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The ultimate food guide to Singapore Management University

Marcella Greenholt

After long, laborious, and grueling classes, students would be going out of classrooms with one hand on their empty stomachs and the other on their near-empty pockets. For old timers, choosing a place to eat would be a cinch. But for freshmen, finding cheap but clean and delicious food may prove difficult.

It pays to be street-smart and to save up some money for a rainy day (or for when a busload of handouts need to be photocopied). One lesson most of us learn the hard way is that university life can be a tad expensive, thus the need for practicality.

Let’s jump in starting with student-friendly meals to all the food stores near the Singapore Management University and discover your new favorite fare! I try to list down as complete as possible an gastronomic guide of meals with a budget of Singapore dollars $7.00 or less. It is still considered quite expensive compared to other universities in Singapore. This is due to the reason that Singapore Management University is located right in the heart of the city. 

Places you can get meals under SGD $7

1. Isle Eating House

@2F, Parklane Shopping Mall

Situated along Selegie Road and accessible via PoMo, Isle Eating House is one of my personal favorites. 

They offer a selection of stir-fried Chinese (locally called zi char) dishes and decent western food but their mixed rice is by far the most popular choice of their regular customers. A combination of two vegetables and a meat/fish dish will set you back $3.30. A drink, either a tea or coffee, is a further $1.30, bringing the total bill to $4.60.


2. Food Republic   

@1F, Manulife Centre

Directly opposite the road from SIS, Food Republic (formerly known as Kopitiam) is perhaps one of the first food courts that visitors notice when they come to SMU. 

So when you’re in a hurry, it’s a good choice because it’s conveniently located near to the university. 

Food is mostly average and some of the better stalls are the Thai stalls which serve green curry with fried rice. I would recommend the pork ramen and chicken ramen from the food court's ramen stall. The mixed rice stall is also a good choice but some dishes are better than others. 

If you are looking for some kind of discount for frequent visitors to Food Republic, you can apply for a kopitiam "Institution" Silver card which you can top-up with cash. This will give you 20% student discount on food and drinks purchased at any of the outlets at Manulife Center. You can apply at the dim sum stall.


3. Subway

@1F, SMU SIS

Across the road from Kopitiam is a food chain that does not need any introduction and probably the most recognizable one on this list, Subway. You can order their $5.00 deal (6-inch sub, 16oz drink). It’s not on their menu but nevertheless, available. They also run a loyalty programme through the use of Perx, a mobile application that you can download. Any 6-inch sub entitles one to a 'chop', a footlong gives two 'chops', and nine chops gives you a free $5.00 deal. The branch is tiny, so no indoor seating but it is air-conditioned.


4. Subway.... again

@ B1, POMO

Exactly the same as the SMU branch. In fact, both outlets are owned by the same franchisee. So do not be surprised if you see a store employee running over from the SMU branch to PoMo just to get some emergency supply of bread from time to time.


5. Koufu

@1F, SMU Concourse

Koufu is another food court that is located right in the middle of the basement concourse, underneath the Library. Amongst the mixed-rice stalls around campus, the one at Koufu is the one I visit the least. 

The Thai stall does a little better than the rest (they have pretty much the same stuff on their menu as the Thai stall at the Food Republic). 

Another stall of note is the Western stall. You could try the fish and chips for large and filling meal, or the chicken chop spaghetti if you're looking for a non-fried flavourful meal. Queues form quickly though, so go early. 

SMU students are supposed to get discounts at Koufu when they flash their matriculation card at the cashier. The discounted amount varies, from 15 cents to 50 cents.


6. Waterloo Centre Coffeeshop

@Waterloo Centre 

Tucked a little way down Waterloo Street is a comprehensive coffeeshop with a directly translated name "Food Summons". The mixed-rice stall has a very decent spread with very economical prices: $2.70 for a 2 vegetables and 1 meat/fish meal.  The drinks are reasonably-priced as well, for example their iced milk tea which cost $1.20. The stall of note, however, is the one with char kway teow (stir-fried flat noodle with black soy sauce). The $3.00 serving is more than enough for me and the cockles they use are fresh. They also sell other favourites such as fried hokkien mee (Chinese yellow noodle, commonly with seafood), which is around $3.50 for smallest portion. 

Honorable mention goes to the chicken rice stall (Leong Yeow). The chicken rice they serve sometimes makes an appearance during school camps as a convenient source of takeaway food. 

There is also a western stall that more or less clones the popular Astons Express outlet (down to the font and branding!). It is called "Steak Hut".  You might want to give it a try, though it can get pricey. All in all, this coffeeshop is definitely one worth visiting if you're looking for a little more variety and don't fancy taking too long of a walk.


7. Kopitiam

@6F, Plaza Singapura

If you have time and are willing to make the 10-15 minute walk to Plaza Singapura, this branch of Kopitiam has a far wider range of options than the Manulife branch. However, the student Kopitiam card only imparts a 10% discount at the Plaza Singapura branch.


8. Tea Party

@1F, SMU SOE/SOSS 

This black-painted unmarked stall (except for the small signboard) on the first floor of the SOE/SOSS building can be recognized by the hollering of order numbers by the lady inside to let customers know that their order is ready. The store serves pasta, cooked in a number of ways. Your $4.80 gets you a box of spaghetti and a cup of iced lemon tea which doesn’t taste that good. The box doesn't contain much ingredients. You're essentially getting hastily boiled pasta topped off with an unremarkable salty sauce mix. The few times I've eaten there have left me unsatisfied. For $4.80, you could get a much more satisfying meal elsewhere. And if the food doesn't turn you off soon enough, the ridiculous queue during lunch time will.


9. Hotel G Restaurant

@1F, BIG Hotel

Located along Bencoolen Street and opposite Sunshine Plaza, this is one of the few 24-hour eating places around campus. All types of Indian and Malay cuisines are available here. Good for supper during camps and the (hopefully) rare occasions that you may need to stay overnight in school.


10. CHIPPY British Takeaway

@B1, Raffles City, Plaza Singapura

CHIPPY is a great place to satisfy that fried food craving. As the name suggests, it is takeaway only, so you'll have to probably eat at one of the benches around the campus. Yes, all the guilty pleasure that fried food brings us....


11. 3838 Eating Place

@52 Queen St.

I have not been here but I have heard good things about it. The Roasted Delights stall is good and most importantly has a meal for $2.50. It is now on my list of places to check out personally. If you're a fan of roasted meat (char siew), you might want to give it a shot, too.

For occasional indulgence: meals above SGD $7

12. Standing Sushi Bar 

@8 Queen's Street

Occupying a lot on the side of Singapore Art Museum, SSB is known for their $3 salmon sashimi on Monday and Thursday nights. Unfortunately, this draws a long line long before the doors open, so I haven't tried it yet. Do note that they have schedules for lunch and dinner so you have to check beforehand and show up early to avoid the long queue.


13. Pepper Lunch Express

@6F, Plaza Singapura, Kopitiam

The hot plate (teppan) quick service outlet from Japan is here! Shrunk to fit a food court stall within Plaza Singapura's Kopitiam, their signature dishes, Beef Pepper Rice and Curry Rice, are available here.


14. Astons Specialities

@4F, The Cathay

Serving western cuisine, this outlet has a nice spacious layout with a decent food.


15. Din Tai Fung

@1F, Manulife Centre

Din Tai Fung serves chinese food. The most famous dish would be their xiao long bao (chinese steamed buns)You can read more about it here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Xiaolongbao


16. Tim Ho Wan

@1F, Plaza Singapura

If you manage to get to the front of the queue, good for you! Tim Ho Wan (chinese: 添好é


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By Marcella Greenholt