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Singapore - Singapore
Local singer Dick Lee has a song about Singapore titled "Fried Rice Paradise," a parody on one of the Singaporeans' habitual tendencies—eating! And how true it is in this garden city! It offers a veritable melting pot of food choices for even the most discerning diner on almost any budget and around the clock. The wide variety of food stems from the multi-racial society that makes up the very fabric of Singapore.
When you come to Singapore, do what the locals do and eat what the locals eat—if you have the stomach for it, that is. The cheapest of meals available come from neighborhood coffee shops (an open-air floor space with tables and chairs where customers order from the stalls and wait to be served or take it with them) and hawker centers (large open spaces with built-in tables and chairs where customers give the stall operator their table numbers and their order is served).
The city's best coffee shops and hawker centers include Maxwell Road Food Centre (a popular hawker center known for cheap, tasty food), S-11 (a popular 24-hour coffee shop chain that serves adequately prepared food and is a hangout for art school types), Chin Chin (serves up excellent chicken rice as well as fresh Chinese dishes), and Newton Circus Food Centre. Look for the hawker centers and coffee shops near the bus interchanges and train stations located near satellite towns as well. Tampines and Bedok are good places to start your gastronomic adventure.
There are also air-conditioned food courts located in the basement of just about every shopping mall. These are usually pricier than coffee shops and hawker centers, but make up in comfort for what they lack in character. Scotts Picnic is a generic, standard-issue food court offering a mix of cuisines from all ethnic groups, while many of the eating options in Raffles City cater to the more sophisticated.
With a burgeoning expatriate community and a booming tourist industry, Singapore boasts a wide selection of European fare, cuisines from the rest of Asia, fusion food, and more. There's Sushi Tei, for instance, (where you pick the sushi off a revolving track in front of you), and almost all major hotels and shopping centers in Singapore will have at least one restaurant. The number of eating options is staggering, but a great place to start is at Chijmes, featuring a wide range of restaurants and cafes.
Better still, try something absolutely indigenous—let your menu be recommended by an herbalist, who will assess the balance of your yin and yang, at the Imperial Herbal.
Singapore's delectable home-grown specialty, chilli crab, should not be missed. Jumbo Seafood and Gold Coast Live Seafood are just two places amongst the many restaurants along the East Coast Parkway where you can savor a bowl. Alternatively, add some novelty to your evening and fish for your own dinner at the New Pasir Ris Fishing Pond.
Cafes & Teahouses
If you hanker for good coffee, Starbucks Coffee is a good bet, with outlets in many shopping malls. Another popular chain is Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf (try their world-famous, sweet ice-blends).
Time permitting, a visit to a Chinese teahouse is highly recommended. Watch the connoisseurs brew a pot right before your eyes—mind you, it is not as easy as dunking a tea bag in hot water—and relish the scents and flavor of Chinese tea, which is said to do wonders for one's health. The Tea Chapter stands out from the rest in terms of ambiance and service, bringing about an overall relaxing and gratifying experience.