Mr. and Mrs. Mohgan’s Super Crispy Roti Prata
Head to this spot early for some of the best prata in town — before it sells out. The fried-dough dish, stuffed with fillings such as cheese or egg and doused in curry, originated in South India but has since been adapted into something entirely Singaporean. Somasundram Mohgan, the quiet man behind the hotplate, has been flipping prata for over three decades, and the result is some of the crispiest you’ll find in town, pairing perfectly with a variety of curries. Order a Milo Dinosaur (a chocolate malt beverage topped with undissolved Milo powder) to wash it all down.
BTW: Try the prata “kosong” — the Malay word for “empty,” which in this case means without any fillings — to experience the fried dough in its purest, crispiest form. The assam fish curry is a not-to-miss pairing and soaks up perfectly.
300 Joo Chiat Rd., Tin Yeang Restaurant, Singapore 429356
Tong Ah Eating House
A breakfast of kaya — a green coconut jam flavored with pandan, a fragrant tropical plant — on toast paired with runny, soft-boiled eggs is a beloved staple. At Tong Ah, the kaya is homemade, and the bread arrives perfectly charred. Make sure to add a few shakes of white pepper and a dash of soy sauce to the runny eggs. Pair it with a kopi-C, a traditional coffee with evaporated milk. The sweetness can be cloying, so ask for it “siew dai,” or less sweet, if you prefer.
BTW: The runny eggs, while a local favorite, are not to everyone’s taste. But you can ask for them to be more well done, and your server will gladly oblige.
35 Keong Saik Rd., Singapore 089142
The nasi lemak here may not look traditional, and it certainly is more expensive than your average food-court version, but so much effort — starting with two years of research before opening — has been put into it. The rice is cooked in home-squeezed coconut milk, extracted from only the best Malaysian coconuts. The sambal, a chile paste made more pungent and flavorful by the addition of shrimp paste, is likewise made in-house. Choose from a variety of sides to go with your aromatic rice; the ayam goreng berempah (spiced fried chicken) is the most famous and popular option, but the fish varieties are delicious, too.
BTW: Save space for dessert: either the cendol, generously topped with gula melaka (palm sugar), or the kuihs, traditional Malay cakes that are a labor of love.
28 Ann Siang Rd., Singapore 069708
Wee Nam Kee Hainanese Chicken Rice
Singaporeans get into heated arguments over where to find the city’s best chicken rice, practically the national dish. There’s no consensus, and so much to weigh: How fragrant is the rice? How juicy is the chicken? How does one stall’s chile compare with another’s? But having grown up within walking distance from the original Wee Nam Kee, I will always be partial to its flavorful rice and consistently good chicken, paired with all the condiments. There are other popular dishes here, such as the hotplate tofu and sambal kangkong, but the roasted chicken rice really is the star. Of the several outlets across the city, this branch is the closest to the original, which started across from the popular Novena Church.
BTW: You can specify the cuts of meat you want, but if you want to try the roasted variety, come early before it sells out.
101 Thomson Rd., #01-08 United Square, Singapore 307591
Skip the tourist traps along the Singapore River and head north instead to this open-air restaurant in a popular residential neighborhood for one of the city’s most famed offerings: crab. Mellben cooks its giant crabs in more than a dozen ways, but the iconic chile crab, the black pepper crab and the salted egg yolk are favorites. The clay pot crab bee hoon soup is a must-order; locals will order extra vermicelli noodles to soak up the thick broth.
BTW: Don’t be afraid to use the metal crackers to help you pry open the crab shells, revealing the perfect sweet meat inside. Dress for the part; expect splashes and spills.
232 Ang Mo Kio Ave. 3, St 22, #01-1222, Singapore 560232
Tucked away in a quiet corner of Dempsey Hill (former British army barracks that are now converted into upscale restaurants and boutiques) is the world’s first Michelin-starred Peranakan restaurant. Peranakans, or Straits Chinese, are descendants of the early Chinese settlers to then-British Malaya, and their food reflects early inter-marriages between the Chinese and Malays. Their cuisine was once at risk of near-extinction in Singapore, but it has been brought back through the dedicated work of chefs like Candlenut’s Malcolm Lee. Go for the Ah-Ma-Kase (a play on the Japanese omakase, or “chef’s choice”) if you want to sample the full range of this cuisine’s flavors. If you opt for a la carte, don’t miss the buah keluak, a Peranakan mainstay with a bold, distinctive flavor.
BTW: Some find buah keluak, an intensely flavored nut that has to be cooked for days to be edible, a bit strong for their taste. So if you think that’s you, the buah keluak fried rice is a little more accessible. For those who want to brave the flavor of durian but are too afraid to conquer it in its fruit form, try the durian pengat for dessert.
Block 17A Dempsey Rd., Singapore 249676
Chinatown Complex stalls
There are over 200 stalls here selling local food, from soup dumplings to satay (grilled meat on sticks), clay-pot rice and other traditional dishes. But locals enjoy hanging out late and sipping on local and imported craft brews served up by Smith Street Taps and the Good Beer Company. The former has them on draft, the latter in bottles. Other hawker centers have jumped on this trend, but these guys were the pioneers.
BTW: Not every stall stays open late, but the craft beer stays open till 11 p.m. on weekdays and until almost midnight on Fridays and Saturdays, as do the satay stalls.
335 Smith St., Singapore 050335
There are some serious “Great Gatsby” vibes here, a tribute to just how much Singapore’s cocktail scene has evolved beyond the saccharine Singapore Sling. Once you enter this Parkview Square bar, you’ll be greeted by an homage to the Roaring Twenties and some of the best cocktails the city has to offer. There are vintage gins dating to 1910, but be warned: They come with the corresponding price tag.
BTW: Gin is the spirit of choice here. There are more than 1,000 varieties and cocktails that go beyond the usual gin-and-tonics. The Bitter Soma is a favorite.
600 North Bridge Rd., Parkview Square, Singapore 188778