Singapore Hawkers +
I'm heading over to Singapore in a couple of weeks and am looking for any must haves or "die die, must try". Hawker food, sit down places any and all cuisines.
Eating is the national pastime in Singapore. The people really care about food, and have the wealth to buy the best that South East Asia has to offer. As far as recommendations go, you need to decide what you want. What is great to me, such as a South Indian neighborhood thali restaurant, might put you off as unclean and unfamiliar. So what do you like, how much do you want to spend, and how long will you be in Singapore?
Unfortunately, there isn't much activity on this board as far as I can tell, so it may be a while before you get responses.
But fortunately, it's easy to find good food in Singapore, even on your own, with little guidance. And I think that finding the little Indian place just by following my nose made the experience even better.
South Indian - Anandabhavans on Serangoon Road. Also good is Komala Villas on Serangoon. They also have a second location down the road by Mustafa Shopping Center, but I prefer the first one.
Hawker Center - don't really have a favorite other than to say avoid Newton's Circus. It's a tourist trap. Since I have family in several areas of Singapore, I usually end up at a hawker center near a family member's flat. That's a good way to see if a place is good - lots of locals at a center usually means it's good.
Food courts: I like the Takishimaya food court, and my husband likes the Wisma Atria food court. The one at Tang's is nice too. At Takishimaya, I like the noodle shop at the back that sells the fried mee goreng and hokkien mee. The Bugis MRT station has a good food court too. Nice chicken rice, wonton mee and a great ais kachang (shaved ice) stall. You can get an original ais kachang big enough for 2-3 people to share for only S$1.10.
Sit Down: I hardly ever do sit down dinners in Singapore unless it's at a hotel (like wedding) or at someone's home. I prefer to eat out in the smaller hawker stalls and food courts which I can't find here in L.A.
I love the hawker stalls but for a great sit-down try The Red Lantern Chinese Restaurant. About 3 weeks ago had Chili Crab and Deer Meat Stew. Both excellent. Deer meat melted in my mouth. Hey -- this is Asia and everything is on the menu. The Chili Crab was absolutely delicious. Don't forget to select a cold beer or iced tea to go with it. Very reasonably priced. Nothing like it here in L.A..
I'm just learning myself, but I love the following dishes which I think are unique to Singapore, or at least Singapore's version is different from what you get elsewhere, which I think is what you are looking for:
Chili crab, pepper crab, curried lobster, fish head soup. Laksa, roti prata, teh tarik, char kueh teow (sp?), rojak, grilled skate. There are lots more; I just haven't tried them.
I usually go to Long Beach Rest. in Marina East for the first three items, and Muthu's for the fish head curry. The others I don't have a recommendation for, other than hawker centers and food courts. The roti prata place in Wisma Atria food court is cool because you can see the cook making the roti prata in front of you. These dishes are served all around the island, and you don't necessarily want to waste a lot of time finding the 'best' one, so go to a food court and find a vendor with a long line, because at least those folks think it's worth waiting for. If you can make it, cruise to Kinokuniya bookstore in Takashimaya building and check out the cookbooks. Periplus has a line of inexpensive local cookbooks, which explain how to cook (i.e. what's in) the popular dishes.
So glad to find this post! I'll be going to Singapore in March, seems like too far out in the future, but a huge part of my trip is for what I hear is the amazing food. I've never been, but what I've heard about the chili crab is enough to inspire the trip!
Morekasha, would love to hear about your trip on the boards when you get back!