Friends Visiting Singapore From Abroad? Here's Where To Take Them To Eat
Now that travel is back, we’re finally reuniting with friends, family, and even colleagues flying into Singapore. And with the news that tourist staple, Newton Food Centre, will be closed from November 2022 to January 2023 for renovations, we’ve been thinking a lot about where else we can showcase Singapore’s culinary offerings.
Of course, there are the classics: Long Bar at Raffles Singapore for a Singapore Sling, Chin Mee Chin Confectionery for kopi and toast, and Spago, located atop Marina Bay Sands, will impress just about any travel-starved guest.
But as two people got “stuck” in Singapore after COVID began, and whose families live abroad, my colleague, Nicholas and I have had plenty of time to explore all of the everyday places where we can take people to eat.
Here are our recommendations:
Nicholas: For breakfast, how about some delicious char kway teow? I am more of a fan of the dry type, and one I really suka is 133 Penang Authentic at Bukit Timah Food Centre. More savoury, extra wok hey, and I never leave without ordering two plates. As close as you can get to Penang-style without actually going there.
Diane: I gotta admit that most of my foreign friends and family aren’t used to eating noodles first thing in the morning! So for those who want something a little milder or closer to what they eat at home, I’d recommend a good ‘ol kaya toast set, complete with soft-boiled eggs for dipping. Aside from Chin Mee Chin, which is cute and classic but somewhat inaccessible in MRT-less Joo Chiat, Tong Ah Eating House on Keong Saik Road serves super shiok slabs of French toast with kaya.
Nicholas: Already my mouth watering sia. I’m already thinking of lunch. Ok, hear me out on this: McDonald’s. Most people know me for being a huge McDonald’s fan, and it’s the first place I want to visit whenever I go overseas – you’ll never know what amazing exclusive menu items you might find. Singapore is no exception. I wholeheartedly recommend people to order the Buttermilk Crispy Chicken. Big buttermilk flavoured chicken thigh and pineapple slice in a glazed bun. 9/10 people I intro this burger to say it’s the best McDonald’s food they have ever had.
Diane: 100% agree. McSpicy is a national icon (just make sure you have iced Milo and a couple of charcoal pills on hand for the uninitiated). On top of its chicken burgers, McDonald’s also has limited edition McFlurries and seasonal ice cream flavours – hojicha ice cream cone, anybody?
Nicholas: Another great lunch option: chicken rice. Can’t go wrong with most places, even the random food centre one is very good. I think most Singaporeans will have their own personal favourite growing up. My favourite is Wee Nam Kee. It has several outlets, but I like to go to the main branch at United Square in Novena.
Diane: Oh yes, chicken rice is a must-have and Wee Nam Kee’s been a hit with my friends from Taiwan, Australia, and the Philippines. I like that the menu also offers zi char classics like cereal prawn so that you can introduce your fellow diners to a variety of dishes.
Nicholas: Another local-must have is laksa. Got a few places I can think of, either Katong Laksa, Janggut Laksa or the Michelin Bib Gourmand awardee Famous Sungei Road Trishaw Laksa. Can’t go wrong with any of them, and I have friends who swear by all of these places.
Diane: Need a bit of wow factor? Bring them to try blue butterfly pea nasi lemak, which you can get at The Coco Rice in Tiong Bahru Market. We can promise you that their phone will eat first.
Nicholas: Oh yeah, definitely must jio them go eat nasi lemak. My favourite is one located at CBD, called Uptown Nasi Lemak because they were inspired by the famous nasi lemak in Damansara Uptown, KL. When I really missed eating that KL nasi lemak, that stall was an absolute godsend. A friend in the west recommended Latiffa Huri, very tasty but they’re quite far in Jurong West and sell out really fast.
Nicholas: For dinner, I know something you can’t find anywhere else around the world: Eurasian food. A good place for lunch/dinner is Quentin’s at the Eurasian Heritage Gallery. Got a very homely feel. Must order devil’s curry and oxtail stew, but the chicken vindaloo and prawn bostador are divine too. Can also go up to the gallery and view Eurasian history in Singapore.
Diane: Speaking of cosy food, Peranakan fare is a die die must try for visitors. Like Eurasian cuisine, its multicultural mix of ingredients and cooking methods lends itself to flavours you’d be hard-pressed to find outside of the region. IVINS in Bukit Timah is a local favourite, and Blue Ginger is moderately priced with a couple of convenient locations near town, but if you’re willing to spend a little more, you can take your guests to Candlenut, the world’s first Michelin-starred Peranakan restaurant (also, the interior decor? Gorg.)
Nicholas: Can’t leave Singapore without late-night prata. For crispy prata, go to Chindamani Indian Food Stall in Serangoon North. For a more “Malaysian” style prata, ABC Food Corner in Little India does the job well. There are also many different prata styles if your foriegn friends are adventurous. Or go to RK Eating House and order the Tissue Prata, confirm your overseas buddies are sure to be impressed.
Diane: Also can’t leave Singapore without trying the latest hype food: mala xiang guo. While this has been around for awhile, it has somehow exploded in popularity over the past couple of years. Anecdotally, it can rouse your taste buds back to life if you’ve lost your sense of taste due to COVID. But it’s also very fun to choose ingredients and to eat it with a group.
Nicholas: I always leave a mala xiang guo outlet sweaty af and with a numb tongue but it is all worth it.
Diane: Finally, we’d be remiss to end our list without including one of the most-requested foods from overseas guests: chili crab. While JUMBO at Riverside Point is quite the crowd-pleaser (bonus: idyllic view of the Singapore River), you can also take your guests to my go-to zichar place, Keng Eng Kee Seafood at Alexandra Village, or to Roland Restaurant in Marine Parade – legend has it that chili crab originated in Roland Lim’s mother's kitchen.
Nicholas: Wow, that is a lot of food. And we haven't covered everything either. Part 2 maybe? .