay dishes) served here is one of the best on the island.
Co-owners Ismail, Mastura and Maria Didih may only be in their 30s, but they’ve watched their mother labour over the stoves of the family-run restaurant for decades. They know authentic Malay cuisine better than most, which is why they’ve stuck to mum’s time-honoured recipes and source ingredients from small purveyors in the region.
Ladle classic dishes such as sambal goreng (fried tofu, string beans and chilli paste) and ayam bakar(barbecued chicken) onto your rice, then brace yourself for the incoming food coma.
Quell the residual heat from Hjh Maimunah’s fiery curries with some refreshing cocktails. Walk over to Parkview Square, known to locals as the ‘Gotham City building’ (due to its resemblance to Batman’s fictional hometown), and you’ll find Atlas in the lobby. The bar is bedecked with so many intricate Art Deco flourishes—high ceilings, dramatic plaques and towering statues among them—that you might imagine yourself a modern-day Jay Gatsby, sipping on a martini or negroni shaken up with small-batch spirits. With more than 1,000 bottles stacked up in Atlas’ three-storey-high cooler, you’ll be spoilt for choice.
Parkview Square. 600 North Bridge Road, Singapore 188778. +65 6396 4466.
Mon-Thu 10-1am, Fri 10-2am; Sat 3pm-2am.
3. Live music on the street
Buzzing from the cocktails? Make your way to Haji Lane to prolong your high with some great live music. Come nightfall, the many bars and cafés in the area set up al fresco seating areas as live musicians belt out tunes on the narrow lane. Pick a spot at The Singapura Club or Going Om—the former doles out regional dishes and local-inspired tipples, while the latter is a Himalayan-inspired café and bar that’s always a hive of activity after dark.
The Singapura Club. 26 Haji Lane, Singapore 189219. +65 6291 7797.
Mon-Fri 11am-11.59pm; Sat & Sun 8.30am-11.59pm.
Going Om. 63 Haji Lane, Singapore 189256. +65 6396 3592.
Tue-Thu & Sun noon-midnight, Fri & Sat noon-1am.
Day 3: Culture clubs
1. Spice and everything nice
At Tekka Centre, let the fragrance of spices and curries pique your appetite in the morning. The hawker centre specialises in food from across the Indian sub-continent, as well as localised takes on North and South Indian staples. Try the prawn vadai (chewy, deep fried donuts made from lentil flour, green chillies and onions) from Sky Lab Cooked Food. For something lighter, go for appam, which are slightly fermented pancakes served with grated coconut and coconut sugar, from Deen’s Food Stall Appam Specialist. They both pair perfectly with a warm mug of teh tarik (pulled milk tea) that many stalls here offer.
Don’t miss Tekka Centre’s sprawling market section, where colourful, fresh produce are a feast for the senses. The upper floors sell anything from sari (traditional Indian womenswear) to CDs of Bollywood pop idols, if you have the time for a casual browse.
Tekka Centre. 665 Buffalo Road, Singapore 210665.
Various opening hours.
One of Singapore’s proud food heritages comes from the Peranakan (Straits-born people of Chinese and Malay/Indonesian heritage) community. And arguably the best Peranakan restaurant in town is Candlenut, where chef Malcolm Lee has elevated his grandmother’s old recipes to Michelin-starred fame—it’s also the only one of its kind in the world.
To sample as many dishes as you can, opt for the ‘Ah-ma-kase’ menu. Chef Lee will serve up small tasting portions of the appetisers, curries, soups, wok-fried dishes and desserts that are equal parts traditional and cutting-edge.
COMO Dempsey. 17A Dempsey Road, Singapore 249676. 1800 304 2288.
Mon-Thu & Sun noon-3pm, 6-10pm; Fri & Sat noon-3pm, 6-11pm.
3. Sweet works of art
From Candlenut, take a quick bus ride to Holland Village, where 2am:dessertbar is perched on the top floor of a shophouse. It’s the labour of love of chef Janice Wong, who now enjoys international acclaim for her sweet treats that resemble works of art on a plate.
Even locals marvel at how she manages to push the boundaries between sweet and savoury—think chocolate melded with ingredients such as bird’s eye chillies, laksa leaf and bak kwa (grilled pork slices). It’s no wonder that some of her customers linger until the bar closes at 2am, also known as the “hour of your cravings”, according to the dessert shop. And if you can’t get enough of local specialities, pick up chef Wong’s Singapore Signature box of chocolate bonbons for your loved ones back home.
2am:dessertbar. 21A Lorong Liput, Singapore 277733. +65 291 9727.
Tue-Fri 3pm-2am, Sat & Sun 2pm-2am.