Back in July, my Dublin-based omnivore boyfriend chanced upon a work assignment in ultra-cosmopolitan Singapore. Naturally, before agreeing to meet him there, I made him promise to take me to all the vegetarian and vegan restaurants in Singapore we could possibly fit into our nine and a half days together.
He conceded, on the conditions that a) because the city is expensive, cost should be within reason, b) location shouldn’t be too far from our hotel in Downtown Core, and c) he gets the upper hand in the relationship for every aspect other than diet (I acquiesced to this but took it back recently after irrefutably winning a very important argument).
Vegetarian and vegan restaurants in Singapore: a plant-based prowl
1. Whole Earth
This 2003-founded restaurant is a veteran in Singapore’s vegetarian and vegan restaurant scene. The only plant-based restaurant to receive a Michelin Singapore Bib Gourmand twice in a row, Whole Earth boasts fresh vegetables, produce, legumes, mushrooms, and grains, in both classic and Asian fusion renderings.
Upon seating us, they served tiny bowls of Pickled Papaya and Seaweed Chips ($2 each). I chose the 5-Spice Ngor Hiang Roll ($14), a traditional Peranakan meatloaf adapted for the veggie palate. Boyfriend ordered the Crispy Eggplant with Seasoned Salt and Pepper ($15) under their Thai selection. Then, we got the XO Brown Rice ($13): red and brown rice, lightly spiced and fried.
Though quite pricey, everything made your face light up and eyebrows raise the way only unmistakably Asian, umami-tasting food can. The chewy rice and crispy eggplant most especially seemed to showcase the produce’s inherent natural flavours and textures. No need to imitate meat, poultry, or seafood to get satisfied here.
Our order turned out enough for three people, so typical anti-food waste Filipino me took the leftovers home. For zero-waste, plastic-conscious vegans who are particular about food miles, however, take heed. The takeaway containers were of microwavable plastic that would last several reuses at best.
Moreover, boyfriend’s beverage, listed in the menu as a kind of tropical combo including ‘guava,’ ‘pawpaw puree’ and ‘pineapple,’ turned out to be an ‘Orange Smoothie’ ($7) from Noah’s Creative Juices. To top it off, both our drinks—mine a cold lemongrass tea ($6)—came with plastic straws (boo!).
Nestled in a corner of Fortune Centre, Singapore’s hallowed veggie mecca, is Herbivore. Created by vegetarian restaurateur Mr. Ho CS and Chef Yasui Masa in 2011, Herbivore ‘vegetises’ and ‘veganises’ Japanese food using plant-based mock meats—and how.
Boyfriend got the Katsu Curry Bento ($18), which included rice, miso soup, three types of vegetable sides, and fruit jelly. The spicy-savoury-sweet curry complemented both the katsu’s crusty outer breading and the seasoned mock pork inside. Its makeup and mouthfeel, reminiscent of actual animal protein, seemed dangerously lifelike.
We shared the Vegan Unagi Maki ($14): avocado and cucumber sushi topped with their house unagi. Similarly, this mock eel, marinated in teriyaki glaze and white sesame seeds, acted uncannily like its real roasted counterpart.
My Vegan Inari Sushi ($5), deep fried tofu pockets stuffed with sushi rice, cucumber, and mango, and sprinkled with black sesame seeds, were equal parts crunchy and chewy, savoury and sweet. By the way, my pineapple Juice ($6) also came with a plastic straw (double boo!).
That said, Herbivore’s food was so delicious yet still so distinctly Japanese—a feat for the amount of substitutions and omissions the ‘veganisation’ of non-vegan cuisine usually entails—that we set aside our dining civilities and wiped our plates clean of any and all lingering last bites.
Note, that while they’re egg-free and call themselves vegan-friendly, Herbivore’s sushis often use their house mayo, which contains milk. Some dishes and desserts also use cheese and dairy, respectively. So proceed here with caution, my vegan friends, and come armed with your stainless steel straw if you can.
The brainchild of former Veganburg director Ng Wai-Lek, vegan fast food chain nomVnom has been serving creatively crafted plant-based burgers, entrees, and snacks since 2015.
I got the oft-photographed Vola Flora ($8.90): lettuce and hummus between two fried potato patties, garnished with blue pea flowers. It tasted exactly like sounds, or like something I’d make trying to be ‘innovative’ with found objects in the refrigerator.
The Kimchi Croquette ($7.90)—potato patty, sesame mayo, kimchi, lettuce—was ‘pretty good, not mind blowing,’ according to boyfriend. They had a ‘$2 off’ promo for combo orders of a burger, drink, and side, so I had Banana Cake ($3.90) and Beetroot Passionfruit Tea ($3.90). The cake was okay, the tea very yummy and came with a purple orchid.
Boyfriend had Mixed Sweet Potato Fries ($5.90) and water ($2.50). The fries were great, but really, anything involving potato, especially sweet potato, is always a delight. The mineral water, however, came in a disposable plastic bottle (triple boo!).
Each order comes with shot of fruit vinegar, taken before eating to aid digestion. This is a good touch, considering the food here, albeit plant-based, tends to be deep fried and carb-heavy.
All in all, it’s easy to see why nomVnom has become quite popular. With plenty of exotic burger flavours (hummus, dhal, satay, otah otah) and scrumptious sides (truffle fries, yam rolls), and fairly reasonable prices for vegan food in Singapore, nomVnom infuses plant-based eating with an eclectic, indulgent flair.
4. Shree Ganga
Lau Pa Sat Hawker Centre has a few Indian vegetarian stalls, but I noticed that Shree Ganga was where the patently South Asian-looking contingent flocked.
The order taker‘s favourite on the menu was the Mysore Masala ($4.80), a paper-thin, oversize dosa (or pancake), folded into a triangle over a heap of stewed masala potatoes, and flanked by a trinity of chutney—white for coconut, green for coriander and spinach, red for chili.
When asked if this contained any animal products, he assured me it was “pure vegetarian.” Pleased, I paid for my order and got my banana leaf-sheathed tray of goodness. The dosa was fresh, hot, and crispy: the perfect vehicle for the divine chutnies, all of which were made of roasted chana dal, an Indian pulse.
Tearing into the dosa bit by bit revealed the ‘hidden’ potatoes, so at some point you alternated forkfuls of tasty potatoes with your chutney-bearing scraps of dosa. Shortly after, the only things left on my banana leaf were a plastic fork and three plastic sauce containers (quadruple boo!).
Liberal use of disposable plastic notwithstanding, the Mysore Masala dosa was amazing, but possibly only vegetarian. See, traditional dosa batter usually uses ghee, or clarified butter, which I wouldn’t have known had I not Googled it while already pregnant with my dosa food baby.
Undoubtedly, Shree Ganga excels at affordable yet incredible Indian vegetarian food. Strict, zero-waste vegans looking to dine or take away, do make sure to bring reusable containers and utensils, and choose what’s certifiably ghee-free from the menu.
Some Singapore restaurants with vegetarian and vegan options
By myself, I managed to eat vegan in Singapore by getting fruit on sale at the NTUC Fairprice in Chinatown. When we weren’t at a specifically plant-based place, I made do with the veggie options available.
Sofitel So Singapore Xperience Restaurant
This was our hotel’s resident café, and fortunately their breakfast buffet spread was stocked to my favour. Fresh, raw fruit and vegetables are—to borrow from the deeply nuanced Internet parlance of today’s youth—“my jam.”
There was a salad bar with plenty of leaves, microgreens, various salad vegetables, and a few dairy-free dressings. There were savoury cooked toppings to add to your salad, like mini hash browns, sautéed mushrooms, garlic, tofu, and more.
The fruit bar regularly brimmed with watermelon, dragon fruit, pineapple, cantaloupe, papaya, star fruit, honeydew, and kiwi fruit. There was also a juice bar with freshly squeezed orange, pineapple, grapefruit, and cloudy apple juices, among others.
Camp Kilo Charcoal Club
On Sunday afternoons, barbecue joint Camp Kilo throws parties with live DJ music, artisan stalls, and carnival games, all made much more fun when washed down with their alcohol and mixed drinks.
We came for the booze and music, and found ourselves staying after making new friends. Luckily, they had good vegetarian sides to boot. We shared their Patatas Bravas ($12), fried potato wedges in aioli and nam prik pao sauce, and the Brussels Sprouts ($14). Deep-fried, slathered with tamarind sauce, and topped with tiny Japanese rice crackers, the sprouts were tart, tangy, and altogether awesome.
I wasn’t able to ask if the aioli contained egg, or if the nam prik pao had shrimp, however. Strict vegans might want to skip this one entirely.
Lime House serves cuisine and cocktails in the zesty, lip-smacking flavours of the Caribbean. Boyfriend took me here along with some omnivore colleagues of his, mostly for the drinks. Still, I was surprised to see quite a few decent-looking vegetarian and vegan options. I had the Ital Stew ($20), plantains in creamy coconut curry, and the Caribbean Nachos ($12), fried plantain chips with twin salsas of tomato and avocado.
The plantain “nachos” stole the show here. Crunchy, greaseless, and cut just thick enough, the chips absorbed and complemented the flavour of its accompanying dips. The avocado salsa was like guacamole, but made tastier with the smoky depth of habanero pepper.
Eating out vegan in Singapore
Summing up, my little exploit in the Lion City tells me I’ve barely broken the tip of the iceberg (or should I say iceberg lettuce?) that is Singapore’s vegetarian and vegan restaurant scene. Many plant-based restaurants here were around long before veganism gained popularity as a lifestyle or movement in recent years.
I attribute this to the ethnic confluence of Singapore’s core population, where many are vegetarian or vegetarian-adjacent either due to culture, religion, or both. Its considerable Caucasian and Western expat demographic, and their corresponding alternative dietary preferences, are factors as well.
I do wish Singapore would reduce or avoid disposable plastic altogether. With their money and integrative capacity, they could definitely afford to mandate and maintain efficient zero waste and recycling programs.
Minimising food miles and ensuring ethical supply chains for produce and ingredients here would be ideal as well. Singapore has little agricultural autonomy, though, which makes this tough in terms of feasibility and cost.
Still, Singapore has the technology, culture, organisational faculty, and capital to achieve foodservice sustainability in the years to come. In the meantime, plant-based punters, head on over and enjoy all the wonderful vegetarian and vegan food Singapore has to offer!
Have you visited or lived in Singapore as a plant-based eater? What other vegetarian and vegan restaurants in Singapore would you add to this list? Feel free to share your recommendations with me and the rest of the Eco Warrior Princess community in the comments!
Title image courtesy of Absolute Internship.