Singapore’s Chinatown is lined with several rows of heritage shophouses that are rich in history. From modern eateries and restaurants that are stretched along Keong Saik Road to hip bars located at Club Street, Chinatown is a one-stop destination with lots to eat, see and do.
Did you know that it is the only Chinatown in the world that boasts a Buddhist temple, a Hindu Temple, and a mosque along a single street? How cool is that?
I have compiled a food guide with the 15 best food spots in Chinatown to check out while exploring its heritage streets, which include a good mix of local eateries, cafes, and restaurants— you can thank me later!
1. The Populus
Located along Neil Road, The Populus serves an extensive spread of modern dishes that’s influenced by flavours from all over the globe. Their seasonal specialty coffees are from their Roastery and they also have exquisite teas and artisanal hot chocolate.
When you’re there, make sure you order the Spring Pancake & Fried Chicken (S$24)— my personal favourite! The thin pancake is filled with spring onions and corn and is topped with a fried chicken thigh fillet. A decadent house special ranch dressing is then drizzled on top of it.
Have the luxurious Populus All Day Big Breakky (S$28) which comes with a potato rosti topped with two poached eggs and aerated hollandaise sauce. It’s paired with mixed mushrooms, seasonal greens, homemade baked beans, and a choice of chicken harissa sausage or Norwegian smoked salmon.
For dessert, indulge in the Lemon & White Chocolate Sundae (S$15) and add on a Buttermilk Waffle (S$6) for extra shiok-ness.
2. Thirty Six Brewlab & Smokehouse
Thirty Six Brewlab & Smokehouse lies along Club Street and is housed within a heritage building. The gastropub has an outdoor beer terrace and 25 taps pouring a range of the freshest craft beers.
Their open flame-inspired menu reinvents pub classics and illustrates dishes with bold flavours. Start off your meal with their assortment of small bites, such as Homemade Corn Dog (S$14) and Scotch Egg (S$15) (made of pork sausage meat, nduja and house sriracha mayo).
Then tuck into their delicious mains like the vegetarian Woodfired Cauliflower (S$30) featuring a turmeric-honey rubbed cauliflower with chilli and cashew nut butter, served with a side of cauliflower rice, miso puree and kale.
If you’re visiting with a group of friends, they have several sharing platters on the menu such as the Cheese Platter (S$63 for 3 pax) that you should indulge in.
3. Chinatown Complex Food Centre
One of the largest hawker centres in Singapore with over 260 stalls, Chinatown Complex Food Centre is a one-stop destination offering an eclectic mix of hawker food. From traditional classics to Michelin-starred stalls, this massive labyrinth has (almost) everything you can think of.
Check out Ma Li Ya Virgin Chicken (#02-189), whose owner is renowned to be the famous Hawker Chan‘s teacher. The stall is famous for its Soya Sauce Chicken Rice (S$4) and Signature Braised Beancurd (S$1.60).
If you love hor fun, you should definitely check out Poh Preserved Veg Hor Fun (#02-011). The Preserved Veg Hor Fun (S$6) has tons of wok hei and the hor fun is concealed by a layer of charred egg on top, and is served with prawns and chai poh.
4. Nic & Tom Eatery
Formerly located at Serangoon Gardens, Nic & Tom Eatery moved to Sago Street in Jul 2022.
Indulge in their signature cheese bee hoon series, where cheddar cheese is infused to create a rich and viscous sauce. Give the Seafood Cheese Beehoon (S$9.90) and Abalone Cheese Beehoon (S$15.90) a go.
Another must-try is the Tuckshop Rice (S$1.90). It’s a bowl of aromatic rice dressed with special sauce and spices, served with crispy fried pork, and topped with a sunny-side up.
A couple of new additions to their menu include the Arabic Dancing Prawns (S$8.90) and Swirly Intestine (S$9). The former dish features fresh and juicy Saudi Arabia prawns served with a homemade wasabi dip while the latter presents hand-folded braised intestines done using their secret recipe.
5. Xiao Ya Tou
Brought to you by the folks behind Symmetry, Xiao Ya Tou is a modern fusion restaurant and bar that is tucked away in Duxton Hill. Known for their plethora of brunch offerings, they’ve transformed Western cafe staples into quirky dishes with an Asian twist.
Expect to find local favourite dishes zhuzhed up in interesting ways like Puff Beancurd Pockets (S$18), which are stuffed with charred eggplant, chickpeas, lime, onions, chilli, jalapeno and herbs.
There’s also Crispy Otak-Otak Rolls (S$15) which are shaped like mini spring rolls, and served with white achar and tamarind peanut sauce— sounds so yummy!
6. iKO Restaurant & Bar
iKO Restaurant & Bar is a modern-Japanese restaurant situated along Neil Road with iKO meaning “Let’s go and have a bite”. The interior of the place is adorned with street murals, graffiti and faceless geishas, making this place look very artsy and cool.
The food showcases a collaboration between Japanese and European produce prepared with different cooking techniques, priding themselves as being a touch more unique than other establishments.
True to that testament, their offerings of bar snacks are special indeed! The signature Tempura Jalapeno (S$9) is served with kombu cream cheese and sour cream powder. For something healthy, try the Charred Edamame (S$14) which comes with wasabi powder, wasabi roe and oyster leaf.
If you enjoy sashimi, you’ve got to try the Hay Smoked Hamachi (S$24). The dish is an excellent starter which has smoked hamachi drizzled with punchy ponzu brown butter, scallion garlic oil, compressed green grapes and a trio of sesame seeds for a satisfying nutty flavour.
7. Yum Cha Chinatown
Yum Cha Chinatown aims to bring back the dim sum teahouse experience in a shophouse setting, with marble tables and wooden chairs for a nostalgic ambience. They are well-known for their large variety of dim sum.
The menu ranges from classic dishes such as BBQ Pork Pau (S$4 for 2) and Fish Roe Siew Mai (S$5.20 for 3) to modern ones like Pan Fried Impossible Pork Puff (S$7.80 for 2) and Prawn & Mango Sesame Fritters (S$5.60 for 3).
Popular local delicacies and seafood delights have also been added to their food offerings. Relish in traditional favourites such as Half Peking Duck (S$38) and Salted Egg Prawns (S$32).
8. Lime House Keong Saik
Lime House Keong Saik sits inside a 4-storey heritage shophouse in Chinatown’s Jiak Chuan Road. It opened its doors back in 2013 with the intent of introducing Caribbean cuisine with an Asian flair together with an extensive rum collection.
Its all-day menu presents a series of tapas like Pan-Caribbean Mac Balls (S$8), featuring 3 homemade macaroni & cheese balls coated in breadcrumbs, served with tomato dipping sauce.
Seafood enthusiasts can go for the Pan-Caribbean Spicy Shrimp (S$18). It comes with yummy pan-seared fresh prawns with habanero, topped off with warm salsa, and made to sit on a plantain coracle.
The owner of UTU, Mr Kurt Wagner, had spent most of his time in his younger days living in different African countries. Earning the reputation of being Singapore’s original African cafe, their vision is to make every customer feel like they’re in their own home.
This lovely space in Chinatown has a total of 3 storeys, and each floor is handcrafted with African motifs and detailing.
Indulge in their exotic choices of mains such as Goat Curry (S$31), which has fresh goat meat simmered in house curry paste, habanero and is served with coconut rice. You can also have a go at the Fried Plantain (S$17) which is ripe plantain marinated in Liberian dried spices, served with mango chilli marmalade.
The menu also features various brunch items and pastries. You’ll be excited to learn that you can chill out with their specialty grade single-origin coffees sourced from sustainable farms in Uganda, Brazil and Mexico.
10. Potato Head Singapore
Potato head Singapore at Keong Saik Road has a dining hall, a cocktail place and a tropical rooftop bar all stretched out among 4 levels— certainly a multi-concept dining hotspot!
The dining hall showcases dishes that are derived from all over the globe. The Indonesian Beef Sate (S$15 for 6 sticks) gives you lovely char-grilled beef skewers served with kicap manis, red chilli, heritage tomato and fried shallots.
Their extensive collection of Three Buns Burgers uses only the best quality ingredients, bespoke artisan buns and homemade slow-cooked sauces. Tuck into the Honky Tong (S$19) which sandwiches a buttermilk free-range fried Sakura chicken, coleslaw, lettuce, pickles, hot sauce, and miso mayonnaise between a toasted baked rice bun.
Dear vegetarians, you’re not forgotten. The Impossible Inferno (S$24) showcases an Impossible meat patty, double ketchup, double Tillamook cheddar cheese, inferno sauce, cucumber and jalapeno pickles stuffed between a toasted demi brioche bun.
11. Tong Ah Eating House
Tong Ah Eating House has a long history in Chinatown. The traditional kopitiam used to occupy the iconic red and white building next door which currently houses Potato Head Singapore.
The look of the place may be simple and nothing fancy, but don’t judge too quickly. They are famous not only for their selection of zi char dishes, but also for their old-school breakfast offerings.
Head on down for a quintessential local breakfast, where you can get your hands on the Traditional Kaya Toast (S$2.20), French Toast with Kaya (S$4) or Steamed Bread with Kaya (S$2.20). The breads are grilled over charcoal to give them that distinctive smoky aroma.
Wash it all down with an aromatic cup of Kopi-O (S$1.60) or Kopi (S$1.70) and add some butter for an extra smooth cup of Joe.
12. May Pho Culture
May Pho Culture is located at Fook Hai Building, a quiet commercial building nestled at the corner of Upper Hokien Street and South Bridge Road. This Vietnamese eatery has a bright and cosy dining space with intoxicating smells of pho broth and freshly brewed Vietnamese coffee.
The Beef Tenderloin Pho (S$17.90) is the most expensive item on the menu. The juicy and tender pieces of beef is soaked in a robust and flavourful broth which has loads of mint and Thai basil infusions.
You’ve also got to try the Fresh Spring Rolls (S$9.90) which are wonderfully light and crunchy, with a good amount of non-vegetable ingredients inside, such as pork slices, shrimp and rice noodles.
If you’re a bona fide coffee addict, finish off your meal with a cup of Vietnamese Iced Coffee (S$3.80). It has a perfect balance between sweetness and the roastedness of the coffee beans.
150 South Bridge Road, Fook Hai Building, #01-16, Singapore 058727
+65 9646 2589
Wed to Mon: 11.30am – 9pm
Closed on Tue
13. Dong Bei Ren Jia
If you’re a fan of Chinese regional food, Dong Bei Ren Jia in Chinatown specialises in North-Eastern Chinese cuisine with an extensive menu selection. The pricing is affordable and also caters to patrons who eat non-spicy food.
To start off your meal, look forward to around 18 different kinds of cold appetisers for you to take your pick from. My personal favourites are the Preserved Egg with Tofu (S$8), Garlic Cucumber (S$6) and Sliced Pork with Garlic Paste (S$10).
For your main meal, get the Sauteed Hot And Sour Shredded Potato With Green Pepper (S$8) which has crunchy strips of spicy and tangy potato. The Stir Fried Shredded Pork With Soy Paste (S$12) comes with sheets of bean curd skin for you to wrap your shreds of pork together with cucumber strips— just like Peking duck!
If you’re visiting in a big group, share the Spicy Grilled Fish (S$38) or Steamed Fish (S$34). These are definitely the prime dishes to be savoured with family and friends.
22 Upper Cross Street, Singapore 058334
+65 6224 5258
Daily: 11am – 11pm
14. Grids Coffee & Bar
Grids Coffee & Bar is set in a captivating 3-storey heritage shophouse along South Bridge Road. Coffee bistro by day and gastrobar by night, its menu features a Japanese-centric theme in some of its dishes.
From 9am to 4pm, expect to see all-day breakfast items like Avocado Toast (S$18) and Grids Big Breakfast (S$22) (which is a lovely mix of Arabiki sausage, crispy bacon, mushrooms, scrambled eggs, grilled grapes, cherry tomatoes, greens and sourdough bread). They also have 8 different kinds of sandos using Japanese milk bread, with quirky names like Feelin’ Plucky (S$15) and Sitting Duck (S$16).
When the sun goes down from 5pm to 11pm, they serve mains like Off-Grids Steak (S$24). It features a 200g meltique striploin with caramelised Onion, togarashi mustard, fried garlic and greens. If you’re looking for something to munch on while sipping on your drinks, their small plates like Fried Shisamo (S$12) and Yuzu Wings (S$14) will do the trick.
15. People’s Park Food Centre
People’s Park Food Centre is located at the heart of Chinatown close to People’s Park Complex and OG People’s Park. It houses about 85 food stalls which offer mostly local and mainland Chinese cuisine.
One of my go-to stalls is Jin Feng Mei Shi 金鳯美食 (#01-1130), which sells their signature Xiao Long Bao (S$4.50), Fried Dumplings (S$5 for small, S$8 for large) and Fried Beancurd Roll (S$4.50).
If you’re a die-hard spice enthusiast, you must check out Ri Ri Hong Mala Hot Pot (#01-1036) The stall sees constant long queues and serves up delicious plates of stir-fried spicy mala. Make your selection over their plethora of ingredients which includes vegetables, meat, and seafood.
32 New Market Road, Singapore 050032
+65 6225 5632
Daily: 9am – 9pm
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