McHawker: McDonald’s in Singapore

McDonalds at the Singapore Harborfront
McDonald's at the Singapore Harborfront
Writing about McDonald’s in Singapore is a bit of a challenge. Singapore is a small country. To be honest there isn’t much about the McDonald’s here which I found all that different than in say, Australia. Almost all the McDonald’s had the McCafe attached to it, which I’ve found all over Asia/Pacific. The menu itself wasn’t very radical. You could get a cup of corn on the side and the breakfast menu had a filet-o-fish on it. I was told that some McDonald’s had (or have) a rice burger on the menu (see my Taiwan McDonald’s post) but I didn’t see it in Singapore.

There are a surprising number of McDonald’s in Singapore. Something which I found in other mostly Chinese cities (Taipei, Hong Kong) but not in the rest of Asia. In addition to McDonald’s I saw almost every other brand of fast food restaurant in Singapore: Long John Silvers, Burger King, KFC, and Pizza Hut. They even had a MOS Burger. (see my Japan post)

Hawker stands near the harbor front MRT station
Hawker stands near the harbor front MRT station
The number and variety of fast food places you’ll find in Singapore is a reflection of it being a modern and developed city. Yet, I doubt that most people come away from Singapore thinking of fast food chains when they think of Singapore food. Singapore has a LOT of places to eat. By far the most of any city I’ve been to. Moreover it isn’t just a lot of places, but an enormous variety of foods.

Most neighborhoods will have hawker stands, which are basically like mall food courts, minus the mall (and Singapore does have a lot malls). When I first visited Singapore in 1999 I suffered, for the first time in my life, from information overload. I went to a hawker stand and was confronted with so many choices that I had no idea what to pick. The average American food court will have “the chinese place”, “the italian place”, maybe “the japanese place”, with various other western chain restaurants.

Hawker stand selling economic rice...whatever that is
Hawker stand selling economic rice...whatever that is
In Singapore, you don’t just have “Chinese food” or “Indian food” (and given how big those countries are, those really are misnomers anyway. It is like saying “European Food” and lumping together French, Italian, German and Scandinavian food). Some places focus on noodle bowls, some just on chicken, some on seafood, some do Indian hot pot, some do Indian halal food, some do just certain Malay dishes. You get the idea. You can easily have over 20 booths in a hawker stand.

…and it’s all really cheap.

If you go down to the riverfront in Singapore, you’ll see just as large a diversity of food, just more upscale. North Indian cuisine, Thai, Chinese Seafood, traditional Chinese. I’ve even saw a Cuban restaurant near Chinatown.

Next to Tokyo (and probably surpassing it) Singapore is easily the best food city I’ve seen on my trip. Within a 10-15 min walk of most places, I bet you could find enough different places to eat to eat out for every meal and never have to visit the same place in a week.

If you ever find yourself in Singapore, skip the McDonald’s and head to a hawker stand.