Affordable Vegetarian Indian Food in Singapore

I’m only slightly embarrassed to admit that my 24 hours in Singapore were mainly spent eating.  But who knew there was so much amazing and cheap vegetarian Indian food in Singapore?  Given the country’s reputation as being the ‘Switzerland of Asia’ I honestly thought I would spend the entirety of my visit peering hungrily through restaurant windows.  From what I’d heard, Singapore is so expensive I figured there was no way I’d be able to afford one meal on my backpacker’s budget, let alone four.  (That’s right, I ate four meals in one day.)

Affordable Vegetarian Indian Food in Singapore - Travel Lush

If you haven’t noticed already, my travel plans have been a bit spontaneous as of late.  I suppose that’s a big perk of living in Southeast Asia.  So it’s only fitting that I decided to take my first ever trip to Singapore on less than 24-hour’s notice.  As I laid out in a previous post, I’m required to leave Indonesia every 60 days.  And after living in Jakarta for nearly four months, I was due for another visa run.  I was over the moon when I found out that Aaron had been given a day off of work.  So instead of flying solo, like I did on my first visa run to Penang, this time Aaron would be keeping me company.

While I’ve traveled extensively in Southeast Asia, the tiny island nation of Singapore has always managed to elude me.  Actually, I’ve always purposefully avoided it.  To be honest I’ve never heard good things about the city.  The words “sterile” and “boring” are commonly used to describe Singapore.  But what really discouraged me from visiting was the cost.  It’s no secret that Singapore is expensive compared to other Southeast Asian countries.  And while I managed to live it up backpacking around Southeast Asia on $40 a day, that budget didn’t seem like it would cut it in Singapore.

A quick visa run seemed like the perfect opportunity to visit the city.  And considering my current employment woes, I’m not sure I could have afforded to stay for more than a day.  After snagging a couple last-minute roundtrip tickets from Jakarta to Singapore for $80, Aaron and I were on our way.

After eating nothing but a measly bowl of cereal that morning and tasteless sandwich during the plane flight, Aaron and I arrived in Singapore with growling stomachs.  Thankfully one of the only budget areas to stay in Singapore just so happens to be in the city’s Little India.  I’m a huge fan of Indian food, not only because it’s incredibly vegetarian-friendly but it’s downright delicious.  And since there happens to be a serious lack of Indian food in Jakarta, we could not have been more pleased to be based in Little India.

Like any budget traveler my first instinct was to bypass the pricey restaurants and go straight to Singapore’s famous hawker stalls.  So we entered the first hawker center we came across and we immediately felt like two kids in a candy store.  While there was a plethora of Malay and Chinese stands, we couldn’t resist the temptation of the first Indian food stall we spotted.

Affordable Vegetarian Indian Food in Singapore - Travel Lush

I managed to claim an empty table while Aaron placed our order.  He came back balancing plates of garlic naan, palak paneer (pureed spinach with hunks of cheese curd), yellow biryani, and a tall can of Tiger beer.  We savored every bite of our meal, while watching all the chaos going on around us.  I was actually pleasantly surprised by the price.  While it wasn’t dirt cheap, like food stalls in Penang or Thailand, all of this food set us back $12 SGD ($9 USD), which was far less expensive than I’d anticipated.

Affordable Vegetarian Indian Food in Singapore - Travel Lush

We spent the rest of the evening walking around Little India, passing by colorful temples and marveling at the sheer amount of people out in the streets.  I am pleased to report that I didn’t find Singapore to be boring or sterile at all, at least when it comes to Little India.  This part of the city oozes character, color and chaos and I loved it.

Affordable Vegetarian Indian Food in Singapore - Travel Lush
There are people everywhere in Little India!

After wandering around, Aaron and I quickly decided it was time for round two.  So we headed back to our now familiar stomping ground – our beloved hawker center.  We intended to order a different type of cuisine, but once again, we gravitated toward the Indian stalls.

In an effort to mix things up we went to a different stand and ordered an onion dosai and a ghee (butter) dosai.  A dosai is a paper thin crepe that is filled with anything from spiced potatoes to paneer (cheese curd) to sautéed vegetables.  I was all ready to dig into this beautiful creation when the cook brought over a canister filled with three homemade sauces.  I asked him to explain what they were:  there was a creamy coconut chutney, sambar (a lentil and tamarind stew) and I forgot what the last one was called but it was equally as delicious at the other two.

Affordable Vegetarian Indian Food in Singapore - Travel Lush
Isn’t it gorgeous?

Affordable Vegetarian Indian Food in Singapore - Travel Lush

Sated, Aaron and I walked back to our hotel.  On the way we spotted quite a few pure-vegetarian Indian restaurants and immediately cursed ourselves for not seeing them sooner.  We made a mental note of where they were located and quickly agreed that instead of eating a breakfast of fruit or eggs and toast, we would instead feast on Indian food.

And that’s exactly what we did.  The next morning we got up and made a beeline straight for Komala Vilas Restaurant in Little India.  Aaron ordered the Chappati Set, which came with chappati (similar to naan), vegetable curry, dhal (a lentil soup) and raita (a jalapeno-infused yogurt sauce).  Overwhelmed at the sheer selection, I got flustered and pointed at random at the Tomato Uthappam, which I’d never heard of before.  It turns out it’s a fluffy version of a dosai, that was baked with tomatoes and cilantro.  I ripped it apart and dipped each piece into the three savory gravies that had been ladled onto my plate.  It’s spongy texture made it the perfect tool for soaking up the maximum amount of sauce.  Have I mentioned that uthappam is my new favorite food?  Because it is.

Affordable Vegetarian Indian Food in Singapore - Travel Lush
A glass of creamy and fragrant iced tea to wash down my delicious meal.
Affordable Vegetarian Indian Food in Singapore - Travel Lush
Tomato uthappam.

It is kind of awkward that my entire time in Singapore was spent on a neverending quest for food.  And while I did pass through Haji Lane, glimpse the famous Marina Bay Sands Hotel, and stroll down Orchard Road, these things took side stage.  I do, however, promise to get to them in another post.

One of my main goals in Singapore was to locate a grocery store that sold authentic Kraft Mac & Cheese.  It sounds absurd, but anyone who’s ever lived or traveled abroad for an extended period of time will understand my seemingly odd behavior.  When I first moved to Jakarta, I compiled a list of hard-to-find items that I wish I would have packed and brought with me.  And Kraft Mac & Cheese is one of those things.  So when I entered a random grocery store off of Singapore’s ritzy Orchard Road, I literally squealed by joy when I spotted Three Cheese Macaroni & Cheese (my second favorite kind behind the thick & creamy variety).  I bought eight boxes.

After a successful shopping outing on Orchard Road, learning to navigate the city’s MRT, and glimpsing the iconic Marina Bay Sands Hotel, we had time for one last meal.  Still full from our huge breakfast I said I would skip out one this one.  Who was I kidding?

Affordable Vegetarian Indian Food in Singapore - Travel Lush

Aaron was determined to take me to Indian Palace, a hawker stall he’d visited during a previous trip to Singapore.  It is located at the Newton Food Center.  This particular hawker center is one of the most famous in Singapore, which makes it a slight tourist trap.  I was immediately put off by the prices, which were two to three times more than Little India’s hawker stalls.  I insisted that I didn’t want anything, partially because I wasn’t hunger and partly because I’m cheap.  But of course, Aaron ordered for two:  aloo palak (potatoes cooked with a thick spinach gravy) and kadai vegetable curry (a curry with tomato, onion and eggplant), complete with sides of rice, garlic naan and plain naan.

Affordable Vegetarian Indian Food in Singapore - Travel Lush

How could I resist?  Despite my lack of appetite I ate half.  This meal might have set us back a $21 SGD (about $16 USD), but it is seriously one of the best Indian meals I’ve ever had.

Affordable Vegetarian Indian Food in Singapore - Travel Lush
The fresh calamansi juice is a must try.

I don’t think I’ve ever visited a new country and had my entire visit revolve solely around food.  But, I have to say, it’s a pretty good way to travel.  After eating four meals in 24 hours, my biggest regret was not sampling any of the samosas or other friend goodies I saw for sale all over Little India. Oh ,well.  All the more reason to go back.


Affordable Vegetarian Indian Food in Singapore - Travel Lush

Have you ever eaten your way through a foreign city?  What is the best food you’ve ever sampled in another country?

About Justine

Justine Lopez is a California native who always seems to take the unconventional route in life. She also suffers from a serious case of wanderlust. In 2013, she set out on a yearlong round-the-world journey and never looked back. Since then she's lived the expat life in both Jakarta and Phnom Penh. She's now living and working as a freelance writer in Beijing. As she meanders her way through Asia she's always seeking out great vegetarian food, budget travel deals and amazing new travel destinations.

34 thoughts on “Affordable Vegetarian Indian Food in Singapore

  1. Great report. Singapore food is very varied, with almost everything available somewhere across the island, even stuff like German and Spanish outlets. Some of my favourite Indian food is absent from Singapore (like Vada Pav) but I do love a good roti or a lassi for dessert. Singaporean cuisine like Chili Crab and Fish Head Curry is also worth a try! 🙂
    Backpacker Lee recently posted…Da Nang: In a Nutshell

    1. Thanks Lee! I feel pretty guilty about only eating Indian food because I know there are so many different cuisines to try in Singapore. But Indian is one of my favorite types of food and there is a SERIOUS lack of it in Jakarta. Plus, it was ridiculously good. I would love to try those other dishes. When I’m traveling in places like Singapore I constantly curse myself for being a vegetarian. I know I’m missing out on so many amazing foods 🙁

  2. In response to your question, “Have you ever eaten your way through a foreign city?” Tony immediately said, “Yes. All of them.” So that should tell you how we feel about this post! 😉 Singapore is a lovely city-state with many attractions, but obviously the correct thing to do during a visit is to stuff yourself with as much food as is humanly possible. We’re both impressed with what you managed to down in 24 hours… You can get decent Indian food here in Toronto, but there is something wonderfully special about Singapore & Malaysian-style Indian food. Oh how we miss it so!
    Steph (@ 20 Years Hence) recently posted…A DIY Gelato Crawl in Florence

    1. Ha, I totally thought of you guys as I was writing this post. I thought you might be proud 😉 I feel a little weird that I didn’t do much more than eat (and find Mac & Cheese) while in Singapore. But there’s only so much you can do in 24 hours. Plus, we were hit with a pretty crazy monsoonal downpour that pushed us indoors and forced us to eat more. I can’t believe I had enough room for that last meal. But it was one of the best Indian meals I’ve ever had (the best was in KL) so I don’t regret my gluttony in the least! Ugh, I get so sad that Indonesia doesn’t have an Indian population. What I would do if I could have access to that food here. I miss it so much too!

  3. Very fun blog on your eatting in Singapore! The best food find I have made in a foreign country was fresh made yogurt in Germany. Many European countries offer fresh yogurt with fruit or jam you add yourself along with other breakfast items. I started making my own homemade whole milk yogurt to enjoy the treat back at home. Its easy to make and just as delicious as the European yogurt. Or you can purchase European style yogurt at Trader Joes and add your own jam!

    1. Aaron and I had a tough time researching this post 😉 I didn’t know you started making your own yogurt because of the yogurt you tried in Germany! I still don’t think I’ve ever tried your homemade yogurt, but adding jam to it sounds so good! I miss good yogurt. Luckily we do have it in Jakarta, but I haven’t found a brand I really like yet. Guess I’ll have to keep searching!

  4. Little India and hawker centers were probably my favorite parts of all of Singapore! Though I did make it up to Ku Dé Ta at the Marina Bay Sands for an expensive glass of wine just so I could take in the view (turned out to be slightly cheaper than just going to the observation deck, plus I got wine sooo…no brainer!). All that food looks amazing, I do not blame you guys AT ALL for your trip revolving around food. That’s pretty much exactly what I did in Panama City, except I was there for like 5 days hahah.
    Leah recently posted…On Travel and Friendship: Why Losing is the New Winning

    1. Glad to know I’m not the only person who has eaten my way through a new city. I didn’t know about Ku Dé Ta. That’s a great tip. I’d much rather enjoy the view with a free glass of wine! I’ll definitely do that next time. I didn’t actually make it to the Marina Bay Sands. I was walking towards it when I got caught in the craziest monsoonal downpour ever. While I did glimpse it, I had no choice but to retreat back onto the MRT and head back to Little India, which was so disappointing. Next time my goal is to balance eating and sightseeing!

  5. Lol, I just wrote about my consequences of being a glutton in Penang. Which is surprising because the food there is similar but yeah…I ate my way through the streets of penang, only double and triple yours..hahaha…so there’s nothing wrong about spending the whole time here just eating. Food is never too expensive here, you just need to eat at the right places. 🙂

    I suppose the biggest misconception that I wish others can note is that we are not really that expensive if you are visiting and more open to other non touristy things. Also, visitors tend to compare it against the others in SEA and of course, Singapore would tend to be more expensive then. Our economy is stronger so the currency in other places are of better worth, I do the same thing when I need to travel cheap. I would also say it’s more expensive to live here because the cost of living keeps getting higher whereas as a visitor, you get to enjoy a short time here.

    Anyway, glad that you enjoyed your short stay here. And not to worry, food is always a serious matter to Singaporeans so none of us would judge you for eating to your hearts content. In fact, come on over more often, we are only a short plane ride away…:)

    P/s: 8 boxes of mac n cheese?? Hahaha…good that you managed to stock this up, it’s funny but I do the same when I am in Australia. 🙂
    sha recently posted…Penang Taught Me the Price of Gluttony.

    1. Ha, it’s hard not to eat a ton in Penang. The food is too amazing. Singapore’s food definitely rivals Penang though. Everything I ate was delicious. I was actually very pleasantly surprised by the food prices. I figured everything would be astronomically priced, but I think with the proper research it’s totally possible to do Singapore on a budget. I didn’t have time to do enough research so Aaron and I settled on a hotel that was around $60 USD. It was more than I wanted to pay, but for one night it was fine. I do wonder if it’s possible to find a decent double room for less than that though…

      I didn’t go into my trip with high expectations, but I was immediately smitten with Singapore. I obviously have a lot more to see. So next time I’m in town I will definitely give myself more than 24 hours!

      Ha, I’ve already eaten two boxes. I should have bought more!

      1. Hmm, I wonder myself. I don’t generally stay at budget hotels when I’m having a staycation so I’m not too familiar too. I can ask around too, I’m too curious about this myself..hehe…

        LOL..that comes after being deprived of it for so long I suppose..haha…you shall just have to make it down here soon to stock up more…:)
        sha recently posted…Penang Taught Me the Price of Gluttony.

    1. All of the food I ate in Singapore was so good. Obviously I’ve never been to India, but the best Indian food I’ve ever had has been in Malaysia and now Singapore. It’s amazing! I’ve always wanted to go to India, but now that I’ve been reading your blog (and Rachel’s too) I am more tempted than ever to make India my next destination. I drop hints to my boyfriend constantly. I can’t even imagine all the eating I would do if I were actually in India!!

    1. I know! Before I traveled to Malaysia and Singapore I didn’t know that there were such large Indian populations there. The Indian food in those two countries is hands down the best I’ve ever tasted. Dosas are amazing and the tomato uthappam.really is my new favorite food. So good 🙂

  6. I just came across your blog and I am hooked! I am a foodie my self and food is an essential part of my travel experience. You should visit India if you have not already. Its a heady concoction of different varieties of food and culture each significantly different from the other. Now I dive into your previous posts 🙂 cya 🙂
    Soujanya recently posted…Vintage Ice-cream Parlours in Mumbai

    1. Thanks Soujanya! I agree that food is a huge part of traveling. It’s often my favorite part 😉 I am dying to visit India. I’ve always wanted to go there but lately I’ve been thinking about it more and more seriously. I can’t imagine how much eating I would do there!

  7. That food looks absolutely amazing! I’m absolutely starving now. 😉
    I didn’t know that Singapore had such a large Indian culture, good find! I tend to munch my way around when I travel as well; food is such a big part of the ‘travel experience’ for me, I’m literally counting down until I can have a full Thai feast again in the New Year, street food is always a winner. 🙂
    Hannah recently posted…Leaving can be hard

    1. It was all SO GOOD! I didn’t realize that Singapore had such a large Indian population either. Little India was definitely one of my favorite parts of traveling to Singapore. I am so jealous of all the Thai food you’re going to eat! Thai is definitely one of my favorite cuisines 🙂

    1. How good is the Indian food in Malaysia? When I was there I had just wrapped up two months in the Philippines. Let’s face it, Filipino food is not the best. I was pretty much starving when I arrived in Malaysia and I ate so much Indian food. I ate some of the best meals in my life in KL. Ha, I’m seriously considering buying a ticket to India too. See you there 😉

    1. Singapore is definitely the right place to go to just eat! Although I’m sure the city has a lot more to offer than just food 😉 I highly recommend staying in Little India. So much good food and such a crazy atmosphere. I really did love it there.

  8. Haha! I have to say, Justine… I was smiling all through your post! Good Indian food is one of the things I most look forward to when I visit Singapore. It has a size able native Indian population…which has something to do with it I guess.

    Having lived there for two years, I agree with some of the reviews you’ve heard… It is a bit bland and sterile… Though a very friendly and easy place for foreigners to live in. I just had lunch, but your post made me hungry again 😉
    Kan recently posted…(Wk 21) Joy Is…

    1. Ha, sorry I made you hungry again! But I’m glad to know I’m not the only one who is in love with the Indian food there. I think I have to go back to Singapore next month for a visa run and my stomach is already growling just thinking about all the food 🙂 That’s so awesome you were able to live there for two years. I was so pleasantly surprised by how much I liked the city. And while I see why it gets a reputation for being sterile and boring I thought there were plenty of things about the city that were quirky and exciting.

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