Singapore is one of the most culturally rich melting pots in the world. As a seaport located on the tip of the Malay peninsula in Southeast Asia, Singapore is most well known for its wide array of delicious Chinese, India, and Malay food. If you love to eat your way through your travels, Singapore is the place for you.
If you are a dedicated foodie, Hawker Centers are the go-to place for you. Hawker Centers are one of Singapore’s most famous dining styles. At these bustline food courts, dozens of stalls serve a variety of tasty, inexpensive foods, ranging from the well known Nasi Padang, originally imported from Indonesia, to Singaporean fish head curry. No matter what you are craving, you can probably find it at one of the following Singapore Hawker Centers:
The biggest, busiest, and (arguably) most famous hawker center in Singapore just might be the Chinatown Complex Food Centre. As the name suggests, this hawker center focuses on all things Chinese, from chili crab and chicken wings to Hokkien mee and bak kut teh. A variety of well-known food stalls are ready and waiting to fulfill your foodie dreams, including the China La Mian Xiao Long Bao, which specializes in steamed dumplings (which is what xiao long bao means in Chinese), Hai Sing Ah Balling (which serves Teochew style dumplings), and Zhao Ji Clay Pot Rice (which is known for, of course, its various clay pot rice dishes).
This 100-stall-large hawker center was first built in 1978 in the Chinatown area. Some of the more famous stalls include the Famous Sungei Road Trishaw Laksa, which was featured in a Michelin Guide, and Ah Heng Curry, which serves curry bowls with optional toppings such as taupok, fishcake, or boneless Hainanese chicken fillet. If you’re craving bak chor mee (minced pork noodles) or bak kut teh (pork bone soup), this is a great place to get your fix.
According to a 2010 survey, thousands of food lovers voted the Old Airport Road Food Center as their favorite Singaporean hawker center. And it’s no wonder why: this hawker center, which once served as the site of Singapore’s first civil airport (Kallang Airport) and only transformed into a food center in 1973 after Singapore’s International Airport opened in Paya Lebar.
The Old Airport Road Hawker Centre boasts over 150 food stalls many of which have their loyal fans. Some recommended hawker stalls include:
- Dong Ji Fried Kway Teow, a stall so popular that lunchtime usually features long lines of people waiting for their plate of fried char kway teow. These spicy eggy noodles are certainly a huge hit!
- Toast Hut: Don’t forget to try Singapore’s signature kaya toast. The owner of this stall, Melvin Soh, started working in the kaya toast business when he was only 17 years old, and Toast Hut has been around now for over a decade. For breakfast, order some kaya toast and home-brewed coffee. For lunch, fresh sandwiches made with kaya toast and blended ice coffee will hit the spot.
- Unkai Japanese Cuisine: Singapore is known for culture blending, so is it any surprise that you can find some of the best classic Japanese udon, soba, and tempura seafood at one of the best hawker centers in the city?
The Tiong Bahru hawker center is one of Singapore’s oldest markets. Located in a neighborhood that meshes old and new, the Tiong Bahru Food Centre is well known for its cafes and delicious hawker foods, from the thin and savory Min Nan Prawn Noodles (great for breakfast or lunch!) to Lee Hong Kee Roast Meat, featuring fatty char siew rice and crispy roast meat for the meat lover in your life.
Some of the newer additions to this beloved hawker centre include the Tiong Bahru Bakery, known for their flaky croissants and artisanal baked goods; Plain Villa, which features fluffy cupcakes, monthly specials, and even children’s workshops; and Forty Hands, a hipster coffee business that uses green coffee beans sourced internationally and roasted locally, paired with a variety of foods including falafel–yes, falafel.
To get your fix of authentic Malay food, check out Geylang Serai, one of the biggest Malay enclaves in Singapore. Looking for Nasi Biryani? Look no more. The Haji Mohd Yussof Warong Nasi is here for you. Craving putu piring? The famous 24-hour Haig Road Putu Piring stall sells five pieces for $2. If you want nasi padang, the Hajjah Mona Nasi Padang stall is ready to serve, and don’t forget to get your satay at Alhambra satay. Everything is sedap! (That’s “delicious” in Malay)
If you want to better understand the local Malay culture, check out also the Geylang Serai market with its Malay style Minangkabau roof design which is frequented mostly by Malay and Indian Muslims living in Singapore.
Although smaller in size than some of the other hawker centers, the Chomp Chomp Food Centre is packed night after night and ready to serve up a feast. If you’re interested in chowing down on some oyster omelets, fried carrot cakes, chicken satay, or Hokkien mee, this is a fantastic place to satisfy your hungry tummy. Ah, Hock Fried Hokkien Mee is one of the more popular stalls, with lines that last up to 45 minutes long. And no wonder, as the owner fries the noodles in prawn-and-pork-bone broth until the aromatic dish is placed before you–perfect with a dab of chili sauce! And don’t forget Stay Bee Hoon which sells both satay bee hoon noodles with satay peanut gravy and Hainanese beef noodles.
Hawker centres are the heart of Singaporean food culture, and since Singaporeans love food so much, one could argue that they are the heart of Singapore itself. Certainly, you can’t visit Singapore without visiting a handful of them for yourself. Visit one, two, or all of the hawker centres listed above to create delicious memories that will last a lifetime!