Why go: Chicken rice is one of Singapore’s classic dishes. Deceptively bland in appearance, this local favourite is packed full of flavour thanks to the garlic and pandan rice cooked in chicken stock and served with an array of sauce: chilli, dark soy and ginger. Unlike other places, the chicken at Boon Tong Kee isn’t an afterthought – tender, moist and covered in a layer of silky chicken skin, this is a winner of a chicken dinner. And with seven outlets around town, it’s easy for you to get your fix.
What to order: The signature boiled chicken (from SG$10) and a bowl of chicken rice (SG$1) should satisfy but Boon Tong Kee also has plenty of other Chinese dishes like braised pig’s trotters (SG$28), sweet and sour pork (SG$12) and poached Chinese spinach with salted and century eggs (SG$11) to complete your meal.
Where to find: 399, 401 and 403 Balestier Road, Singapore, 329801
Why go: Nasi lemak is a traditional Malay dish of coconut rice served alongside fried chicken, sambal (chilli paste) and an egg. It usually costs a few dollars at the hawker centre but The Coconut Club is dedicated to making this humble dish the best it can be, served in a quaint shophouse that will take you back to Singapore’s fishing village days. A far cry from the towering metropolis that it is today.
What to order: The Coconut Club specialises in one thing, and one thing only, nasi lemak (SG$12.80). It makes its coconut rice with the best single-origin coconut milk in the world and pairs that with fried spice-marinated chicken, an egg, Japanese cucumber, anchovies, peanuts and a savoury sambal. Mix it all together and you’ve got a party in your mouth.
Where to find: 6 Ann Siang Hill, Singapore, 069787
Why go: Chill out at this creative staging post for musicians and DJs, while refuelling on a line-up popular gastro-favourites all at prices that won’t break the bank.
What to order: It’s an eclectic mix of popular international dishes from tasty burgers and salads to curries and stir-fries. Beef lasagne is a popular choice, too.
Where to find: 11 Bali Lane, 189848
Why go: This old-school Indian canteen in lush Dempsey Hill is a dining institution. It’s been doling out curries and dahls to locals since the 1950s and still sticks to tradition. Rice and curries are served tableside by friendly staff who spoon them out on banana leaves. Cutlery is provided, but go ahead and eat with your hands – no one’s going to judge.
What to order: As one of the city’s oldest curry shops, Samy’s Curry is a pioneer of Indian-style fish head curry (from SG$20). Served in a clay pot, the bubbling curry comes loaded with a whole snapper head and vegetables like okra, aubergine and onions. Unlike the Chinese version of the dish, Samy’s is free from coconut milk and is more heavy-handed with the spices.
Where to find: 25 Dempsey Road, Singapore, 249670
Why go: TingKat PeraMakan is a founder-managed mini chain specialising in Nonya dishes at very reasonable prices. The idea is to order a complete set meal, consisting of one main, two sides, a dessert and drink, but you can go à la carte if you prefer.
What to order: Chicken curry or braised pork in a fragrant fermented bean sauce, accompanied by sayur masak lemak, a heart-warming potato and cabbage dish cooked in spicy coconut gravy.
Where to find: 119 Owen Road, 218924
Why go: No visit to Singapore is complete without a visit to a hawker centre. These open-air food complexes house hundreds of stalls, each specialising in a couple of dishes priced extremely cheaply. Tiong Bahru Market is one of the city’s oldest and largest hawker centres, built in the 1950s with over 80 stalls.
What to order: Your best course of action at Tiong Bahru Market would be to order the star dishes of multiple stalls. There’s chwee kueh (steamed rice cake topped with preserved radish) from Jian Bo Shui Kueh (stall: 02-05), Hokkien noodles from Hong Heng Fried Sotong Prawn Mee (stall: 02-01), nasi ayam penyet (Malay fried chicken with rice) from Ali Corner (02-17) among plenty of others. Can’t decide? Let the random food generator on the market’s interactive website clue you in on what to order.
Where to find: 30 Seng Poh Road, Singapore, 168898