Singapore’s multicultural culinary delights have influences from China, India and the West. The strongest influence though is Malay cuisine, thanks to the city-state’s large Malay diaspora. We pick 10 of the restaurants serving traditional Malay, Nyonya and Peranakan cuisine.
Lau Pa Sat Festival Market
Market, Contemporary, Asian, European, American, Street Food, $$$
Lau Pa Sat Festival Market | © Dion Hinchcliffe / Flickr
A trip to Singapore would not be complete without visiting the historical Lau Pa Sat Festival Market
. The hawker center, whose name means ‘old market’ in the Hokkien dialect, dates back to the 1820s, around the time of Stamford Raffles, the Father of Singapore. Lau Pat Sat was Singapore’s first wet market and its historic relevance earned it national monument status in 1973. Around 100 different hawker stalls entice visitors with cuisines ranging from Malay and Korean to Indian and Western; stop by the Blue Star stall for a bowl of fish ball noodles or the Blue Marine Seafood for some Malay barbecue. One of the must-try Malay dishes there is the rojak
, a fruit and vegetable salad with black shrimp sauce and peanuts and served with Chinese crullers, cured squid and soya bean puffs.
Singapore Food Trail
Market, Asian, $$$
The Flyer Singapore | © Vibin JK/ Flickr
Singapore Food Trail
is a unique, themed food street situated in the base of the Singapore Flyer, the city’s giant Ferris wheel that measures an impressive 541 feet high. Singapore Food Trail gets its inspiration from 1960s Singapore when hawkers sold local delicacies from makeshift roadside stalls and carts, a historical food experience transposed to a modern setting. Visitors can sample local dishes from some of Singapore’s most longstanding hawker stalls and eateries such as the Alhambra Satay Club, a local family-run business that originally set up shop in 1967. Try the Singaporean old-time favorites such as refreshing ice balls, finely grated ice topped with sugary syrup, and the kacang puteh,
crunchy roasted, steamed or fried nuts and beans.
Jonker’s Nyonya Deli
Deli, Malaysian, Chinese, Indonesian, Soul Food, $$$
Singaporean soul food provider Jonker’s Nyonya Deli is a homely little eatery that specializes in nyonya, or Peranakan, cuisine which is not strictly Malay food, but a unique combination of Malay, Chinese and Indonesian culinary influences. The cozy deli, which opened in 2010, is situated in downtown Singapore within the grounds of Republic Plaza, one of the city’s tallest skyscrapers, and tries to recreate the warm, inviting ambience of a home kitchen. Highly recommended dishes include the Penang asem laksa, rice noodles in a tamarind fish gravy, and itik tim, a salted vegetable and duck soup served with rice. For a quick snack try the delicious kueh pie tee, also known as Peranakan top hats, which are thin and crispy pastry cups filled with a spicy and sweet vegetable and prawn mixture. Cleanse your palate with the sweet, coconut milk-based dessert nyonya cendol.
Restaurant, Contemporary, Asian, $$$
is run by head chef and owner Malcolm Lee, whose love of food was inspired by watching his mother cook Nyonya
when he was a young child. Malcolm became the first Singaporean to be awarded a scholarship through the Miele Guide, the definitive guide to Asia’s top restaurants, to study at the At-Sunrice Global Chef Academy, a prestigious culinary school in Singapore, which re-sparked his love of Nyonya
and inspired him to open Candlenut. The elegant and stylish restaurant prides itself in creating innovative dishes with authentic flavors. Fish lovers should try the assam sotong,
sauteed squid served with squid ink, chilies, tamarind and shallots.
Restaurant, Asian, $$$
Mamanda, Singapore | ©Erwin Soo/Flickr
Mamanda is an iconic Malay restaurant known for serving authentic Malay cuisine in refined and exclusive surroundings, with an emphasis on fresh ingredients, flavorsome spices and herbs. The restaurant is set within the beautifully restored historic Bendahara House in Sultan Gate in the Kampong Glam neighborhood. The house, which was constructed in the 1920s, is built in a European Palladian style and used to be home to Tengku Mahmud, an heir to the throne of the Sultan of Johor. Mamanda offers guests a fine-dining experience in its sophisticated indoor restaurant area, al fresco eating in its picturesque courtyard and even has a tearoom specially dedicated to serving traditional Malay tea. Tantalize your taste buds with the mouthwatering asam pedas, a spicy, sour seafood stew.
Restaurant, Asian, $$$
is owned by head chef Kathryn Poh Neo, a self-professed ‘true blue Nyonya’ who set up the Nyonya restaurant to recreate the dishes from her childhood that had been passed down to her by her mother and grandmother. The elegant but homely restaurant is authentically decorated in colorful, vibrant Peranakan tiles and situated on the third floor of the Keppel Golf Club, offering stunning views over Singapore’s harbor and Sentosa Island. Popular dishes include ayam buah keluak
, tender chicken braised in a spiced nut paste, and lamb shank rendang
, whole lamb shank cooked in spicy coconut gravy. PeraMakan also cooks up a delicious range of traditional nyonya desserts including buboh cha cha
, steamed yams, potatoes in coconut sauce with sago pearls and tapioca jelly, and buboh pulot hitam,
tender black glutinous rice served with coconut cream and gula Melaka
The Blue Ginger
Restaurant, Asian, $$$
Tanjong Pagar Train Station | © Schristia/ Flickr
The Blue Ginger
is a popular fine dining restaurant located in the vibrant and historical Tanjong Pagar district of Singapore, in a row of traditional, multi-colored shop houses. In keeping with The Blue Ginger’s Peranakan Malay fare, the restaurant gets its moniker from an alternative name for galangal
, a key ingredient in Malay cuisine. The luxuriously decorated restaurant evokes the ambience of colonial Singapore with warm tones, plush upholstery, dark wooden tables and chairs and ornately carved wooden paneling, complemented by bright artworks. Meat lovers can indulge their fancy with delicious beef rendang
, and seafood fans will be spoilt for choice with dishes including everything from halibut and mackerel to stingray and lobster. Try the traditional home-style nyonya fish-head curry of red snapper, okra and aubergine.
Straits Kitchen at Grand Hyatt Singapore
Restaurant, Asian, Buffet, $$$
Located on the lobby level of the five-star Grand Hyatt Singapore hotel, Straits Kitchen
is a restaurant inspired by Singapore’s unique and multicultural cuisine, bringing together traditional flavors from Malaysia, China and India in a contemporary, marketplace-style setting. Malay dishes on offer include stingray in banana leaf, otak otak
(a spicy fish cake) and popiah,
a spring roll of braised turnip, prawn, egg and peanuts. The brave may want to try local favorite durian ice cream; the durian fruit, though sweet-tasting, does emit a rather pungent eggy odor. Straits Kitchen also offers a buffet menu, perfect for sampling a range of Malay dishes.
Indocafe – The White House
Restaurant, Fusion, Asian, $$$
Set within a beautiful colonial-style building, Indocafe – The White House
offers a varied menu of traditional Nyonya cooking with contemporary and international influences. The stylish restaurant exudes a warm, inviting atmosphere with a spacious, lavish dining room decorated with beautiful hardwood furniture and authentic Peranakan antiques. The innovative, fusion menu includes such highlights as bok nee
, a salad of black fungus and chicken with a spicy sambal dressing, and ikan gulai
, deep-fried silver pomfret in a nyonya curry sauce. For a more contemporary dish try the Kerabu Maine lobster, imported lobster with a green mango salad, grated coconut and a tangy dressing, or the cendol
panna cotta, a fusion of Nyonya and Italian dessert recipes. The Indocafe premises also feature an arts and cultural centre with daily traditional dance performances and craft presentations.
Violet Oon’s Kitchen
Restaurant, Fusion, Indian, British, Asian, $$$
, Singapore’s first celebrity chef and the city-state’s Food Ambassador, is widely considered as the leading authority on Nyonya cuisine and has three cookbooks under her belt to boot. The accomplished chef runs Violet Oon’s Kitchen
together with her son and daughter, and offers a varied fusion menu featuring not only nyonya cuisine, but also Singapore’s other main culinary influences; Chinese, Indian and British. The homely, bistro-style eatery is stylishly decked in black and white, and has a cozy and intimate ambiance. Nyonya favorites include the fish tempra
, a flavorsome fillet of baby sea bass with a chili and lime based sauce, and tauhu goreng
, fried bean curd on a bed of bean sprouts and cucumber with peanut sauce. The menu also features burgers and pastas and the perfect dish for the homesick British expat, shepherd’s pie.