Singapore is one of the world’s most expensive cities, but it’s also where you can indulge in the cheapest Michelin-starred meal in the world. We list 10 of the best Michelin-recognised dishes in Singapore, so you can eat like a king (on a budget).
Order this: Hokkien prawn mee
Since the 1950s, Singaporeans have sought comfort in the city’s best fried Hokkien prawn mee at Tiong Bahru Yi Sheng Fried Hokkien Prawn Mee; the chef-owner, Toh Seng Wang follows in the footsteps of his father, who used to dole out the very dish in a pushcart along the streets of Tiong Bahru. It’s a treat to witness the genteel, white-haired Toh don a pair of goggles, skilfully whipping up a storm in his trusty wok. A slurp of the piping hot yellow noodles, steeped in a fragrant shrimp stock made from scratch, topped off with fresh prawns, squid, and a side of sambal chilli—is all you need to satiate that late night snack attack. Sadly, he has no successors and there will not be a third-generation hawker, though he plans to keep frying until he can’t fry another day. We say, go while Toh is still behind the wok.
Order this: Soya sauce chicken rice
The cheapest Michelin-starred meal in Singapore—and the world— is a humble, unassuming one-star plate of soya sauce chicken rice at the recently renovated Chinatown Complex. At only S$5, the dish is a dream come true for gourmands, who stake their spot in a two-hour queue that snakes through the hawker centre. It ticks all the right boxes: the meat is succulent, swimming in a small pool of soya sauce, and the skin crisp and glistening, complemented by a bed of fluffy rice. For a super-sized meal, the roasted pork noodle comes highly recommended. A pro tip: make sure to go early, as Chef Chan only prepares about 90 chickens for the day, and the stall sells out quickly.
Order this: bak chor mee
Hill Street Tai Hwa Pork Noodle has been around since the 1930s, long before the Michelin Guide awarded it its shiny star for the third consecutive year. The Teochew-style bak chor mee (minced meat and noodles, literally translated from the Teochew dialect) is, according to the Michelin Guide, the best in Singapore; fervent followers wait in forever-longer queues at the humble shop in the heartlands of Lavender to slurp up a bowl of springy noodles tossed in black vinegar sauce, and served with minced and sliced pork, pork liver, and crunchy fried fish. Good bak chor mee comes to those who wait, and be warned: the wait here lasts slightly over an hour, so make like an early bird.
Order this: Hainanese curry puffs
A chance encounter with a Hainanese sailor led to Rolina’s founder, known to friends as Uncle Tham, learning to cook his curry puffs at 19 years old. For 20 years, he peddled his curry puffs out of a motor cart with a wok attached to it in front of Novena Church in Thomson Road; as the story goes, a customer accidentally christened his cart ‘Rolina’ after mispronouncing ‘Novena’. Today, the Bib Gourmand-listed stall operates out of Tanjong Pagar Food Centre, where it sees a steady stream of customers who return for their crisp, golden curry puffs that’s just the right level of flakiness, each prepared by hand. As befitting the staple grab-and-go snack, there are only two flavours: potato and sardines, which are wrapped, hand-crimped and deep-fried at the stall.
Order this: Fried kway teow mee
Outram Park Fried Kway Teow Mee is home to one of the best takes on a Singapore favourite —as evident by the Bib Gourmand award it received in the Michelin Guide Singapore 2018 selection —the ever-present 90-minute queue notwithstanding. From only SG$4 a plate, the char kuey teow brims with wok hei (literally, ‘the breath of a wok’; a complex charred aroma that is the cornerstone of every excellent Cantonese stir-fry joint), underscored by a savoury-sweetness courtesy of its signature soya sauce added for its colour and flavour. The stir-fried rice noodles here have a silkier texture, cloaked with beaten egg, and studded with bean sprouts, cockles, and chunks of pork lard. Ask for extra chilli for a winning combination of savoury, sweet, and spicy.
Order this: Pork ribs soup
What began as a cart along Johor Road in 1969 is today a chain of ten all over Singapore, with more outposts in China, Indonesia, and Thailand. Song Fa’s signature is the Teochew-style bak kut teh (literally translates to ‘meat bone tea’): a clear, peppery herbal broth, carefully simmered with pork ribs and a blend of garlic and Sarawak peppers, the latter roasted in-house. The bak kut teh soup is served with fall-off-the-bone, flavourful pork ribs; other meat options include premium loin ribs, pig’s stomach, sliced fish, and more. For a fully indulgent treat, order fan favourites such as Song Fa’s braised pig’s trotter, pork belly, and beancurd, as well as fried dough fritters and salted preserved vegetables. Wash it all down with a selection of traditional Chinese teas; some created specially to pair with bak kut teh.
Order this: Kid goat biryani
The decor may be nondescript, but the biryani is “probably the best biryani anywhere”, as the proprietors proclaim. Bismillah Biryani is a three-time Michelin Bib Gourmand award recipient, and no wonder. Opt for the chicken biryani or the kid goat biryani; either way, it comes with flavourful, fluffy basmati rice, and the meat is sure to be fork-tender, well-seasoned chunks, fragrant with fried shallots and spices. It’s cooked authentically and served traditionally, ie with a light, refreshing raita of mint yoghurt sauce, instead of with curry and papadam. Pair with mango lassi or milk tea.
Order this: Rojak with century egg
Rojak, a Malay word meaning ‘mixture’, is a salad dish of fruits and vegetables. Balestier Road Hoover Rojak in Whampoa Makan Place serves Chinese-style, Michelin Bib Gourmand-rated rojak: a rollercoaster of tastes and textures —bean curd, pineapple, and radish, as well as bean sprouts, cucumbers, guava, jellyfish, sour mangoes, squid, torch ginger flower, and you tiao, all tossed in a gooey, thick sauce of chilli and Penang prawn paste, topped off with crispy crackers and a smattering of crushed peanuts. For an extra dollar, add century egg to your rojak. This one’s a salad bowl for your cheat days.
Order this: Crayfish laksa
One of Singapore’s finest hawkers today, Famous Sungei Road Trishaw Laksa is in good standing with the rest of the second and third-generation stalls at the 40 year old Hong Lim Market & Food Centre. Business may have been slow at the get-go, when chef-owner Daniel Soo began it nearly 20 years ago, but bowl after delicious bowl of laksa since has earned him his Michelin-rated status. The crayfish laksa is a stall specialty, featuring slippery noodles swimming in a rich broth, laden with crayfish, cockles, and prawns. Apart from coconut milk, dried shrimps, and spices, he also simmers his signature gravy in dried scallops, dried oysters, and fresh prawns for a thinner but well-loved consistency that packs quite the sweet-spicy punch.
Order this: Carrot cake
Don’t be put off by the minimum 45-minute wait and the surly hawker owners; the carrot cake at Chey Sua is worth it. It’s a 50-year-old recipe, just like mama’s done: the handmade, white radish cake is first steamed in aluminium bowls, and then pan-fried on only one side to achieve a crispy exterior and a fluffy interior. It is mantled by a thin, fried-egg exterior, beautifully-charred at its edges; sambal chilli is then slathered all over the carrot cake; and it’s finally topped off with a sprinkle of chopped green onions. All in the makings of the perfect carrot cake.
by Ng Su Ann