Move aside, Daiso. The stampede of Singapore customers has moved from the famous $2 discount store to a new Japanese cheap retailer in town: Don Quijote, better known as Don Don Donki.
Ever since the Japanese retailer opened its first discount store at Orchard Central late last year, Singaporeans have been buying up the entire shop. And now, Don Don Donki has 4 outlets in Singapore… Rejoice!
If you're not a regular customer, though, going to Don Don Donki can be a dizzying affair, no thanks to the illogical layout, crowded aisles and 20,000 signs screaming for your attention.
It's like going to Mustafa, ONLY WORSE. Because their stupid theme song keeps blaring its way into your brain, and will continue to haunt you for weeks.
Before you get overwhelmed, here's our super scientific guide to the cheapest and most worthwhile items to buy at this discount Japanese supermarket.
DON DON DONKI SWEET POTATO & OTHER READY-TO-EAT FOODPhoto: MoneySmart
If the long queues (and ever-pervasive aroma) are anything to go by, the star attraction here is undoubtedly the famous Don Don Donki sweet potato, which costs $2.80 a piece and is "shocking delicious".Photo: MoneySmart
Sweet potato aside, there's a variety of snack foods outside Don Don Donki, like grilled scallops ($2.50), oden ($3.50 to $6), a banana cake "hot dog" ($2.90), fried mochi ($2.50) and Hokkaido milk latte ($2.50 to $2.90).Photo: MoneySmart Photo: MoneySmart Photo: MoneySmart
But don't stop outside Don Don Donki - if you brave the crowds and venture in, there are a lot more ready-to-eat items available, like salmon aburi sushi ($5 for 5 pieces), onigiri ($1.80), yakisoba ($3.90) and tori karaage ($7.90 for a large box).
Of course, with these prices, you're not going to get Japanese restaurant-quality food, but if you just want some random fried rubbish to go with your booze (see next section), they're the ticket.
ALCOHOL: JAPANESE WHISKEY, SAKE, BEER & SHOCHUPhoto: MoneySmart
Speaking of booze, Don Don Donki is a nice place to pick up slightly fancier drinks than boring old Tiger. Their product range is a little limited - it's a Japanese supermarket, not a liquor shop - but it's definitely a worthy place to visit if you're not particular about your booze.
There are signs everywhere boasting that they've got the cheapest Suntory beer in town: $4.50 a can and $22.90 per 6-pack.Photo: MoneySmart
But the real fun is in the sake section. Not many places in Singapore sell such a wide selection of sake in 2 litre cartons. If you're not much of a sake snob (i.e. your priority is getting wasted) then you can't beat the $48 Nomonomo carton in terms of value. Typically, you would expect to pay at least $50 for a large carton of sake like that.
$10 MEATS SECTION: SHABU SHABU, SUKIYAKI, YAKINIKU BEEF & PORKPhoto: MoneySmart Photo: MoneySmart Photo: MoneySmart
If you don't drink or party, the section that most likely to make you go wild is Don Don Donki's $10 meat section. That's right, it's a section with chiller upon chiller of prepackaged fresh beef and pork at just $10 a pack - the Daiso of premium meats. Here's what's available:
-American Angus beef - shabu shabu
-American Angus beef - sukiyaki
-American Angus beef - yakiniku (bulgolgi)
-Hokkaido Wagyu beef - burger patties
-Kurobuta pork shoulder - shabu shabu
-Hokkaido pork collar - shabu shabu
-Hokkaido pork loin / belly - sukiyaki
-Hokkaido pork belly - yakiniku
-Hokkaido pork - breaded croquettes
-Japanese pork - breaded tonkotsu
Everything is either pre-prepared or pre-sliced into one of 3 thicknesses: shabu shabu (thinnest), sukiyaki (very slightly thicker) and yakiniku (thickest).
Considering it's fresh meat, not frozen, the price is very competitive. For example, meat wholesaler MMMM sells Angus grain fed beef shabu shabu slices at $12.80 for 200g and generic sukiyaki beef at $8.80 for 200g.
At Don Don Donki, the amount in each meat package is typically around 250g (varies slightly), which makes it about 10 per cent cheaper than wholesale.
JAPANESE SEAFOOD: HOKKAIDO UNI AT $58/100GPhoto: MoneySmart
As you would expect of a typical Japanese supermarket, Don Don Donki's seafood section is super fresh and stuffed full of Atlantic salmon of different grades: sashimi grade ($6.80/100g), fillets for cooking ($4.30/100g), salmon skin ($2.90 a large pack) and bone ($5 a large pack).
But while prices are affordable, they're not crazy cheap. For example, you can buy fresh salmon fillets from RedMart for approx. $2.95/100g.
What's really remarkable at Don Don Donki, though, is the uni - as in sea urchin. Where else would you get an uni + salmon don for less than $10?!Photo: MoneySmart Photo: MoneySmart
GROCERIES: JAPANESE CURRY, GYOZA, FURIKAKE, NATTO & JAPANESE RICEPhoto: MoneySmart Photo: MoneySmart Photo: MoneySmart Photo: MoneySmart Photo: MoneySmart Photo: MoneySmart
Apart from fresh meats and seafood, Don Don Donki is an excellent place to pick up Japanese groceries and pantry staples.
Think Japanese rice, furikake, frozen gyoza, udon, natto, Japanese curry and assorted sauces. Even breakfast items are covered: Don Don Donki has the best prices in town for the bestselling Calbee cereal (Frugara granola) and Japanese drip coffee.
I'll just let this table speak for itself:Photo: MoneySmart
JAPANESE SNACKS: JAPANESE KIT KAT, CALPIS, CUP NOODLES & MOREPhoto: MoneySmart Photo: MoneySmart Photo: MoneySmart Photo: MoneySmart Photo: MoneySmart
You can't go to Don Don Donki without buying a mountain of I mean, a respectable amount of Japanese snacks.
Doing this requires a bit of digging as junk food is kind of scattered all over the place. But if you're patient, you'll find many Japanese snacks that are not easy to find in Singapore. Here are my picks for what you absolutely must not leave without buying:
Bourbon biscuits - Choco & Coffee / Choco Digestive / Bitter Cocoa / Butter Cookies / Choco Chips ($2.50 at Don Don Donki, $3.30 or non-existent elsewhere)
-Kameda Seed Snack 6-pack ($3.90 at Don Don Donki, $4.50 and up elsewhere)
-Mount Fuji Strawberry Cheesecake Kit Kat ($9.90 for 9 pieces, $15 on Lazada)
-Sake Kit Kat ($11.90 for 9 pieces, can't find elsewhere)
-Calpis Concentrate 1L Pack ($9.80 at Don Don Donki, $16 at Meidi-Ya)
-Cup noodles (many different brands & prices - go for the ones in the bins which are usually on discount)
DON DON DONKI OUTLETS IN SINGAPORE
Don Don Donki now has four outlets in Singapore. The outlet at Orchard Central is the only one that is open 24 hours.
-Don Don Donki at Orchard Central
Address: 181 Orchard Road, B1 & B2, Orchard Central Singapore 238896
Opening hours: 24 hours
-Don Don Donki at 100 AM
Address: 100 Tras St,Level 2 & 3 100AM Singapore 079027
Opening hours: 9 am to 12 am daily
-Don Don Donki at City Square Mall
Address: 180 Kitchener Road City Square Mall B2 Singapore 208539
Opening hours: 9 am to 12 am daily
-Don Don Donki at Square 2
Address: 10 Sinaran Drive, #B1-01 to #B1-85 Singapore 307506
Opening hours: 8 am to 12 am daily
This article was first published in MoneySmart.