Singapore Food Fail

After spending more than a week exploring Bangkok and Koh Samui, Thailand, we concluded our trip to Southeast Asia with a stop in Singapore. It was my first trip to the small city-state and I was excited to explore and learn more about the tiny nation. I didn’t anticipate that it would lead to one of my biggest travel missteps of all time.

We were culinary pros in Thailand, it was like we were scouting locations for No Reservations, the way we expertly found the best Bangkok had to offer. After ten days of eating nothing but Thai food, we were kind of tired of it to be honest. I loved the street food and the little cafes and I didn’t have a bad meal during our trip, but after a while it all blurred into a single recollection of chicken, sauce and rice. By the time we hit Singapore, I found myself longing for something Western.

Gadling recently broached this topic when they if eating at McDonald’s overseas is ok, or if we’re just being horrible Americans. Personally, I love exploring McDonalds, and other brands, when I’m traveling around the world. The unique, locale variations are fascinating and honestly provide a rare glimpse into the culture.

That’s why I didn’t feel bad when, immediately after arriving at our hotel in Singapore, we walked across the street to Burger King for lunch. That’s fine, I thought, nothing wrong with a generic meal once in a while when traveling. It was nice to have something I was more familiar with and could order knowing what I would receive. Unfortunately, it didn’t end there.


I blame it on the fact that we went “all in” during our Thailand visit and didn’t really moderate our eating experiences. Every day we sought out unique cafes and delicious street food, soaking in the Thai culture one meal at a time. A break at McDonald’s would have probably served us well because, by the time we got to Singapore, we were done. Done with trying to guess what we were eating and done with the difficulty in finding a unique dining experience. We had been on the road for a while and honestly, returning home was starting to sound good.

The next few meals after Burger King were at a bad café at the zoo, an Irish pub and a pizza place. I know! I know! But in our defense, neither of us were familiar with the famed Singaporean culinary treasures until we were back home.

Now whenever we watch a travel or food show highlighting Singapore, we cringe as they visit night markets or hawker stands famed for their noodles or unique concoctions. Instead, we have no culinary memories of Singapore except for the extra value meal.

Food is so important in travel, it can relate subtle cultural nuances like nothing else. That’s why I so regret our massive, Singapore food fail and cannot wait for the opportunity to return and REALLY experience Singapore.

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By: Mike

Matt has a true passion for travel. As someone who has a bad case of the travel bug, Matt travels the world in order to share tips on where to go, what to see and how to experience the best the world has to offer. Also follow Matt on , and

21 Responses

  1. Amy

    My husband and I did this on our last two weeks in Bangkok. We stayed right by the MBK and gorged on pizza, burgers, ice cream, even sushi. We were just so tired of Asian food by then. Unfortunately it only took me those two weeks to gain back the ten pounds I had lost in the previous nine months of traveling Asia. But sometimes, there is such a thing as too much rice!

    Reply
    • Mike

      Thank you – I’m not alone! LOL All things in moderation I suppose 🙂

      Reply
  2. Mike

    Exactly! Hoping to head back there next year actually, at which time not a morsel of fast food will be consumed.

    Reply
  3. Olov Lindgren

    Yep, you missed out, just visited a hawkerstand a few hours ago. In Singapore right now and the food is Amazing (hate to rub it it but it is) But i do understand the temptation for “normal-life food and accomodation”

    Reply
  4. Ayngelina

    My guilty pleasure is also seeing what they sell at McDonald´s in other countries. The odd thing is that I don´t eat it at home but I try it abroad.

    Reply
    • Mike

      I LOVE the regional variations. Even in The US you see differences, like the McDonalds lobster roll in Maine, which actually isn’t bad.

      Reply
  5. Iamthewitch

    But that just means you should return to Singapore! I am not experienced with the Singapore culinary delights either but I have certainly read amazing stuff about them! Not just street food but top class dining as well. I’m sure something will suit your fancy! Failing which, you can always come over to neighboring Malaysia n I can ASSURE you won’t be disappointed! Just saying 🙂

    Reply
  6. Bontar

    It happened the same to me in Japan. Sometimes your body just need SALT!!! :D:D
    Although avoiding singaporean food completely is unforgivable and I’m sure it is considered a sin in most religions…

    Reply
  7. Kim

    Don’t beat yourself up! It happens to everyone. It’s especially hard when it is so readily available. We went to the movies every day in Singapore! Did you at least get some unique “Asian” McDonalds food?

    Reply
  8. manonthelam

    I agree with Olov’s comment — the hawkerstands are cheap and definitely some good eats! But every now and then, I black-out and wake up covered in Mickey D’s french fries…:>)

    Raymond

    Reply
  9. Andrea

    I just got back from Singapore and ate at a few places in Little India and Chinatown which were recommended to me. I don’t know what the hype is about, I didn’t enjoy any of the meals and seeing countless cockroaches around Little India doesn’t make me want to return any time soon. Having said that, I’m sure what I ate was 100x better than Burger King 😉

    Reply
    • iceprinxess

      Little India and Chinatown aside, you should also visit the hawker centers (especially those in shopping malls) or coffeeshops which are cleaner. One easy place to try would be the Makansutra Gluttons Bay where a handful of vendors selected by Makansutra Guide to set up a stall there for their excellent versions of classic hawker food.

      Reply
  10. Xin

    Hi there! I’m Singaporean and simply put, I’m just really sad that you had such a bad experience with food here. The one thing we Singaporeans love to do, is to eat. We’re always talking about where to go for our next meal when we’re still having our current one, a quirk my Irish friend says is Uniquely Singapore (tourism tagline for Singapore hehe). Let me know when you drop by again, and I’ll send you a list on where to go and have great food 🙂

    Reply
  11. Leah

    I’m so sad for you. I spent a month in Singapore and tried to eat a different hawker stand every day. If not a different hawker stand, at least a different stall. Chinatown is what I seemed to visit the most. I really miss the roasted pork and black pepper crab. 🙁

    Reply
  12. Shane

    Out memories of Singapore include visiting a Chinese food hall. We were the only westerners. We thanked the server (who was in his 70s) in our best Mandarin Chinese. His face lit up as he smiled … Not expecting a How Che from us

    We also are at the Jumbo Chinese restaurant on Clarke Quay. Some of the best food !

    But I agree food , good traditional food of that area can really make a holiday.

    Reply
    • Mike

      sounds like you had a great food experience there!

      Reply
  13. Dan H

    It is too bad you missed out on Singaporean food! It did truly horrific things to my digestive tract (I hadn’t treated my IBS yet by the time I made it there), but it was worth the pain.

    But you don’t need to hear that… You’ve seen it on every travel show ever how awesome the food is. Instead, I hope to validate you. I’m not a traveler, though I do travel from time to time. I’m an expat. I live, teach, and write in Taiwan. And while Taiwanese food is varied and lovely, there are times that one cannot live on stinky tofu and boiled pig rectum. A Big Mac is a Big Mac wherever you go, and sometimes it’s just what the doctor ordered to prevent a screaming breakdown while living in a culture so alien to one’s own.

    So kudos to you for admitting it… Now get back to Singapore and do it right! 🙂

    Reply
    • Mike

      I know, I know. I really am dying to get back to Singapore soon!

      Reply
  14. Andrew Darwitan

    To be honest, I’m not a huge fan of Singapore food. Not the hawkers, at least—the restaurants can be good, but they don’t come cheap. Even after all these years living there, I find the hawker & street food in Singapore a bit sterile for my liking. Or maybe I’m just too used to being raised with Indonesian food that are full of spices and flavorings.

    Reply
    • Mike

      I think you may be spoiled to be honest 🙂 In a good way! For me they still hold exoticism and I can’t wait to return, hopefully soon!

      Reply
  15. Rachel

    Just came across your blog (you’ve gained a new reader!) and curiously sought out whether or not you’ve ever visited my country before…cannot help but chuckle a lil bit as I read this post of yours. Not to rub it in but damnnn bro, you missed out!

    COME BACK TO SG SOON!! Drop me an email if you wish and I’ll gladly take you around to the BEST hawker centres in SG 🙂

    Reply

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