Food, Glorious Food: John

Food, Glorious Food:
At NTU’s orientation, I was told that “Singaporeans are food lovers” and that is indeed true. The Singaporean cuisine is a beautiful mixture of the best recipes from its multicultural ethnicities. Most of the food has been adopted from the Malay, Chinese, Indian and Indonesian dishes. It is quite different from the dishes back in New Zealand. For instance, spicy food and rice are much more common here. Portions are also generally smaller.

Top 5 FOOD you MUST EAT in Singapore

5) Satay (BBQ meat)


The satay is a charcoal barbequed meat served on skewer together with a special peanut sauce and fresh pineapple, onion and cucumber. You can either order chicken, beef or mutton satay.

The first bite of the charcoaled barbequed satay is a burst of pleasure from its flavourful juicy meat. The meat itself tastes a little sweet and salty. But, eat it will the peanut sauce, you will experience mix textures in your mouth that is nutty and meaty. It ends with a neutral flavour that somehow manages to make you desirably crave for more.

A satay costs around SGD0.80 (~NZD0.60) per stick including the side dishes with a minimum order of usually 10 sticks.

4) Economy rice


The economy rice is not a specific dish itself, but it is a mixture of multiple home-cooked style dishes.

The economy rice stall will serve about 20 to 30 different dishes from meat, egg to vegetables which are priced differently. You are free to pick the dishes you like and thus it allows you to be ‘economical’ in your decision. Economy rice can cost as low as SGD1.50 (~NZD1.50).

The variety of dishes to choose from may sometimes offer some interesting options. For instance, I have tried the unique coffee chicken which has a distinct sweet coffee fried chicken flavour.

3) Curry Fish Head


This dish is a little spicy as you can observe from the red curry sauce pictured above. It is not for the faint-hearted.

Put this in your mouth and you will experience a perfect combination of its strong sour and spicy flavours. As you chew it, you will enjoy the soft and smooth fish head meat. To cool off the heat from the curry, eat one of the eggplant, tomato or ladies finger served with it.

Usually, the curry fish head is served with rice to dilute its strong flavours.

The curry fish head I tried above is from a Michelin Bib Gourmand awarded store – Zai Shun Curry Fish Head. The place is quite crowded but it is worth the wait because it is simply delicious.

2) BBQ Chicken Wing


Although you can find BBQ chicken wings in New Zealand, the one in Singapore tastes special.

Your first bite will be greeted with the sweetness of its honey glazed skin. The honey melts away, leaving you with the gentle saltiness of its charcoal roasted skin. Chew in, and you will be lost in the tender meat that is infused with delicious spices.

If you add a squirt of green lime to it, it will wake you up, increasing your awareness of the joyful moment.

If you choose to enjoy it with its special sour chilli sauce, just imagine everything aforementioned but with a hot pop song that is playing in the background while you eat it.

This experience can be enjoyed for around SGD1.30 (~NZD1.30) per chicken wing.

 1) Hainanese Chicken Rice


Singapore is also the first country to have one of its hawker centre stores accredited with the Michelin award. Guess what? It is the store that serves chicken rice shown above. I can assure you that it is delicious. Be prepared to line up if you want to try this store – Tian Tian Hainanese Chicken Rice. It was not pricey too as it was only SGD6 (~NZD6). Although you can get chicken rice from around SGD2.50 (~NZD2.50), this particular one it is worth the price.

The chicken rice is served with either roasted or steamed chicken – as shown above. The roasted chicken has a rewarding salty taste while the steamed chicken’s best feature is its soft tenderness.

The rice is cooked in soup made from garlic, ginger and chicken which gives it the most appetizing light-yellow colour.

It is also accompanied with a spicy and mildly sour chilli sauce that excites but does not punish you.

Sometimes, a gently sour ginger paste is also served with it. Adding the ginger paste to your bite is like eating another dish itself as the ginger taste is strong but rewarding at the same time.


How Satay is barbequed at Lau Pa Sat hawker centre
Economy Rice store – a wide the variety of dishes to choose from



Charcoal Roasted BBQ Chicken Wings

Roasted vs Steamed chicken
Maxwell Hawker Centre – to the left, is the line to the Michelin awarded Tian Tian Hainanese Chicken Rice


I am always happy to help anyone interested in going exchange to Singapore. Make sure to comment on this blog post, and I will reply whenever possible. Alternatively, you can email me at

If you want to check out more of my pictures, please follow my Instagram account: johnleekw.


Adobe Spark (2)



This vibrant city offers University of Auckland students two opportunities to study: Nanyang Technological University and the National University of Singapore (U21 including Law). adam-qi_national-university-of-singapore-1163-1

Let’s hear what our students have to say!

On the lifestyle:

“My first impression of Singapore can be summarized in two words- hot and humid. Apart from the killer heat, Singapore is nothing short of fantastic” – Adam Qi, National University of Singapore


“My first impression of Singapore was that it is an extremely modern city. The architectures are amazing and also interesting. Singaporean people are also extremely friendly. When I was having difficulty finding my way around the university, a lot of the students were happy to help me out and actually offered to walk me to the building. Singapore is considered the most expensive city in the world. However, because I was a student and spent most on my time on campus, I felt that the cost of living was lower than Auckland. What they offer  on campus is heavily subsidized and I did not spend as much as I expected. However, once you go off campus and go to restaurants they are quite pricey.  Although there are cheaper options like hawker centers (which are similar to food courts in New Zealand).” – So Jung Choun, National University of Singapore 


On campus:

“The campus of National University of Singapore (NUS) is incredibly large. Therefore, it provides students with internal shuttle bus service to help them go between different lecture halls in different faculties. The Kent Ridge Campus (the main one) owns 4 different routes namely A, B, C and each route will access to 8 to 10 stops around the campus. The shuttle buses are always crowded during peak hour even though they come every 5 to 8 mins.”- Annie Lyu, National University of Singapore


“Life on campus was extremely easy to adjust to. With two food courts, a Starbucks and several grocery stores all within a short 5-minute walk from my room; it’s no wonder walking became such a chore after returning to New Zealand. Local students were extremely friendly and inclusive, always eager to show you more of their country.”  –  Adam Qi, National University of Singapore


On accommodation:

“My accommodation was located in a newly built “educational hub”, the University Town (“U-town”), which has created a lively intellectual, social and cultural environment via residential spaces, teaching facilities and study clusters. You may eat (there are two food courts and other cafes in U-town), study (U-town provides 24-hour studying facilities throughout the whole semester) and use the sporting facilities – swimming pools, climbing walls, dancing studios and climbing.”- Annie Lyu, National University of Singapore


“I really loved my accommodation on campus. I was able to experience the university spirit and engage with a lot of local students as well as the exchange students. It was my first time living on campus and found it really convenient. My residence had a dining hall, which allowed me to interact with many different new students each day and in turn helped me improve my interpersonal skills.” – So Jung Choun, National University of Singapore 

“Unfortunately for me, my room at a Residential College on the NUS campus did not come with air-conditioning. However, it did have the basic necessities (with the exception of bedding), all with impeccable hygiene. My accommodation even included a compulsory meal plan which will become the envy of all of your friends who do not have one.” – Adam Qi, National University of Singapore


On food:

“Singapore is well known for its varieties of fantastic food with incredibly low prices. A meal in a food court, on average, costs around 5 to 6 Singapore Dollars and the price is even lower on campus due to the subsidies from the Singaporian government. However, the Western food is extremely expensive. A simple plain pizza with cheese would cost you around 20 Singapore dollars. Therefore, you will miss cheese so much if you choose Singapore for exchange!).”- Annie Lyu, National University of Singapore

On travel:


“Being an exchange student in Singapore opened up a lot of opportunities for me to travel around South East Asia. There were a lot of cheap options to travel to various countries and it again allowed me to make a lot of friends from so many different countries. I learnt a lot and became thankful for what I already had in my life from travelling around.” – So Jung Choun, National University of Singapore



Top tips:

  • Transportation is a breeze with their MRTsystem and extremely cheap taxi fares.
  • Living costs are in general much cheaper than NZ with most meals ranging between $3-$5. Some favourites included the famous Chicken Rice, Young Tau Foo and Kaya Toast
  • Take ‘no’ out of your dictionary – embrace the opportunities offered to you
  • Visit the Esplanade, which is a theatre shaped like the Singaporean fruit durian
  • The heat is the biggest challenge in Singapore – you rely heavily on air conditioning which can be expensive so try to find alternative ways to cool down
  • University Town – This is the heart of NUS’s campus, and features Foodcourts, shops, a gym, study spaces, and a rooftop infinity pool!
  • Attend Orientation – in the first few weeks there were numerous events and activities involving sport, tours around the city, cultural events and parties. This was the perfect opportunity to make friends with the locals and the 300 other exchange students from all over the world
  • It is very affordable to travel to other countries in South East Asia – this is highly recommended!