Postcards of the city skyline, Merlion keychains, magnets, and maybe an “I ♥ SG” shot glass. Chances are, these are your go-tos when it comes to getting souvenirs for your friends and family overseas.
But Singapore has more than these tchotchkes you know will end up forgotten on a shelf. If you’re scratching your noggin wondering what to get, some of our non-local friends living here shared their best souvenir recommendations. Here are 8 different ones you can get:
“You can hardly go wrong with getting chocolates to share among friends and colleagues,” says Morgan. But the Australian medical professional is discerning about the choccies she gets for her mates back home. She skips the ones shaped like the Merlion and goes straight for the artisanal bonbons from Janice Wong.
Image credit: @janicewongsg
“I like that Janice Wong has bonbons that incorporate local flavours and ingredients,” she says. Some of the more memorable ones she’s gotten include Gula Melaka Pandan, Kopi Coffee, and Chili Padi. “They make great conversation starters too,” she shares.
DIY your own chocolate bar at the Mr Bucket Chocolaterie.
Janice Wong is not the only local chocolate maker in town. You can be your own Willy Wonka when you visit the new Mr Bucket Chocolaterie at Dempsey. Mr Bucket has a make-your-own station where you can pick what toppings you’d like for your own bar.
2. Leather accessories
Singapore’s probably not the first place you’d think of to buy leather accessories like handbags and shoes. But brands like Charles & Keith (C&K) have a growing fanbase overseas. It’s why you’ll see large crowds at their outlet in Changi Airport throughout the day.
Another brand making headway overseas is Tocco Toscano, which has vegan leather options alongside their traditional leather ones. And no, it’s not cheap PVC. Rather, the plant-based leather is made from apple waste so it’s more environmentally friendly.
Bag strap and wallet from the Tocco Toscano x Singapore Airlines collaboration.
Image credit: @kerninrek
The sustainable brand has also taken to upcycling discarded materials. In a collab with Singapore Airlines, aeroplane belt buckles and life jackets were repurposed into accessories like bag straps and wallets.
3. Local snacks
Everyone knows Singapore for its food. So while it’s quite impossible to cart home your fave hawker delights, you can at least pack up local snacks to share with your loved ones back home.
Bee Cheng Hiang grills their bak kwa fresh daily.
Image credit: Eatbook
We hear that friends from Hong Kong hanker after bak kwa, a sweet and salty meat jerky that is often served during Chinese New Year. Many Hong Kong visitors would make it a point to drop by Bee Cheng Hiang on their way to the airport. What’s popular are the single serving snack packs so it’s easy to keep a stash with you whenever you’re feeling peckish.
Image credit: @thegoldenduck.sg
If you’ve got a more adventurous palate, give salted egg yolk fish skin a try. Those ingredients don’t sound like they go well together, but any local would tell you that this combi can be quite addictive. The novel snack can be found just about anywhere, with brands like The Golden Duck available in major supermarkets and convenience stores.
4. TCM oils & supplements
It can be hard to shop for older folk who may not appreciate snacks as souvenirs as much. But friends from the Philippines shared that they would pick up supplements and medicated oil for their parents and grandparents back home.
Singapore has quite a reputation for its traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), with brands like Eu Yan Sang and Eagle going back more than 100 years.
Eu Yan Sang sells herbal tonics like this Papaya Leaf Essence that improves the immune system and is even used to treat dengue symptoms.
Image credit: @euyansang_singapore
At Eu Yan Sang, you can get a range of supplements concocted from natural herbs and ingredients that support healthy ageing and immunity. As for Eagle, their medicated oil is a hit among old folks for its multiple purposes. It can be used to treat headaches, stomachaches, and even joint pains.
If you’ve got someone special waiting for you back home, jewellery lets them know you’ve been thinking about them.
That’s a real orchid.
Image adapted from: Risis Official
That’s what James, a marketing manager in Singapore, picks out for his mum when he goes home to the UK. “I used to get her fresh flowers then I discovered Risis,” he shares. The brand gold-plates real orchids for its pieces, creating a forever bloom of the national flower of Singapore.
Eden + Elie.
Image credit: @threadbareandsquirrel
Local motifs also make an appearance in Eden + Elie’s jewellery too. Their bangles and necklaces take inspiration from Peranakan beaded slippers, using the same beading techniques and patterns.
6. Pre-made sauces
The one thing that Tint’s parents missed after they visited him in Singapore was the food, glorious food. To satiate their cravings for laksa, chilli crab, and chicken rice, the graphic designer from Myanmar ships back pre-made sauces for them to make these local dishes at home.
Image credit: @jumboseafoodsg
“They tried recreating these dishes from scratch but they never turn out quite the same,” he shares. The tried-and-tested favourites for his family are the ones from Prima Taste and Jumbo Seafood. “These taste like the real deal and make it easy to whip up our fave dishes,” he explains.
Image credit: @primataste
If you have absolutely no affinity with cooking at all, Tint recommends the ready meal kits from Prima Taste. These retort bags only need to be microwaved for less than 2 minutes. You’ll get a proper serving of meals like curry chicken with rice that come with actual chunks of meat.
7. Unique home decor
If you’re all about that minimalist lifestyle, we understand not wanting to take home another trinket that’s going to collect dust. Instead, get unique home decor that’s both functional and work as a memento.
The One Singapore plate features local icons that are updated annually.
Image credit: @supermamasg
Lifestyle brand Supermama has just the thing with their Singapore Blue porcelain dining ware. It’s a popular brand with tourists, who snap these up at the outlet at the National Museum Singapore. The collection of plates are printed in Singapore icons like Marina Bay Sands, the Fountain of Wealth from Suntec City, and Supertrees from Gardens By The Bay.
Decals to make your own Singapore Blue piece of porcelain.
Image adapted from: @supermamasg
Make these plates even more personal by signing up for the Supermama Bento Workshop Experience. You start off with a plain, white porcelain plate or cup. Then it’s up to you to stick on as many decals of local landmarks, flora, and animals as you desire to customise your piece.
8. Modern batik prints
Those souvenir tees that say “Singapore is a fine city” make for a cute gag gift. But for something your giftee would probably wear, batik clothing remains a popular choice for tourists.
Image credit: Galerie Tokokita
The traditional Indonesian textile dyeing method has gotten a modern twist recently, with Baju by Oniatta modernising patterns and designs to reinvent the way batik is worn and appreciated.
Image credit: Galerie Tokokita
Baju by Oniatta used to be available at pop-up events only, but had to settle into a shop in Kampong Glam due to high demand from locals for a more permanent space to browse the goods.
You’ll find a wide selection of garments, such as culottes, dresses, and jackets all printed using batik. These come in matching sets but feel free to mix contrasting prints to create a bold outfit that would look good in #OOTD snaps or a night about town.
We’ve heard from non-locals living in Singapore, now here’s a recommendation from a local: Singapore-made skincare. That’s what Min likes to buy as gifts for her besties visiting our sunny isle.
Kew Organics uses organic ingredients in their skincare products.
Image adapted from: Kew Organics Facial Bar
“A lot of international brands can be quite harsh, since they’re formulated for colder and drier climates,” she explains. She’s found that Singapore brands, however, are more suitable for warm and humid climates.
Caring Skin’s Soothing Hydra Mask.
Image credit: @caringskin
To welcome her buds to Singapore, Min would throw together gift baskets containing hydrating masks, serums, and ampoules from local brands like Kew Organics and Caring Skin. This helps keep her friends’ skin in tiptop shape for all the photo-taking they’ll be doing while on vacation.
Best souvenirs to bring home from Singapore
Not only are these recommendations unique and meaningful, getting them means you’d be supporting Singaporean enterprises. All the brands featured are listed under Made With Passion. The directory highlights Singaporean lifestyle brands that have been born out of ambition and determination in the pursuit of excellence.
You’ll find these brands islandwide in sectors like beauty and wellness, fashion and accessories, homeware and decor, and food and beverage. There are currently 111 brands on the list, with plans to add more in the future. For now, these 111 can be easily spotted all over Singapore bearing the Made With Passion logo.
The next time you’re tasked to get keepsakes from Singapore, have this list handy for souvenirs that aren’t just local but support local too.
Find out more about Made With Passion brands here
This post was brought to you by the Singapore Tourism Board.
Cover image adapted from: @janicewongsg, @jumboseafoodsg, @supermamasg, Galerie Tokokita