Like pretty much anywhere in Asia, you’ll never be short of insanely delicious things to eat in Singapore. Whichever meat (or fish) you prefer, you must try fresh satay. Once you’ve eaten it fresh, the packaged sauce from the supermarket back home will never taste the same.
Satay originated from Indonesia but the question of which country in Asia actually makes the best satay is a fierce debate! But for now we’re talking just about Singapore. After a little research, I found what I think is the best place to buy satay: Stools 7 and 8, Lau Pa Sat.
Lau Pa Sat is actually the name of a hawker food centre in the Financial District but when it comes to satay, I’m talking about the a large area of outside food stalls that seem to pop up out of nowhere after 7pm around Lau Pa Sat. (I did sort-of-accidently eat some chicken fried rice inside the hawker centre but I wasn’t that impressed. I couldn’t see them cook it, it was ‘cooked’ suspiciously quickly, and after my food poisoning experience in Malaysia the previous week I was reluctant to finish it!).
I wish I had read clearer instructions about the difference between the hawker centre and the outside stools! Since I’ve arrived at about 6pm, I didn’t realise there were any outside stools yet to set up. Another look at Google and I then understood what I was looking for: outside stools after 7pm. I read that most people seem to suggest stool numbers 7 and 8 as the best satay in the market so that’s where I headed.
Oh boy, I was not disappointed. Even the atmosphere is great. I went on a Friday night so it was particularly lively. There’s a good several hundred people crammed onto furniture and truly enjoying themselves: laughing and talking loudly while eating with friends. For me, this is the sight I think of most when I hear ‘Asia’. It’s also one of my very first Asia memories when I was 13.
I can remember being on my first visit to Hong Kong (and Asia) and my dad, who was working there at the time, saying he was going to take us to one of his favourite places to eat. We ended up perched on plastic chairs in the middle of the infamous Lan Kwai Fong with music thumping and Cantonese babble all around us, and we are tucking into food on plastic tables, all in a tight hilly street packed with neon signs, rats, and dripping air conditioning units. Initially I was horrified but after a couple of minutes eating I was hooked. It was the most exciting place I’d ever eaten and it was unlike anywhere else I had been in the world. I was hooked on Asia from that moment on.
Going back to Singapore, the atmosphere in Lau Pa Sat is similar to Lan Kwai Fong but tamer and I’d say more ‘refined’. The food is also cooked in front of you which it isn’t in Lan Kwai Fong. I noticed there’s also good-natured competition between the stool owners to get you to eat their food, not their rivals’, which makes the atmosphere even more fun and lively.
After my disappointing chicken fried rice in the hawker centre, I couldn’t hand my money over fast enough for some satay chicken from stool 7, especially at about $8 for 10 sticks! I ate them so quick I almost forgot to enjoy them! But they were mighty tasty. I was convinced I would take some photos and then go elsewhere to explore or grab some food elsewhere on my back to my Airbnb room but I went back to the same stool again for some more satay! I think if anyone returns within 30 minutes to order the same food again, then it must be darn tasty.
My Airbnb host, Lin, saw me when I got back to her apartment and she asked what I’d been up to that day. I told her I’d just come back from eating satay at Lau Pa Sat and she gave me a very knowing ‘good choice’ look. I went to bed with a very happy tummy that night.
So, let me sum up where you need to go for satay:
- The outside stools which surround Lau Pa Sat hawker centre. (Known by locals as ‘Satay Street’). They open for business from 7pm everyday.
- How to get there: about a 5 minute walk from Raffles Place MRT station.
- (Psst, there are other dishes besides satay so why not try a selection?!).
- Make sure you arrive hungry!
Where’s your favourite place to eat in Singapore? What’s your favourite dish? Let me know in the comments below!