We’d actually already met some friends there for dinner earlier in the week, but I hadn’t taken any photos as it was too dark. Not a problem I had on our second visit!
Chinatown is loud and colorful and very busy.
We found it a much more popular area than Little India or Kampong Glam, which I think is partly because of how close it is to the city centre and Marina Bay, and partly because it seems more recognisable somehow.
There are similar areas in cities like New York and London, and I definitely felt more comfortable here than I did in Little India. However, I actually think I preferred Little India, because it was so different.
Depends what sort of travel experience you’re after I think!
The architecture is absolutely fabbbb, and I couldn’t stop snapping the whole way down the street.
It’s bright and colorful, full of locals picking up groceries, and tourists picking up souvenirs. The air smells of incense and noodles and durian fruit, and it’s just a really great place to wander around when you don’t have an end goal in mind.
Welcome to Chinatown Food Street!
Home of restaurants, bars and street stalls. Producers of noodles, rice, dumplings, meat, fish, vegetables, and every other Singaporean food item you can imagine.
We’d eaten at one of the proper restaurants here on our first visit to Chinatown, and to be honest, we weren’t impressed. In fact, I think I’d go so far as to say it was the worst meal we had in Singapore. And it wasn’t even bad, it was just… average. And expensive.
You really do get much better value for money at the street food stalls!
For SD$10 (about £7), we got two plates of noodles, one with duck and one with chicken, and two bottles of water.
That’s less than what I’d pay for a Boots meal deal in London, and SO MUCH TASTIER.
Tender duck, sticky noodles, and that loooovely soya sauce gravy… Yum.
Bellies full, we wandered on through the rest of Food Street, and down towards the Buddha Tooth Relic Temple.
We toyed with the idea of going in, but decided we were both too hot and sweaty and tired this time, so we’d add it to the list for our next visit.
(Since getting home, I’ve looked into it a bit more and am actually GUTTED we didn’t go in, as it’s SO stunning on the inside!)
We wandered on, past street art, past tourists shopping, past crowds of old men playing a very competitive game of checkers…
The humidity at this point was getting unbearable, so we stepped into a nearby market building, looking for ice-cold juice and somewhere to sit (preferably with a fan!).
Then suddenly, I spotted a queue.
‘Why are they queueing’? – I wondered. – ‘It must be pretty important for people to be standing around in this heat for…’
AND THEN I REALISED. I realised where we were, and I realised what they were queueing for.
We were in the Chinatown Complex, and they were queuing for this:
Unless you’ve done your research (like I had), this is one hidden gem that can easily pass you by.
Liao Fan’s Hong Kong Soya Sauce Chicken Rice & Noodle (longest brand name ever) is one of just two street stalls in the WORLD with a Michelin-Star.
Yep, an actual, real-life, bona-fide Michelin-Star. The kind that’s usually reserved for fancy chefs in fancy restaurants with white tablecloths.
And the dish that got them past the post? Soya Sauce Chicken Rice, which costs a measly SD$2. That’s like £1.50, by the way.
MICHELIN-STAR FOOD FOR ONE POUND FIFTY.
The queue for this place usually (and quite literally) goes around the block. People have waited for hours to get their hands on a portion of this soya chicken, but when we turned up there were exactly 6 people in the queue. So obviously, we got in line.
(Yeah we’d already had lunch. And yeah we’d had chicken and noodles for lunch. And yeah, that had only been like half an hour ago. AND YEAH, WHAT’S YOUR POINT?)
Fifteen minutes later, we had our food.
We ordered one of each: one rice, and one noodles. The rice was a bit bland to be 100% honest, but the noodles were absolutely yummy.
And the chicken was the crowning glory. Tender, crispy-skinned, full of flavour, and drizzled with that absolutely stunning soya sauce gravy. Utterly delicious, and an absolute bargain at £1.50 a portion.
Look, I’m going to level with you: the atmosphere inside is pretty pants. It’s hot, humid and a bit smelly. There’s no air-conditioning, no 5* star service, and definitely no white tablecloths. They don’t even have proper chairs, just silly little stools.
The staff aren’t the friendliest, but they’re brisk and efficient, and guys, does it really even matter?
The food is fantastic, and everything else is part of the charm. Hawker Centres are a huuuge part of local life in Singapore, and no, it’s not going to be for everyone. But if you happen to be in the area, and the queue isn’t mega, and you have a couple of dollars to spare, (and you aren’t FEED-ME-NOW starving), then just get in line and soak it up.
Take it for what it is: a travel experience.
And I promise you won’t regret it.