Food in Singapore

Singapore has enough food. Don't bring any extra. In fact, there is so much to eat in such variety at such reasonable prices that each visitor should be required to actually carry some away and thin out the herds.

Just in case all else fails, the usual fast food chains are everywhere with the same things they have at home. McDonalds and KFC are very popular, along with a scattering of Dairy Queens and multiple Starbucks.

Food Courts

With the kiddies, you'll want to work your way through the food court food chain. Sometimes these are called “hawker stalls” and they are scattered about every 200 feet throughout Singapore. Some are huge megamalls of gluttony and some are small and cramped. Some are clean enough for surgery and some a bit dingy, but we ate at all types and no one got sick.

Basically a food court is an open space with tables in the center (darn it, they always spell it as “centre” there) and stalls/booths around the perimeter selling vittles. Most every court will offer the bare minimums of fried rice, noodle soups and basic Indian curries, so there should be something for any eater. After that, you can often find dim sum, various Chinese and Thai dishes, more adventurous fish head curry, kaya and toast (coconut jam on thick bread, a Singapore breakfast staple), fish ball soup (fish meatballs, not anything naughty, shame on you Mom) and ducks and chickens hanging and waiting to you.

Most stalls will sell a la carte or have value-for-money set meals. Everyone selects and pays separately, so Dad can go for the Tandoori chicken while the kids eat fried rice.

Ingredients are mixed and can be mysterious, so those of you with kiddies with fish, peanut and other allergies may have a hard time here. Fish stock is behind a lot of dishes, and the fried rice often has bits of shrimp. Choose carefully.

Ka-Chang

Oh, dessert?

Most food courts offer ice cream and many have bakeries nearby, but you want to go for the ka-chang. Ka-chang is basically shaved ice, flavored with syrups and sweetened condensed milk. It often features Japanese sweet red beans and, for some reason, canned corn on the bottom. Trust me, it all works.

If you want the whole show (and you do), ask for yours “ABC.” You can also request no corn. Ka-chang is also available in specialty versions that feature a particular fruit (like mango to die for) or natto de coco, which is a vaguely coconut flavored jello substance I grew to love like my own mother. Portions are large and sharing is perfectly OK.

Durian

We can't talk about food in Singapore without talking about durian. Durian is a fruit that is very popular in SE Asia in general and Singapore in particular, and shows up not only as raw fruit, but also in ice cream, ka-chang, tea and all sorts of other flavor opportunities.

If you have never smelled durian, and prior to the advent of the scratch ‘n sniff web page, it could be described as smelling like rotten eggs. It could be described in highly scatological terms too, but this is a family site.

If you have not eaten durian, you should find a way to try it while in Singapore as one of those noteworthy travel experience kind of things to do. People tend to either love it (everyone in Singapore but you) or hate it (you). To be honest, it just tastes terrible, like what a wet sweater left in a dark closet might taste like after a few warm days. Imagine a vinegar flavored avocado and you'll be close.

That said, folks in Singapore love it so much they even built their new cultural arts center to look like a durian.

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