Singapore is known for many things, a modern city filled with skyscrapers, a city in a garden. But lately it has been making headlines as the most expensive in the world according to the Worldwide Cost of Living Survey compiled by the Economist Intelligence Unit, a position it has held for the last three years. However this is not to say that you cannot spend time in the Lion city without it resulting in a hole in your pocket. With a little know how, you can navigate the city’s food scene and eat cheap in Singapore.
With Singapore being a cosmopolitan city that is made up of many different cultures, there is a wide variety of food available – this is one of the reasons that nearly every Singaporean you’ll meet is a foodie of sorts armed with an encyclopedia of their favorite food haunts.
Sure, it may be pricey if you’re gunning to dine at the various celebrity restaurants, but if you eat like a local, you’ll be surprised at how affordable and pocket friendly it is, without compromising on taste.
Here are some tips to scoring good food at pocket-friendly prices in Singapore:
Head to food centres for your meals
Everywhere around the island you’ll find these culinary gems housing an assortment of stalls selling full meals for as low as SGD$3, and you’ll find everything from noodle to rice dishes and both western and eastern cuisine. Most of the food centres that are popular amongst locals are located in the heart of the city, near the central business district. Do note that this is also where most of the working crowd head to grab their lunch, so you should avoid the prime lunch hour in the city 12 to 1 p.m. when possible.
Amoy Food Centre is large two-storey food centre with more than 60 stalls, including some that sell popular Singapore dishes. One stall that has a perpetual queue is Amoy Food Centre Fried Kway Teow Stall. They fry up a perfectly seasoned plate of noodles. For a tasty rice dish, try nasi lemak from Li Xing Nasi Lemak. You’ll get a plate of fragrant rice that has been cooked in coconut milk and you can pick your own accompanying side dishes. For a lighter meal, go to Piao Ji Fish Porridge for a delicious bowl of seafood or fish soup.
The nearby Maxwell Food Centre is another well-loved spot for good, cheap food. One of Singapore’s most well-known dishes is chicken rice and there’s no place better to have it than at Tian Tian Chicken Rice, which was praised by the likes of Anthony Bourdain. If you are in need of some comfort food, Zhen Zhen Porridge serves up a delicious, dense bowl of flavourful porridge.
Another two-storey food centre full of delightful culinary treats is Hong Lim Food Centre. For just SGD$4 you can get a bowl of curry noodles from Heng Kee Curry Mee, which has been run by three generations of the same family. If you are a fan of fried kway teow (blackened stir-fried noodles), you have to pay Outram Park Fried Kway Teow Mee a visit. Each plate here is fried individually with a special secret sauce that keeps customers coming back.
Pro tip: Being at a food centre can be overwhelming for first timers as there is a dizzying array of choices available. The best way to narrow down your choices – join the longest queue, there must be a reason why people are willing to wait for their food.
Use apps to get the best food deals
Like in most countries these days, Singapore has its fair share of mobile apps you can download and score good discounts as high as 50 per cent off.
The free Sugar app doesn’t just help you to discover cafes and restaurants near you but offers you deals to dine-in. There’s also an interactive element where you can ‘skim’ the price of an item and lower it further. When it reaches a price you are comfortable with, you can purchase a coupon to buy it, just like you would on Groupon.
With the Eatigo app the concept is simple. Make a reservation and score a discount. The only catch, if it’s considered one, is that the discount depends on the time of your reservation, but every restaurant has a 50 per cent discount time slot. You don’t need a credit card to use the app, nor do you need to print out any coupons, and you can use the location-based search to find good deals near you.
If you are spending an extended period of time in Singapore, you may find The Entertainer app a good buy as it offers 1-for-1 deals at a good number of great restaurants in Singapore. It’s a tad pricy at SGD$85 but with just two meals, you’ll find you saved more money than you anticipated.Search for flights to Singapore