A visit to Singapore won’t be complete without a trip or two to our various ethnic enclaves. Chinatown, Kampong Glam and Little India are island’s most culturally vibrant districts – each packed with sights and delicious bites not limited to their respective cuisines. Exploration aside, don't miss out on these recommended eateries!
Chinatown can typically be found in most Western countries but in Singapore, it bears another moniker — 牛车水 (Niú chē shuǐ), which literally translates to ‘bullock cart water’. Back then, fresh water had to be brought into this ethnic quarter by bullock-drawn carts. Today, Chinatown still brims of culture and tradition, and is always dressed up for big festive occasions such as Chinese New Year and Mid-Autumn Festival.
Food Spots in ChinatownFill up on hawker goodness at Chinatown Complex Market and Food Centre, Chinatown Food Street or Maxwell Food Centre, or indulge in an authentic dim sum meal at Yum Cha – where pushcarts containing steam baskets of har gao, siu mai and fung zao make their rounds for your choosing.
Amongst medical halls and boutique hotels along South Bridge Road, some food gems to check out include the vegan-friendly Well Dressed Salad Bar & Café, OPPA Chicken for chimaek cravings and Tong Heng, whose iconic diamond-shaped egg tarts are a melt-in-your-mouth delight.
Over at New Bridge Road, pop into Chinatown Point for Victor’s Kitchen’s liu sha bao, Chir Chir Fusion Chicken Factory’s Honey Butter Chicken or Peach Garden for its award-winning Chinese cuisine. Don’t leave without a bag of Bakkwa, which are barbequed slices of meat – usually made from pork or beef – marinated with sugar and spices, as a souvenir for your family and friends back home. Popular bakkwa stalls: Bee Kim Heng, Bee Cheng Hiang, Lim Chee Guan and Kim Hwa Guan. For trendier cafes, bars and restaurants; hit up Club Street, Keong Saik and Duxton, which typically comes alive when the sun goes down. (Images: 123rf, OpenRice users louislai89, melvyn_caffeine and Victor's Kitchen's official website)
In the past, Kampong Glam was home to the Malay royalty, as well as Arab and Bugis traders from the Muslim community. Today, the Malay Heritage Centre occupies the Istana (palace) and Sultan Mosque remains a prominent place of worship while the many side lanes in this neighbourhood remain vibrant with Middle Eastern restaurants, cafes and even bars. Be prepared to spend as you weave through the retail stretch of Haji Lane, where colourful shop houses contain anything from quality Persian carpets to indie fashion pieces.
Food Spots in Kampong Glam
On Kandahar Street, Maison Ikkoku runs as a café and boutique dishing out breakfast classics and gourmet sandwiches by day before its cocktail bar on the second floor opens at 4pm. Skip on a few doors down to the famous Rich and Good Cake Shop, an old-school bakery whose signature swiss rolls come in flavours like durian, kaya and coffee. And then there’s Cicheti, an Italian gem that does pizzas and pastas equally well.
For café hoppers, take your pick from CAD Café, The Pantry at Shop Wonderland, Le Kue and I Am over at Haji Lane; Bali Lane’s Stateland Café for its large and crisp waffles or The Lab, Artistry and Symmetry Café in the vicinity. The latter, a must-visit for anyone obsessed with truffle fries. Try our favourite pho restaurant Mrs Pho on Beach Road, where a unique dine-in-the-dark restaurant NOX and Vatos Urban Tacos, a Korean-American restaurant and bar sit along the same stretch.
And amongst the many Middle Eastern and Mediterranean restaurants Arab Street district, some recommendations for a satisfying dinner of kebabs, hummus and shish taouk include Beirut Grill and Alaturka on Bussorah Street. Read more: 10 Best Food Places on Arab Street (Images: 123rf, OpenRice users saltandtruffles, 1980June, lizchong and Beirut Grill Fine Middle Eastern Cuisine Facebook Page)
Although cattle traders and racecourses can no longer be found in Little India, the heart of Singapore’s Indian community remains abuzz with Hindu temples such as the distinctive Sri Veeramakaliamman Temple, flower garland vendors, textile shops selling beautiful sarees and boutique hotels that line the main street – Serangoon Road. And then there’s the 24-hour Mustafa Shopping Centre, where you’ll find virtually everything and anything from groceries and cosmetics to tech goods and toiletries – for quite a steal.
Food Spots in Little India
Amongst a myriad of eateries in Little India, The Banana Leaf Apolo and Muthu’s Curry are two renowned restaurants known for their Fish Head Curry, a South Indian delicacy with comforting thick and spicy gravy. To savour North Indian dishes such as Chicken Tikka Masala, Biryani and Naan, we recommend Copper Chimney and Kashmir. To vegetarians, note that most Indian restaurants do serve a selection of vegetarian dishes but for an even wider variety, try Komala Vilas Restaurant, which has two outlets in Little India.
For nearby hawker solutions, Tekka Centre in Little India will solve all your hunger woes with some noteworthy biryani from Yakader Muslim Food Specialist Dum Briyani, braised duck rice from Heng Gi Goose and Duck Rice or a hearty porridge meal from Swee Heng Teochew Porridge Rice. (Images: OpenRice Singapore, Copper Chimney, Muthu's Curry, OpenRice Singapore, OpenRice users CEILJOVEN and angliptak)
Written by Peh Yi Wen