Tag Archives: food

Budget American Food in Singapore

Great Food in Singapore

When most families move locations, there’s a certain period of time where all they want to do is eat out.  The dishes aren’t unpacked, and the pet roaches belonging to the previous tenant have not been removed from the kitchen.  When a family moves to Singapore from a westernized country like America or Australia, they’ll probably want to act upon the same eat-out impulse.  Unfortunately, they’ll soon find that the Canadian Pizza isn’t quite Dominoes, the nearest restaurant probably specializes in fish head curry, and even the Golden Arches isn’t exactly what you’re used to having back home. If you’re on your own, it might be an adventure; but if you’ve got whiny kids in tow, it is an all-out nightmare.

Fortunately, Singapore does have quite a variety of good Western food available.  There are, of course, expensive joints such as the Sizzler at Suntec City, and the Outback at Millennium Walk, but you’ll pay almost thirty dollars a plate for these dinners.  Fortunately, if you know where to look, Singapore does have some hidden Western food gems with great dinners available for folks on a budget.

Aston's Logo

Aston’s Specialties can be found in five location’s throughout Singapore. This franchise serves a wide array of steaks and barbecued chicken.  Side dishes include fried foods such as onion rings and fries as well as healthier baked potatoes and steamed vegetables. If you’re looking for a pleasant ambiance, try their location at the Cathay theater which is located near Dhoby Ghaut MRT Station; but be prepared for at least a twenty minute wait.  If you want a coffee shop atmosphere and food in a hurry, the location near the Sixth Avenue Center provides good American food in a uniquely Singaporean coffee shop atmosphere.

Personal Favorite

Black pepper chicken with baked beans and onion rings.  Total cost = $6.50

The chicken is cut chop style, similar to what might get if your ordered chicken fried chicken at a southern restaurant in the states, but it is barbecued on on the grill.  The onion rings are deep fat fried to perfection; the batter sticks on them well enough that the onion won’t slide out as you eat it.

Visit their official website for more information.

Aston’s Specialties

Botak Jones Logo

The Singlish word for bald is botak.  By now you’ve probably guessed it, Botak Jones was started by a bald man; his name is Bernie Utchenik.  His mission was to bring tasty Western food to the working class areas of Singapore.

At Botak Jones you won’t find healthy food.  You’ll find steak, fried food, and sandwiches all served in humongous portions.  Frequently, you can find USDA grade American beef on some of the menu items. (American beef was previously restricted in Singapore after the mad cow scare.)

Nearly all of the stalls are near MRTs so you shouldn’t have any trouble locating these fantastic places to eat.  You’ll find them around Bedok, Boon Lay, Sommerset, Toa Payoh, Yishun, and several others.  The venue that I’ve visited most often is just a stone’s throw from Clementi MRT.

Christians and concerned parents might want to know that Botak Jones promotional materials frequently use mild expletives.

Personal Favorite

I like the Cajun chicken sandwich with Mexican rice and spicy fries. Total cost = $8

If you can’t handle the heat, you can get barbecue chicken and other types of fries including cheese fries and traditional fries.

This place also has a catering service.  Visit their official website for more information.

Botak Jones

Dan Ryan's Chicago Grill Logo

Dan Ryan’s Chicago Grill probably shouldn’t be on the list of budget eateries, but this place provides such an American feel that I couldn’t resist.  If you sit in Dan Ryan’s comfortable leather seats, watch the ESPN on the TV, and gaze at the peculiar American oddities on the wall for too long, you’ll think you’ve stumbled back to the Midwest.

Dan Ryan’s is also, as far as I know, the only place on the island that serves free flow Dr. Pepper.  For those that don’t know, Dr. Pepper is only available in Singapore at upscale supermarkets such as the Cold Storage in Great World City; moreover, restaurant drinks are usually served in single twelve once servings.  (It isn’t like the U.S. where most food joints allow you to hook your mouth under the fountain and drink ’till you burst for less than two dollars.)

One of the best reasons to eat here is the free bread that is brought to the table. It is the only place in Asia where I’ve been served authentic corn bread.

If you want to eat on a budget, show up at lunch time or before five in the evening. If you show up after five, you’re guaranteed to pay over twenty dollars a plate.

Personal Favorite

I usually try to save money so I’ll just order their mushroom and swiss burger.  Approximate cost = $15  If I want to spend a little extra money, the potato skins are delicious.)

You’ll find this place in the Tanglin Shopping Center which is located about a ten minute walk away from Orchard MRT.  This restaurant also has franchises in Hong Kong and Taiwan, but I’ve never visited these stores.

Visit Dan Ryan’s Official Site

Dan Ryan’s Chicago Grill

Stewards Riverboat

Stewards Riverboat makes the list because of its amazing fajitas.  It is one of the few places to find delicious Tex-Mex food in Singapore.  Yet Westerners searching for totally authentic food should ask about menu items carefully; there are some odd hybrid fusion foods like squid chimichangas that can be tasty, but might not be quite what you are looking to eat for dinner. Especially for signature dishes, the prices for adults are quite expensive (>$30); but the kids’ menu for those under twelve is an excellent bargain.

The top level of the boat is an ideal place to take large groups for meetings, especially church groups.When it’s not rainy, there is a tranquil view of the surrounding sea.  The restaurant owners seek to infuse Christian principles into their operation and have gone so far as to utilize the alpha and omega symbol in their company logo. I believe the upper deck even has a jacuzzi that can be used for baptisms.

However, I would stay away from their enclosed second floor meeting room.  The venues is a stationary boat on a sometimes-choppy sea.  The last thing that you will want are your guests to suffer bouts of sea-sickness and claustrophobia.

This boat is located in Marina South Pier, a fairly isolated spot in Singapore, and the operating hours can be a little erratic.

Check the website for full information.

Stewards Riverboat

Welcome Cowboy Caleb Readers.  This website is mostly about Christian education. For something a little more random and entertaining, check out my personal blog:  Media Slog

A Crash Course to Singapore and Malaysia Kopitiams

Delicious Kopi Ice- Served in a Singapore Hawker Center Beer Mug

If you paid careful attention to the fans in the stands during the Beijing Olympics, you heard them Chinese yelling “Jia Yo!” as they cheered on their favorite players.  The literal meaning of this phrase is “pour oil,” and it encourages the athletes to increase their competitive furor in the same way that flames are increased by adding oil or an engine is revved with additional  fuel.

The fuel that kick starts the engines of many professional educators the world over is a cup of morning java.  If we teachers had a cheering section, perhaps our adoring onlookers would yell, “Jia Ka Fei.”  (English translation: pour coffee).

Unfortunately, after stumbling from the plane and battling their first bout of jet lag, newcomers to Singapore soon fight their first bout with culture shock when they discover their favorite Folgers or Maxwell House varieties are absent in their neighborhood NTUC FairPrice or Sheng Shiong Supermarket. The tendency among first-time foreigners is to revert to the two places they know to purchase their coffee fix: Starbucks and McDonalds.

Considering the expense of shopping at these Western chains and the affordable and delicious alternatives carefully brewed by native Singaporeans, it is sad to see so many coffee sippers default to the  most expensive common denominator.  You see, southeast Asia is littered with hundreds of tiny shops serving delicious local brews of coffee. The old aunties and uncles that run these stands, called kopitiams or hawker centers, would be more than happen to serve your morning cup, and the cost is usually under a dollar and always under $1.50.  It’s a far cry from the $4, $5, and $7 coffee served by Starbucks and McDonald’s.

The primary barrier for foreigners desiring these tasty, caffeinated concoctions is language.  Created by the mish-mash of cultures that has landed on the shores of Singapore in the past four hundred years, Singapore coffee lingo requires understanding a smattering of several languages: including Hokkien, English, Mandarin, and Malay.  Hopefully this guide will break down the essential of Singapore coffee vocabulary and assist even the most mono-lingual visitor sample a tasty cup of “kopi.”

Here are a few items that you will find on the menu of every kopitiam:


Kopi is the Malay word for coffee.  If you simply order kopi, you will be served a hot glass mug of strong, thick coffee that has been brewed in a sock-like filter.  In the bottom of the cup, it will have sweetened condensed milk and often a small amount of evaporated milk. Make sure that you stir the drink as you drink or you will find a sweet surprise at the bottom as you finish your glass.


Teh is the Malay word for tea.  Teh is brewed in a sock in nearly the same way as the kopi.  If you order Teh it will be served hot with sweetened condensed milk and sugar.

Kopi-C and Teh-C

If you prefer the evaporated milk to the sweetened condensed milk that Singaporeans often use for creamer, order your beverage with “C” on the end of it.  They’ll also add sugar to this blend.

Kopi-O and Teh-O

Should your tastebuds not enjoy the extra fat and cream that comes with sweetened condensed milk and evaporated milk, you can order your coffee and tea with only added sugar.  Simply tell the coffee shop staff that you’d like Kopi-O or Teh-O.

Kopi-kosong and Teh-kosong

Kosong is the Malay word for “empty.”  If you order coffee and tea with the suffix “kosong,” you won’t get any extra milk, sugar, or sweetener.

Kopi-bing and Teh-bing

Bing is the Mandarin word for ice. Instead of serving you a hot drink, they will serve it to you cold. If you try to say this and they don’t understand, try peng, the Hokkien word for ice.  If all else fails, even the most uneducated, elder coffee shop aunts and uncles understand the word “ice.”  Just say, “Kopi-ice” or “Teh-ice.”

Kopi-gau and Teh-gau

Gau is Hokkien for strong.  You won’t get added hot water in your teh or kopi if you select these beverages.

Kopi-xiu-dia and Teh-xiu-dia

You’ll get less sugar if you add xui-dai on the end of your order.

The Rules of the Game

If you haven’t figured it out by now, you can mix and match the suffixes to your heart’s content.  If you want coffee with condensed milk but less sugar, just say,”Kopi-C-kosong.” If you want strong tea with ice, simply say, “Teh-gau-bing.” If you want coffee with sweetened condensed milk, less sugar, and ice, all you need to do is say, “Kopi-C-xiu-dia-bing.”

Specialty Tea and Coffee

The drinks listed above are standard on nearly every Singaporean menu.  Sometimes you’ll chance across some ethnic or unusual varieties.

Teh Tarik

Teh Tarik is a fairly common beverage in Singapore, and extremely common in Malaysia.  Tarik is the Malay word for pull.  Your tea will be poured between two cups in order to create a rich, frothy mixture.  Sugar and sweetened milk come standard with this drink.

Tehcino or Kopicino

Only a few kopitiam owners will understand what this assimilation between European cappacino and Singaporean coffee and tea.  Similar to teh tarik, Tehcino and Kopicino are pulled between two cups into a frothy mixture.  The frothiest part of the milk is added on top.  This mixture may not be served with extra sugar.

Teh Kotak and Teh Halia

These two varieties are tea with extra flavoring.  Teh Kotak is tea with added jasmine, and Teh Halia is ginger teh.

Diao Her

You’ll get Chinese tea if you order diao her. It should be noted that this is the Chinese word for fishing.  The process of steeping tea reminded the Chinese of fishing, hence the name.

Kopi Luwak

It is doubtful that you’ll chance upon this.  Kopi Luwak is the most expensive coffee in the world and the raw coffee bean was passed through the digestive tract of an Indonesian civet cat.  (You can read about my experience drinking this coffee at my personal blog.)

Personal Recommendation

If you’re new to the Singapore coffee scene, I highly recommend my friend Byron’s coffee shop, Good Morning Nanyang Cafe.  The stall is located in the spiraling Chinatown point, smack-dab in the heart of Singapore.

For a map and details, Singapore’s site, HungryGoWhere.com can’t be beat.

Good Morning Nanyang Cafe 早安南洋 (Chinatown Point)

A special thanks to the Wikipedia contributors and my friends on Plurk for information that was used in this post.