Imagine you are new to living in Singapore and on a gluten-free (or grain-free, dairy-free, etc) diet. You are heading out to dinner with friends and the group is deciding where to go. Quick! What should you suggest so that you know you can quietly find a gluten-free option and know that everyone else will be happy, too? The safest cuisine choices are Indian, Thai, Malay, Indonesian, Japanese (stick to sushi) and Middle Eastern! There is bound to be one of these nearby and they tend to have vegetarian options (a common request) and several gluten-free options as long as you avoid fried/breaded foods, breads (obviously), and yellow noodles (usually made with flour not rice). These categories are also the best to potentially be able to order several dishes and share, Singaporean style, without you being a pain-in-the-butt to everyone else. My mantra was “if in doubt, order curry”. I don’t have specific restaurants to recommend, because it is hard to go wrong. About 3 months in I finally needed a break from coconut milk and curry and started looking for other options to add to the rotation.
Western food requires being more selective. After biting into a bun-less hamburger that tasted like meatloaf (what else was in there?), seeing someone order beef stew on a bed of spaghetti, and paying 22$ for an omelet and soggy strip of bacon, I can’t recommend getting your meat-and-potatoes-fix indiscriminately. The following 8 restaurants stood out for their fresh ingredients and GF choices and actually warranted a second or third visit. In no particular order:
Cedele Bakery Cafe
How can a bakery be a good gluten-free destination? Surprisingly Cedele was one of the few places that actually labeled GF items on their menu and served up delicious GF salads and entrees including the best steak I had in Asia (contrary to claims made by a steak house in Krabi, Thailand).
Straight-forward and fast. Just rotisserie chicken and sides (salad or potatoes). Good place to meet friends because generally quiet and plenty of seating because of the sleepy location under Rochester apartments.
Huge European brand with outposts in Toronto, Jakarta and multiple restaurants in Singapore – conspicuously missing from the USA :(. I immediately recognized the Alpen-theme from many a childhood visit with my mom. This place is awesome not just for gluten-free diners, but other picky eaters as well because you can go up to different stations and get just what you want whether it is a side of sautéed veggies, a made-to-order rosti or a slab of grilled pork. Also a good place to meet friends or a group because of the wide selection and easy ordering system.
The name sort of says it all. Walk in to one of the cozy cafes and be transported to Eugene, OR with a crunchy menu sure to please vegans and gluten-avoiders. Only bummer is that this place is cash only and apologetically slow.
Red Dot Brewery
Perhaps surprising to choose a brewery as one of my top picks, but I went here several time for work dinners and appreciated the wide-selection of grilled meats served with simple side of salad or potatoes.
Nom nom… this Australian pizza chain stays true to the Australian ethos of high quality ingredients and made some of the best pizza I’ve had anywhere. My favorite was the Moroccan lamb pizza with Spanish onions, baby spinach topped with mint yoghurt and lemon. GF menu available upon request.
Gaia Korean BBQ
There are many, many places to get your Korean BBQ fix including a street downtown lined with competing options. So why Gaia? High quality, fresh ingredients and no artificial additions. The waiters could tell me exactly what was in the side dishes and you got to cook the meat yourself (some places the waiters cook for you, so it is harder to segregate marinated vs plain meats). I would only go to Korean BBQ with friends that understood the GF thing because otherwise you have to worry about sharing the cooking surface.
German concept restaurant franchise throughout SE Asian. Again, I was skeptical of this place considering their name is German for “bread-time” and didn’t visit until the last month of my stay. It turned out to be great and I went again with a different group of friends the NEXT NIGHT! Word of caution: the sauerkraut contains beer and the red cabbage comes with fried onions, so the safest GF choice was to order the side of red cabbage with no onions. Menu is not labeled for GF choices, so ask carefully whether dishes contain beer or flour.
Stay tuned for more on navigating the more traditional Singaporean seafood restaurants and my new favvvoorite gluten-free desserts.
Questions, concerns? If you are traveling to Singapore and are worried about sticking to a restricted diet because of a food allergy, I’d be happy to chat and help you out. Just email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.