Choose from one of the numerous hotels dotted along and around Orchard Rd – this is a great centrally located spot for indulging in two of Singapore’s favourite past times – eating and shopping.
It may be early but the weather is already hot and steamy, so duck into Paragon Shopping Centre for a quick spot of retail therapy, some air conditioning and the most important meal of the day – breakfast!
Ya Kun Kaya Toast – Paragon Shopping Centre, 181 Orchard Road (plus other locations around Singapore)
Start the day as many Singaporeans do with their national breakfast dish – kaya toast, washed down with a cup of local ‘kopi’ (coffee) or ‘teh’ (tea). Kaya toast is comprised of toasted bread smothered with a generous helping of homemade kaya – made of coconut milk, sugar, eggs and pandan. It’s often served along with soft-boiled eggs seasoned with dark soy sauce and white pepper.
I recommend the Kaya Butter Toast Set which comes with a thick layer of butter and kaya spread and a Kopi-c (black coffee with condensed milk). A very tasty, very sweet and very cheap breakfast for $4!
Now that you’re fuelled up with sugar and caffeine, take the opportunity to walk up and down Orchard Rd. Colloquially known as Orchard, it is a 2.2 kilometre-long boulevard which is the retail hub of Singapore and Asia’s most famous shopping street.
Once you’ve worked up a bit of an appetite, it’s brunch time. And you can’t go to Singapore without trying the Char Kway Teow.
Thye Hong – Food Republic food court in 313@Somerset, 313 Orchard Rd
Char Kway Teow translates to "stir-fried rice cake strips", and is one of Singapore’s most popular noodle dishes. Flat rice noodles are stir-fried over high heat with soy sauce, chilli and shrimp paste and is generally served with whole prawns, cockles, bean sprouts and chives. Some places will also cook it with egg, Chinese sausage or fishcakes. The CKT from Thye Hong is flavoursome and cooked freshly in front of you – plus it’s a bargain with this huge serving (their small size!) only setting you back a few dollars.
Now we’re on the move to a completely different part of town. The MRT, Singapore’s Mass Rapid Transit, is a clean, efficient and cheap way to get around Singapore. For a completely different experience, jump on the MRT at Orchard Rd station and take the subway to Little India.
Little India is the centre for the large Indian community in Singapore and is rich with culture and tradition. From the brightly coloured houses and roadside flower sellers to the most divine smells of spices, Little India is indeed a melting pot of all things Indian. And while you’re there, don’t forget to check out the Mustafa Centre a 24-hour shopping mall located on Syed Alwi Road selling pretty much everything you could imagine!
The Banana Leaf Apolo – 54 Race Course Rd
The Banana Leaf Apolo is an institution in Little India, serving up a wide selection of dished from North and South India. They are most famous for their Fish Head Curry, a spicy stew of snapper and vegetables. I couldn’t make up my mind what to order, so I went for a Thali set, which is a collection of different curries to sample.
Let’s hop back on the MRT and head to Chinatown, a bustling mix of old and new, filled with hawker centres, traditional stores and night markets. Singapore is renowned for their Hawker Centres, which are markets where individual vendors sell ready-to-eat food from small stands. Whilst these centres are dotted all over Singapore, 2 of the most well-known are located in Chinatown – the Chinatown Complex and Maxwell Road Hawker Centre.
Chinatown Complex (335 Smith St) and Maxwell Road Hawker Centre (1 Kadayanallur St)
Feeling a little overwhelmed in the hawker centre and don’t know where to start? Do what the locals do – find the longest queue and join it! You know the food will be delicious and fresh due to it’s popularity.
I grabbed several dishes to sample, starting off with a cool and refreshing sugarcane juice, made from pressed sugarcane. Next was Popiah, a type of fresh spring roll filled with shredded vegetables, meat and crunchy peanuts. Then I tried Carrot Cake, which is about as far removed from the spiced, cream cheese covered dessert I am used to. This version doesn’t actually use carrot, but radish (often referred to as white carrot, hence the name) and is steamed, then fried with garlic, eggs and preserved radish called ‘chai poh’. My final dish at this hawker centre was roti prata, a fried, buttery pancake that is cooked on the grill and served alongside a fragrant chicken curry.
Tian Tian Chicken Rice is possibly the most well known of hawker stands, made famous by celebrity chefs Anthony Bourdain and Gordon Ramsay. While it’s not necessarily the best in Singapore (this topic is always hotly debated!) you definitely should give it a go.
The chicken is blanched in boiling water until fully cooked, then soaked in cold water to ensure the meat remains tender. It is served with the most incredibly fragrant rice which is cooked in chicken stock with ginger and pandan leaves.
By now you’ll probably be stuffed silly, so a cocktail is the perfect conclusion to a wonderful day of eating.
Operation Dagger – 7 Ann Siang Hill
Head downstairs to the basement to find this underground apothecary-themed cocktail bar where they’re whipping up an impressive and unique range of cocktails and bar snacks. I highly suggest ordering the Hot and Cold cocktail – a delicious layer of cold and refreshing liquid topped with a warm coconut foam.
Sarah Shrapnel is a Sydney-based food and travel writer with a massive sweet tooth and an incurable case of wanderlust. Find her travel guides and recipes at Love Swah and follow her eating adventures at @loveswah on Instagram.