Anthony Bourdain in Singapore: 32 Spots Where Tony Ate
If you know anything about great food in Singapore, it’s probably that it was home to the first street food stand to receive a Michelin Star (and has kept it in the years since!). For a small city-state-country, Singapore has a lot to offer – especially from a culinary perspective. Unsurprisingly for a guy who loved food, Anthony Bourdain greatly enjoyed his trips to Singapore.
Anthony Bourdain visited Singapore four times, to film for each of his shows: episodes 10 and 13 of season 2 of A Cook’s Tour; episode 1 of season 4 of No Reservations; episode 1 of season 1 of The Layover; and episode 1 of season 10 of Parts Unknown. There were his “only” four visits on-screen, but they seem like quite enough to be getting on with, don’t they?
Among major Asian cities, there are few better choices if you want to eat well and eat often. Singapore is a fantastic food destination – and you don’t even need Uncle Tony to find great spots. Nevertheless, if you’re keen to eat at the same places visited by Anthony Bourdain in Singapore, you’ve come to the right place. Read on for the complete list of restaurants where Tony ate in Singapore, from street markets to five-star spots.
Want to watch the episodes where Anthony Bourdain visits Singapore?
The A Cook’s Tour episodes are available for free on Amazon; the No Reservations episode is available on Hulu and Apple TV; The Layover episode is available on Amazon; and the Parts Unknown episode is available on Amazon and Apple TV.
A Cook’s Tour (2003)
While he likely just visited once, there are actually two episodes in season 2 of A Cook’s Tour that feature Singapore – episode 10 and episode 13 (which is split with Bangkok). As such, he visits a lot of places – and this is a great place to start if you’re following Tony’s footsteps.
Goodwood Park Hotel
Anthony Bourdain starts his first day in Singapore with some high tea and pastries at the Goodwood Park Hotel, specifically their colonial tea house “L’espresso.”
Imperial Herbal Restaurant
Located right on the Singapore River, Tony stops by the Imperial Herbal Restaurant, a restaurant that specializes in dishes tailored to your medicinal needs. Bourdain starts off with a bowl of fish soup in a ginseng broth. Next, he’s served a plate of fresh lily bulb and braised codfish topped with fermented rice white wine sauce.
After perusing the menu, Tony grows curious about a “deer penis wine” that is offered on the menu. Nicknamed the “Superman Wine,” this wine is great for circulation and a good way to boost your energy levels. Next, he is served a bowl of egg whites and fried scallops, served on a mound of shredded potato, one of the “house specialties” at IHR.
To close out this buffet of doctor-prescribed cuisine, Bourdain tries the deer tendon cooked with fresh Chinese yam, said to help strengthen leg muscles.
Geylang Serai Market
Next, Bourdain meets up with Sapia, a local guide that gives him the item-by-item tour of this lively Malaysian market. They offer everything from protein-specific curry powders, shrimp paste, daun pandan (a fragrant plant used in a ton of South Asia dishes), lemongrass, chu kui (a rice block typically eaten for breakfast), and jackfruit among countless other things.
Getting hungrier with each passing second, an Otak-Otak vendor in the market catches Tony’s eye. Otak-Otak is a type of fish cake with leeks, coconut, chilis, and onion, cooked over an open flame and wrapped in a coconut leaf.
Hjh Maimunah Restaurant
Sapia takes Tony to Hjh Maimunah for a “home-cooked” style lunch; however, on arriving, Tony grows skeptical about this lunch choice and just how “home-cooked” these dishes are. Prepared in bulk, most dishes here are ready-when-ordered and the hectic environment seems to turn him off until he tries the food.
First, he tries barbequed fish in an onion and chili sauce, beef rendang (Malaysian coconut milk beef stew,) fried salt fish, beef liver with fried chilies, oxtail soup, and stewed jackfruit.
Bourdain then takes the train to a Hawker Centre in Little India for some prata, a buttery Indian dish that his friend and guide, Olango, refers to as India’s “answer to the croissant.” They also have some stretched tea, a back-and-forth pouring method of hot tea that cools the tea down, enhances the flavor, and gives the tea a nice, frothy foam head.
Back at the prata stand, they’re preparing a prata stuffed with egg, minced lamb, and onion that’s folded over and griddled to perfection.
Sin Huat Eating House
Tonay and Olango meet up with KF Seetoh, a Singaporean hawker center and restaurant guru to grab some dinner at Sin Huat. This seafood restaurant claims to serve some of the freshest in Singapore. To start, he tries some of the fresh steamed scallops that are drenched in garlic and black bean sauce.
Next is a plate of freshly steamed gong gong, or pearl-conch shellfish served with a honey-chili dipping sauce that Bourdain claims will “have you drooling like the proverbial Pavlovian dog.” Next, they have a plate of steamed frog legs, loaded up with minced garlic and served with a jar of Brand’s Essence of Chicken to drizzle on top of the meat.
Following Tony’s frog leg ordination, Chef Danny Lee prepares a plate of fresh, rare spotted grouper that is steamed with ginger, green onion, and Lee’s “mystery” soy sauce. Sin Huat also offers steamed tiger prawns on a bed of minced garlic and topped with scallions. Fresh sting ray, steamed, with ginger and green onion is served with a broth of soy and garlic.
Finally, the dish that Sin Huat is most known for is their Crab Bihun. Crab Bihun is a blend of garlic broth, rice vermicelli, fresh chilis, and enormous Sri Lankan crab.
Banana Leaf Apolo Restaurant
Next, Bourdain meets up again with a friend and Singaporean Little India expert, Olongo, for a trip to Banana Leaf Apolo for some fish head curry, chicken masala, and some Kingfisher beer. The chicken masala is prepared in a huge pan with chili, cumin, and coriander to make it really burst with flavor. The masala is then served on a banana leaf with rice and topped with hot sauce.
Next, they have the Banana Leaf specialty, the grouper fish head. Served in a very spicy curry broth, hot enough to “take the enamel right off your teeth.” Starting to sweat from the spicy fish head, Tony tries out a spicy Indian lime pickle, which is a pickled lime packed with Indian spices, but is also packed with probiotics and good for your gut.
No Reservations (2007)
Anthony Bourdain makes his first return visit to Singapore a few years after his first visit; it was right as he hit his stride in No Reservations, and a fitting destination to kick off season 4. Best of all, he visited other restaurants and food spots during this trip.
Tian Tian Hainanese Chicken Rice Stand
Bourdain goes on the hunt for the best chicken rice he can find, and finds it at the Maxwell Food Centre. This food stand is operated by Loi Chi San who has been in business for over 50 years, serving a “simple” dish of boiled chicken and steamed white rice, this stand is a must-try for anyone visiting.
While the initial description may sound unappetizing, the chicken is prepared using a hot to cold method, making it juicy and tender, and the rice is sauteed with garlic, sesame, and chicken fat and then boiled in chicken stock. This dish is also served with a side of minced ginger, dark soy sauce, and a chili dipping sauce.
Grand Hyatt Singapore
Although it goes against everything he has believed, Tony decides to dine at his own hotel for a change. The food there is prepared fresh and surprisingly well with a variety of dishes and cultures to choose from. He goes with some beef rendang, tandoori chicken, paneer, and different types of satay.
Golden Mile Hawker Centre
Sup Tulang, otherwise known as Bone Soup, is almost exactly what it sounds like. Mutton bones dunked in an enormous amount of sweet and sour chili sauce, sloppily eaten with hands, and cooked for the bone marrow to be slurped right out of the bone.
Bourdain then visits a hospital-themed restaurant where the chairs at each table are wheelchairs and the gastronomical dishes are served with medical tools and prepared under operating-table lighting. Tony proactively drinks several gin and tonics to prepare himself for this unique and frankly odd dining experience, followed by a “Singapore Sling” which is a fruity and frothy gin cocktail.
For his meal, he is served an Iberian Sandwich with parmesan cheese, a sandwich served on a thin, cracker-like pizza dough, layered with persimmon and Iberian ham, and topped with a parmesan mousse. Much to his chagrin, the tasting continued with a drunken prawn dish, melon with sweet foam, vinegar cloud, a shark-fin omelet, caramelized foie gras with shaddock and licorice.
Although Bourdain didn’t care for this menu that much, he did enjoy Aurum’s take on the Insalata Caprese, a mozzarella ball injected with gazpacho as well as a bold Dashi soup with olive-oil soba.
Tian Jin Hai Seafood
Tony meets again with his friend, KF Seetoh, an author and advocate for the Singapore food scene.
Together they try a relatively new dish to the area, steamed shark’s head. The shark head is sliced from the eyes down, steamed, and then topped with soy, sesame, ginger, and coriander.
In addition to the shark head, they go with a staple in Singaporean cuisine, chili crab. These crabs come from Sri Lanka at the bottom of the Ganges River and due to their bottom-feeding diet are huge and full of meat which makes them perfect for absorbing the chili sauce they are dressed in. The chili crab sauce here consists of tomato paste, chilies, vinegar, onions, scallions, and egg.
Finally, Bourdain revisits another Hawker center with some friends of Seetoh to enjoy some Tiger Beer and a mound of roast pork.
The Layover (2011)
After reading about the premise of The Layover in Tom Vitale’s In the Weeds: Around the World and Behind the Scenes with Anthony Bourdain, I was even more impressed by how much Tony and the team were able to pack into each episode. Singapore is no exception; it was a fantastic series premiere to show how well you can eat in a short time.
Tiong Bahru Market
Bourdain stops for breakfast at the Tiong Bahru Hawker Market with his good friend, KF Seetoh, for some steamed rice cakes topped with a preserved pickle paste that is then fried with lard, locally known as Chwee Kueh.
Tony and KF move on to another vendor that serves a pig’s organ soup, tender pork, and offal soup served in pork broth and salted mustard leaves. Next is what KF refers to as a “gluttonous rice and chestnut sausage” which is a traditional Teochew dish that is meant to be dunked in a sweet, molasses-like sauce.
Tanglin Halt Centre (?)
In the Tanglin Halt district, Tny becomes aware of a Hawker vendor known for making enormous peanut pancakes where they roast and grind their own peanuts. Folded in half when served, these pancakes are still enormous and capable of feeding multiple people.
Chin Chin Eating House
At Chin Chin, Anthony Bourdain meets up with Yin Pua for a plate of the Singaporean national dish, Chicken Rice.
Regardless of its bland appearance, this rice topped with boiled chicken is packed with flavor. The rice is sauteed with garlic and butter before being cooked with the very broth from the chick that is placed on top. Every local has their own way of eating it, some with more dark soy, some with more ginger and some meld all the condiments together with every bite.
Next, Tony and Yin try a tomato-based fried pork cutlet served with chips and peas alongside a basket of curry fish heads.
If you’re wanting to try something a bit different from the Singapore staples, Tony recommends a trip to Little India for some Biryani. This restaurant stands out because its Chef grinds their own spices and raises his sheep flock on his own. Indian residents claim that it’s some of the “best biryanis I’ve ever tasted in my life.”
Ku Dé Ta/ Ce La Vi
High up in the Singaporean skyline with an infinity pool and bars, Bourdain enjoys some gin and tonics and looks out on the green, bustling streets of Bayfront Avenue. Although this specific bar has since rebranded under the new name, Ce La Vi, it is still a fully operating bar with great, elevated views of the Singapore skyline.
After a few G&T’s at Ku De Ta/Ce La Vi, Tony goes with friend and renowned photographer, Russell Wong, for a meal at Samy’s Curry. Due to the southern style of Indian cooking that this restaurant offers, everything is served atop a banana leaf.
There, he drinks some lime juice, beer, and their first dish is the Chicken Masala, lamb, prawn, fish heads and biryani. In addition to these dishes above, Bourdain and Wong had fish cutlets, naan bread, cucumber raita, pumpkin dahl and papadam.
Tony didn’t have the time to visit this Italian-Japanese hybrid restaurant, although he recommends the Tuna Mango Poke and Prawn and Chili Pizza; this is part of the way The Layover works, with recommendations for places Bourdain didn’t actually eat at on-screen.
Tony has eaten at this place before – also not in this episode – and does not recommend a specific dish but praises the unique blend of Chinese, Malay, and Indonesian spices that they use in their dishes making them worth visiting if you have the time.
Geylang Claypot Rice
Much like the name suggests, this restaurant in Geylang, the “unofficial food capital of Singapore,” serves rice cooked in a clay pot so that the bottom layer of rice crisps up perfectly.
Accompanied by mushrooms, chicken marinated in a wine and soy sauce, Chinese and meat sausages, liver, and salted fish. Bourdain also delves into the tempura fried soft shell crab with chilis and curry leaves, string beans with dried fish powder, lobster with a pumpkin curry sauce, manila clams in a sambal sauce, and finally steamed grouper with soy sauce and ginger.
Although it’s not specified which pulled tea shop Bourdain went to, Kampong Glam on Arab Street offers a variety of cafes and halal booths to try out. Pulled tea is a widely consumed drink in Singapore where the barista, for lack of a better term, repeatedly pours hot black tea into condensed milk back and forth so it gets nice and frothy and the temperature comes down to a consumable heat.
Next, Tony and Russell go for some mixed drinks just two blocks from Arab street at Bar Stories, oft referred to as “Singapore’s best-kept secret” this bar offers an array of strange cocktails and an individualized creative experience.
International Nasi Lemak
Bourdain has breakfast before his layover ends at Nasi Lemak where he has egg, fried chicken or fish, and sambal paste on a bed of coconut rice. The long line of locals waiting lets him know that this is a place that is well worth the wait.
Momo & Moomoo Café/Café Pal (CLOSED)
Tony also recommends a café in the Colonial District that is very difficult to find a trace of online. This place offers plenty of iced teas, cucumber sandwiches, and a nice, air-conditioned environment to relax from the heat and humidity.
Despite both locations of this restaurant having closed down, the colonial district can offer some nice, cool escapes from waiting in outdoor Hawker markets for spicy food.
Parts Unknown (2017)
Tony’s final trip to Singapore took place in early 2017, and was used as the premier episode for season 10 of Parts Unknown. Given that it was his fourth visit, it was quite a feat to come up with even more places to eat – but as usual, Tony and his local companions did a top-notch job.
545 Whampoa Prawn Noodles
First up, Bourdain meets with Singaporean street food connoisseur – and past travel companion –, KF Seetoh, to try out some dried lamb as well as a brothy bowl of the classic prawn noodles that this famous hawker vendor adopts its name after.
Sabar Menanti II
Next, Tony connects with Najip Ali in the Muslim Quarter of Singapore, a Singaporean-Malaysian entertainer and producer. They start off with a plate of Lontong and some Mee Siam. Lontong is a dish consisting of rice cake cooked in a banana leaf, coconut gravy, fresh vegetables, and a hardboiled egg.
Paired with the lontong, the Mee Siam is a fried rice noodle dish cooked with chili paste, prawns, fried bean curd, a sweet and spicy sour gravy, and topped with bean sprouts and again, a hardboiled egg.
In Geylang, Bourdain meets up with some colleagues at Lor 29 to enjoy a late-night snack of fried oyster omelets and fried prawns with chili paste. After this appetizer, he tries the Bak Chor Mee, which is a fish ball and noodle soup and some beef satay.
Tony meets up with Donald Low, an economist and an author on Singaporean financial policy for some drinks and appetizers.
Guan Hoe Soon
In the Victoria Food Court, he then meets up with Chef Damian D’Silva at one of the longest-standing Peranakan restaurants in Singapore, Guan Hoe Soon for a plate of Ikam asam nana, a Laotian dish with sour fish curry and pineapple.
Next, they have Itek sio, which is duck braised with taramind and coriander and topped with fresh cilantro. They top this feast off with some “lady fingers,” otherwise known as sambar, okra sauteed with sambal, a brand of Indonesian chili paste.
Hong Lim Hawker Centre
Bourdain finishes off this trip to Singapore with one of his favorites, a Char Kway Teow, crispy lard, cockles, shrimp paste, and a “whole lot of noodles.”
Singapore Food Tours to Try
As if you don’t have enough options already, here are a few tasty-looking food tours to try during your trip, to make the absolute most of your time there.
Have any questions about these many great places visited by Anthony Bourdain in Singapore, or see something I need to correct? Let me know in the comments below.