Meals under $20 are usually one-bowl meal, to be eaten quickly without a care for ambience, and Asians shine at that, because we fetishize our busy-ness, and we gobble down our food, unlike the European 3-hour lunches.
We are proud to say that out of the 10 shops on the list, 7 are Singaporean-owned, and out of the 7, 4 are small businesses; this isn’t intentional although we strongly support local small businesses. It just so happens that they are delicious and they prove that they can match quality food to those of multi-million corporations.
Also needless to say, many Japanese shops are on the list, since Japanese are workaholics and want to settle their meals quickly; they excel in one-bowl meal.
One down side about these budget meals, however, is that it is often unhealthy, deep-fried or with lots of fats. At least 8 out of 10 shops here won’t be getting the HPB healthy logo. I do wish in 2017, we can see cheap and healthy non-salad food on the list. Health food is always so expensive.
These are the 10 Best Budget Meals Under $20 for 2016:
#10. Fish and Chicks
Fish and Chicks started the trend of adding salted egg yolk to fish and chips ($9.90), and many Western food stall chains began to copy them. Because of their creativity, the small stall at Ang Mo Kio kopitiam quickly expanded within a month or 2; they now also operate from a stall at Cineleisure food court.
#9. Park Bench Deli
Chef Ming Tan, formerly from Lolla, which BBC calls the best 10 eateries in the world, started this takeaway hipster sandwich shop. The sandwiches go for $15 to $17. Recommended: cheese steak sandwich ($16), packed with sliced beef brisket with molten cheese sauce.
#8. Xin Hao Ramen
The Singapore-inspired ramen restaurant, set up by 3 Singaporean friends, serves very affordable ramen at about $11. Their broth is packed with collagen, and will coagulate when left alone for 30 seconds. There is a choice between lean or fatty char siew. I’d rank the ramen as top 10 ramen in Singapore.
#7. Face to Face
We have returned to the Sarawak family brand, Face to Face, many times after our initial review. Their delicious noodles range from $8.90-$12.90. They use a higher proportion of egg to flour in their noodles; it’s very smooth and silkier, gliding down the throat. Recommended: Hot & Spicy Pan Mee ($8.90); soup pan mee ($8.90); hakka yong tau foo (5 pcs $7.50) made fresh daily.
#6. Bonta Bonta
Bonta Bonta, which means “Japanese way of thinking,” specializes in rice. It uses kinme mai, or rice that doesn’t require washing by using the latest rice-milling technology, retaining a “sub-aleurone layer,” so that it’s sweeter, and has more vitamins but less calories than normal rice. There are pretty expensive donburi (rice bowl) here, but the most delicious, unagi don is at $15/$28. It’s sprinkled generously with shichimi, or 七味 powder, which gives it a spicy, sweet kick. There seems to be cloves and cardamom in the powder, pungent, choking and shiok for me. We got the $15 bowl but if you can splurge, it’s worth going for the bigger bowl.
#5. Kin Cow
Singapore owners got the traditional Thai beef noodles recipe from Mr Ruud and his wife in Bangkok where they have 11 Sud Yod Kuay Teow Reua (boat noodles) outlets. They use Australian or Japanese beef, and the noodles come in a lardy sauce, aromatic of shallot oil. Recommended: Australian brisket noodles DRY ($10.90).
#4. Tempura Kohaku
After the tendon craze that is sparked off by Tendon Ginza Itsuki at Tanjong Pagar, the only worthy contender of Itsuki for the best tendon is Tempura Kohaku. What separates Kohaku is their special spicy sweet sauce that gets better and better with each bite; the sweetness of the sauce is so addictive. For so many ingredients, $15 a bowl is a steal.
Whenever we have a fried chicken craving, we only go to the halal Arnold’s Fried Chicken. Why settle for second best, baby, put yourself to the test. There is always a long queue for the chicken, but it is worth it. We’ve seen a man eating a whole fried chicken himself! But this is a place without judgement. 2-person combo meal goes for $24.60.
#2. Tsuta Singapore
Tsuta is the first and only ramen shop in the world to receive a Michelin star. Their broth is lighter than the traditional bowl of ramen, which makes me think that this bowl is more “Westernized” and more international. Recommended: Truffle shoyu ramen ($15-$22.80, depending on toppings).
The cheapest Michelin-starred meal you can get at $3 a plate of chicken rice. A whole chicken is only at $14. The skin is sweet and gelatinous, not disgustingly and slimy, and the meat, even the breast, was tender like baby’s ass. A piece just glides deep down the throat. Divine! Also get the wonderful char siew. They now have a restaurant at 78 Smith Street, Singapore 058972.
Written by A. Nathanael Ho.