328 Katong Laksa
Katong is Singapore's old Peranakan neighbourhood, where the blending of Chinese ingredients with Malay spices and cooking creatednyonya cuisine. It also forms part of the name of "328 Katong Laksa". This friendly coffee shop, run by a former beauty queen serves one of the best laksa soups you'll find – a delicious mix of spicy lemak coconut milk, prawns, cockles, tofu, beansprouts and noodles. A bowl costs S$4 (about £2) and hungry customers can also order traditional otak otak, a fish paste steamed in banana leaf, or nasi lemak, rice with crunchy anchovies, peanuts, cucumber and a wicked sambal sauce. There are lots of food shops along the road, selling ...view middle of the document...
For chapati-dipping, there are about 20 curries to choose from, including classic mutton masala and the more challenging curried goat brain. Each chapati costs under 50p, with the curries priced from £1.50-£2.50
• 168 Serangoon Road, on the corner with Norris Road, opposite Kansama Restaurant
Tian Tian, Maxwell Food Centre, Chinatown
Everyone in Singapore has their own favourite Hainanese chicken rice stall. It's as close to a national dish as you can come, which is surprising given that it doesn't really come from the Chinese island of Hainan at all, but was invented in colonial Malaya by Hainanese chefs cooking for the British.
The recipe couldn't be simpler: tender steamed chicken, served slightly cooled, fluffy rice, sliced cucumber, coriander – and two key ingredients – a homemade chili sauce and bowl of chicken broth. Chinatown's Maxwell Food Centre, a converted 1950s market, has about a hundred tempting hawker stalls, but the longest queues are at Tian Tian, where a plate of chicken rice goes for less than £2, with some aficionados ordering just wings, claws or whatever goes into what the menu terms "spare parts".
• Stall 10, Maxwell Food Centre,1 Kadayanallur Street,tiantianchickenrice.com
Chinatown Complex Food Court
Signs tell tourists that Smith Street is "food street", and it's true that it's one of the few places where there are still old-fashioned hawker stalls lining the street at night. But for more exciting food, step into the dilapidated Chinatown Complex, which houses a brilliant wet (fresh food) market and buzzing food court upstairs. For once, this isn't sanitised Singapore, and customers take more notice of how delicious the cooking is than the hygiene rating. Satay Bee Hoon can claim to be a genuine Singapore invention, a fusion of Chinese and Malay influences, where delicate rice vermicelli, cuttle fish, cockles, pork and kangkong (water spinach) are smothered in a spicy, crunchy satay sauce, all for £1.50 a portion.
• Stall 02-112, Chinatown Complex food court, 335 Smith Street
Yu Kun Kaya
Singaporeans are big on nostalgia, typified by the crowds that sit out every morning at the shady terrace of the Ya Kun restaurant in the heart of Chinatown. Don't expect a traditional English fry-up on the menu, but a local breakfast that has been served since 1944 – the Kaya Toast set menu. For under £2 you get a plate of toast filled with kaya coconut jam, two very runny eggs (don't even think about asking for them to be more cooked) and a cup a dense coffee, magically filtered through a strange-looking sock device. They like to add a big dose of super-thick condensed milk – delicious but frighteningly sweet.
• 18 China Street, +65 6438 3638, yakun.com
The narrow streets of Chinatown are crammed with restaurants, coffee shops and hawker stalls, but Yum Cha is hidden away on the first floor of an anonymous budget hotel, so...