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.

6 thoughts on “McHawker: McDonald’s in Singapore”

  1. The rice burger was a flop and was discontinued in SG, because it paled in comparison to MOS burger, imo.

    Economic rice/mixed dishes would be rice with sidedishes.
    So called economic because you get many dishes with rice all on one plate at a cheap price as compared to chinese restaurents (although of lower quality of course)
    Not very tasty but popular with timepressed locals as it’s “grab and go”, unlike other stalls where you have to wait for the food to be cooked.

    Actually, I would suggest fast food outlets if they have “”localized” specialties that your country doesn’t have. For example, right now there’s the seaweed shaker fries promotion and what looks set to be perm Chicken Mcgrill that comes with a nice sourdough bun.

  2. I have a great photo of myself sitting next to Ronald McDonald in SIngapore outside a McDonalds a few years back… It was quite a novelty as in my home country they had given Ronald the sack years ago…

  3. Oh I know what those rice burgers were called! Chicken Fán-tastics. Because fán is the hanyu version of the Chinese word for rice!

  4. If I don’t remember wrongly, I wrote you about Rice burgers by McDonald’s in Singapore. That was 3-4 years ago, maybe they excluded it from the menu since then… Though I liked it a lot.
    Enjoy food as much as possible while you are there!
    That’s only one of 2 things you can really do there, and people live with… the second one is shopping… not your way.

  5. I first came here when Scott Kurtz linked to you and have been enjoying all the media you produce.

    As for the “economic” rice, I’m not sure how they got that; in any case it’s not a direct translation from the Chinese on the top of the sign. Speaking of China, I see that you haven’t yet made a trip to the Chinese mainland. I recommend a trip there later this year (or next spring) when the Olympics are over and visas are easier to obtain.

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