Asia Pacific Guides™
A guide to the best hawker centres
Singapore is one of Asia's gourmet capitals and
although it is home to many of the continent's
fanciest restaurants, it also boasts thousands of
cheap food joints, where you can indulge on a variety
of local delicacies for a fraction of what it costs to
dine in a restaurant…
Many of those cheap and fabulous eateries can be
found in the city's numerous hawker centres.
Hawker Centres, for those of you who still don't
know, are one of the best things Singapore has to
offer to its visitors, and visiting the city-state without Hawker Centres are frequently visited by health
eating at one of them is as unthinkable as visiting inspectors, which means they are reasonably clean
Paris without dining in a "Bistro", or visiting Istanbul and eating in them should not be a problem at all...
without having a Döner Kebab in a small bazaar The atmosphere, obviously, is unpretentious and
stall..... there is nothing much in the way of glitzy décor or
perfect table settings... On the other hand, you are in
These 'institutions' started to spring up almost fifty Singapore, which means you are not likely to find a
years ago, when spanking clean Singapore decided to place that is too messy or rowdy... (Not to mention
move its food hawkers from the streets and regulate filthy), and you do have a chance to get to know
them a bit… some locals, who will be happy to lend you some
advice on the food...
The "Singapore City Pass" makes a good choice
for those of you who want to explore the city by As already mentioned, Hawker Centres are also very
themselves, with a full day of unlimited Hop On reasonable on prices and make a great evening-out
Hop Off Bus sightseeing, as well as well as a trip for most Singaporeans, who normally prefer to have
on an amphibious vehicle… their dinner-out-of-home in those centres. (In some
cases, SG$ 10 will be enough to buy you a meal you
can't even finish...)
The concept is quite simple : A number of different
food stalls are grouped under one roof and share a Discover Singapore with those who know it best!
common seating area, which works out great for Click here to view our choice of city-tours and
groups, as each one can fetch his food from a activities.
different stall and share it with friends...
What are 'food courts' and what is the difference In many Hawker centers, food will be first served to
between them and 'Hawker Centres' ? your table (you will have to tell them your table
number when placing the order) and you will pay
Unlike Hawker Centres (which are also sometimes
only after you've been served. However, in an
called Food Centres), Food courts are normally
increasing number of Hawker centres you are
located within modern shopping malls (mostly on the
expected to pay as you order and carry your food to
lower floors) and are quite similar to what is known
as 'Food Courts' in Europe and North America
(although you can find a wider range of authentic
What can you order in a 'Hawker Centre' or at a
food options here... Mainly thanks to those
local eatery ?
successful Hawker-Centre folks who decided to span
their wings...). There are so many different delicacies you can order
. in Singapore's Hawker Centres and local eateries, I
Food Courts are typically more expensive (and can't even describe a quarter of them… I will,
somewhat less authentic) than Hawker Centres, and however, tell you about the most popular of them…
their main advantage is their location within the
city's large shopping malls, which means they make a Hainanese Chicken Rice, one of "Singapore's national
good lunch break option for shoppers (and they are dishes", is named after the island of Hainan, in South
air conditioned). China, where it originates from. This popular dish
contains sliced chicken, which is prepared in
And what about 'Kopitiams' ? What the heck are traditional Hainanese methods and served with
they ? aromatic rice that has been prepared with pandan
leaves. The dish is then served with a variety of
The popular Kopitiam (or Kopi tiam) is a traditional
sauces, including chili, ginger and dark soy sauce.
breakfast-joint and coffee shop that can be found in
almost all residential areas, as well as in many
Singapore Chilli Crab is one of the city-state's iconic
industrial and business districts. The menu of the
dishes, made with hard-shell crabs, cooked in a thick
average Kopitiam will typically feature simple
spicy gravy, with a piquant tomato chili base, garlic
offerings, such as toasts (served with the locally
and mixed spices. It combines both Chinese and
popular Kaya spread, or with other stuff), a variety
Malay influences and has been a favorite among
of eggs, coffee, tea and Milo.
Singaporeans and visitors from all over the world
(Singapore Pepper Crab is also very popular).
Singaporean coffee is pretty sweet (prepared with
condensed milk) but the folks at the Kopitiam can
Laksa, a well-known Peranakan favorite and a
also make it to your taste... One more think you
serious candidate to the "Singapore's national dish"
should try is Teh tarik (Frothy and bubbly Malaysian-
title, is a rich, coconut-based curry soup, with tofu
style tea, with condensed milk)
puffs, fish sticks, shrimp and cockles. Some places
may serve Chicken Laksa, which uses chicken instead
The "Singapore Flexi Pack" allows you to save of shrimp.
over 40% on Singapore's BEST attractions and
sightseeing. Yong Tau Foo is the Hakka's most significant
contribution to Singapore's cuisine.
This soup-based dish consists of tofu cubes heaped
with minced meat (usually pork) and herbs, then
How does it work ? How do you order your food in a
fried until golden brown, or sometimes braised.
'Hawker Centre' ?
Many Hawker centers are busy, so if there's a group Bak Kut Teh (Pork Rib Tea Soup) is a popular Chinese
of you, ask one of the friends to seat at the table and soup that consists of meaty pork ribs in a complex
keep it for the rest of you (to "chope" in local jargon), broth of herbs and spices (including star anise,
then stroll around the whole centre and see what the cinnamon, cloves, dang gui and garlic), boiled
different stalls have on offer (and which one of them together with pork bones for hours...
has the most appetizing aroma), before you place
Char Kway Teow (fried flat noodles) is a popular What are Singapore's top hawker centres (and what
Southeast Asian dish, consisting of flat rice noodles stalls are worth queuing for) ?
which are fried over very high heat with light and
dark soy sauce, chilli, prawns, cockles, egg, bean There are literally dozens of Hawker Centers and
sprouts and Chinese chives. Sometimes slices of Food Courts throughout Singapore and most of them
Chinese sausage and fish cake are also added. It is are pretty good, but the ones on this list are
fried in pork fat, with crisp croutons of pork lard, exceptionally good (and you can also find particular
which give it its characteristic taste. stall recommendations in each of the recommended
Prawn Mee is a popular dish from neighboring
Malaysia that consists of prawns in a rich and Explore Singapore's less known "gems" through
scrumptious stock of prawns and pork, with Hokkien our range of Unique Day Trips and Guided-
(Fujian) fried egg noodles and flavorful ingredients, Walks !
like fried shallots and spring onion, dried shrimps,
white pepper, garlic and other spices…
Wan Ton Mee is a dish of Mee (noodles) and wanton 1. Chinatown Complex Food Centre on Smith Street
dumplings, with Char siew (BBQ pork) and veggies… (off New Bridge), a short walking distance from MRT-
Chinatown, was renovated just a few years ago...
Ipoh Hor Fun is another Malaysian favorite that Together with the street-side eateries on Smith
consists of wide Chinese rice noodles with loads of Street (Which is commonly known as Chinatown's
crayfish and prawns… food street), it boasts an excellent selection of
Chinese food-stalls and eateries.
Popiah is a Peranakan-style fresh spring roll (looks
more like a rolled crêpe) stuffed with stewed turnip, Five minutes' walk from MRT-Chinatown. Open daily
Chinese sausage, shrimps and lettuce. until late.
Fish Head Curry is the most significant contribution Recommended stalls include: China La Mian Steamed
of the local Indian community to Singapore's culinary Buns (#02-135), Teochew St. Mushroom Minced
scene. The head of a red snapper is semi-stewed in a Meat Noodle (#02-23), Hai Seng Ah Balling (#02-59)
thick curry of assorted vegetables, like okra and and Xiu Ji Ikan Bilis Yong Tau Fu (#02-87/88)
brinjals, and usually served with either rice or Roti
Click HERE to find some of the best rates for
Rojak is an assortment of potatoes, eggs, beancurd
hostels and low-cost accommodations in
and fruits (and sometimes prawns) fried in batter
Singapore and Asia !
and served with a sweet and spicy chili sauce.
Curry-puff is an Indian-Singaporean style savory
snack that consists of a pastry pocket, filled with 2. Maxwell Road Food Centre is another extremely
different stuff (chicken, tuna and so on...), something popular Hawker centre in Chinatown. Located along
between a Samosa and a Pie. Maxwell Road, between URA building and South
Bridge Street (a short walk from Tanjong Pagar, as
Fishball Noodles - This Teochew-style dish consists of well as from MRT-Chinatown). This centre is
either egg or rice noodles, served either in a light particularly famous for its wide choice of traditional
fish-flavored broth or "dry" with the soup on the snacks and finger foods (although there are more
side, with balls from raw fish flesh, fishcake, than a few 'serious dishes' to choose from)
beansprouts and lettuce. Mee Pok; a type of flat
and yellow Chinese noodle, is normally used as the Recommended stalls include: Tian Tian Hainanese
base for this dish. Chicken Rice (#10), Hup Kee Ngoh Hiang (#97) and
China Street Fritters (#64)
Click here to view all our FREE travel eBooks of Singapore, Hong Kong, Macau and Bangkok
3. Makansutra Gluttons Bay is an initiative of 6. Chomp Chomp Food Centre has been around since
Makansutra, Singapore's most reputable publisher of 1972 and although it was renovated, it still maintains
street-food guidebooks, where the city's 12 most its old days charm… The food here is great, and so is
highly-rated hawkers have been given an exclusive the ambience, and you are likely to be one of the
space, just by the Esplanade Theatres (the "Durian") only tourists (although there are more than a few
in Marina Bay. Open daily, 6 pm till 3 am expats who come here for dinner…)
To get there: Direct link from Esplanade MRT Station, Recommended stalls include: Ang Sa Lee Fried Oyster
as well as from City Hall MRT Station (The stalls (#33), Lucy BBQ Seafood (# 6) and Boon Tat Street
operate from the open space, near the waterfront) BBQ Seafood (#8) are both famous for their Grilled
stingray, Ah Hock Hokkien Fried Noodles (#27)
specializes in Hokkien Mee, and Carrot Cake (#36)
4. Tiong Bahru Market is a newly reopened complex, has been serving its splendid carrot cake since the
relatively more spacious and pleasant than the 1970s… To complement the meal, grab a cold
ordinary Hawker Centre, and with a wider selection sugarcane juice at "Ralli" (#2, #7, #22)
of excellent stalls (almost one hundred...) and some
nice 'alfresco' and indoors seats. Although it is not To get here: Chomp Chomp is located at 20
on the ordinary visitor's track, it houses some of Kensington Park Road (next to Serangoon Gardens
Singapore's most popular stalls and is, therefore, Circus): Take bus nos. 315, or 317 from MRT-
worth knowing about... Open daily until late. Serangoon, No. 73 (from MRT-Toa Payoh, or MRT-
Ang Mo Kio) and No. 136 (from MRT-Ang Mo Kio)
Getting to Tiong Bahru Market is not too difficult : A
10 – 15 minutes' walk from MRT-Tiong Bahru (or just
take a cab, it will cost you peanuts…) 7. Golden Mile Food Centre on 505 Beach Road, near
Arab Street and Kampong Glam (just a few steps
How to find the best deals in Asia ? away from Hajjah Fatimah Mosque), is where you
can find many stalls that specialize in fabulous
Instantly compare the world's leading hotel-websites
and get the BEST rates for accommodation in Macau, Muslim foods, both Malay and Indian, alongside a
Hong Kong, Shanghai, Beijing, Bangkok, Singapore, decent variety of other southeast Asian delicacies.
Kuala Lumpur, Seoul, Taipei and elsewhere in Asia!
Open daily, until fairly late.
5. Lau pa sat Festival Market: Originally built in The "Singapore City Pass" makes a good choice
1894 as a fish market, Telok Ayer Market (as it is for those who want to explore the city by
better known) is one of the best and most popular themselves, with a full day of unlimited Hop On
Hawker/Food centres around this side of Chinatown. Hop Off Bus sightseeing, as well as well as a trip
The imposing cast-iron structure of the market was on an amphibious vehicle.
prefabbed in Glasgow, Scotland, more than a century
ago and shipped to Singapore in pieces, before being 8. Geylang Serai Market, one of Singapore's most
erected on site. popular and authentic markets, has reopened in its
Open daily: from 12 noon till the wee hours of the new location just a few years ago and is one of the
night. (Some stalls, like the Kopi-Tiams, are open main draws for travellers around this part of
from morning...) Geylang.
During the evening, neighboring Boon Tat Street is
closed to give way for hawkers, who set their open- Being the main market for Singapore's Muslim-Malay
air BBQ Satay stalls out there… community, it boasts many spice shops, as well as
small boutiques where traditional clothes are sold,
Getting there: From MRT Raffles Place Station: Take alongside cheap jewelleries and a wide choice of
exit F to Cecil Street, turn back as soon as you come stalls selling scrumptious street foods and snacks…
out of the station and walk a few steps to the corner,
where you turn right to Robinson Road. After a few Recommended stalls include: Hajjah Mona Nasi
minutes' walk you will see the market on your right. Padang (#02-166) and Geylang Beryani Stall
9. East Coast Lagoon Food Village and East Coast 10. Tekka Centre : The relatively large complex of
Seafood Centre: Along East Coast Parkway, on Tekka Centre houses a wet market, a food centre and
Singapore's East-Coast, are probably the city's best some authentic shops.
places for seafood. Singaporean "culinary icons" like
Chilli Crab and Black Pepper Crab are the must-tries The huge wet market, on the ground floor,
around here, but the menus present plenty of other specializes mainly in fresh seafood and vegetables,
local delicacies... East Coast Lagoon Food Centre, for while the hawker centre boasts a good selection of
example, houses numerous satay stalls, as well as vegetarian food stalls serving different Indian
some that sell cold sugar cane juice... The ambience cuisines, as well as vegetarian Malay and Chinese
here is really lovely and you can have your food delicacies.
'alfresco', under the swaying coconut palms...
In the shops, you can find a wide range of stuff, from
Open daily, from late afternoon until fairly late. (both Indian fashion and inexpensive casual clothes to
centres can get extremely busy on weekends). Taoist and Buddhist paraphernalia, and from tailor
Recommended stalls include: Leng Heng BBQ shops to henna salons...
Seafood & Claypot Deluxe (Stall #6 East Coast Lagoon
Food Village), Meng Kee Satay Bee Hoon (Stall #17
East Coast Lagoon Food Village). 11. Al Jilani - 24 hours roti prata: This extremely
popular food-court-style eatery/Kopitiam has long
Getting there: become a culinary institution, serving some of the
From Katong: Walk down to the bottom of Joo Chiat best Roti-pratas in Singapore, 24 hours a day... Roti
Road, turn left to Marine Parade Road and board any Prata is a Muslim-Indian dish of pan-fried dough
of the following routes: 31, 43, 48, 196, 196-e, 197 or (looks like pancake), served with either curry or
853-c. Alight at a bus stop called 'Opposite Laguna sweet stuffings (chocolate, durian and even ice
Park' (also on Marine Parade Road) and walk back a cream). A plethora of variations are available and it is
few steps, to the corner, where you turn left to extremely popular for both breakfast and late night
Siglap Link and after 2 – 3 minutes left again, to East meals. Other than Roti-prata, you can get some
Coast. Almost immediately you will see an entrance lovely fried rice and noodle dishes. Located on 127
to an underpass on your left, through which you Bencoolen St., between Sim Lim Square and Fortune
cross under the road and into the park. Centre
From the City: Travel to MRT - Bedok Station. From
the adjacent bus Interchange (next to exit B), take How to find the best deals in Asia ?
No. 197 to Laguna Park and proceed by foot (see Instantly compare the world's leading hotel-websites
instructions above) and get the BEST rates for accommodation in Macau,
Hong Kong, Shanghai, Beijing, Bangkok, Singapore,
On Saturdays, Sundays and Public Holidays, you can Kuala Lumpur, Seoul, Taipei and elsewhere in Asia!
take line 401 from Bedok Bus Interchange directly to
the lagoon and the food centre.
12. Takashimaya Food Court is an excellent option
You can also take a taxi from Bedok: It is not a very for those Orchard Road shoppers who want to have a
long ride and won't cost you much. delicious meal at a relatively low price. With more
than thirty outlets, you'll probably find something to
your liking. Located at Takashimaya (Ngee Ann City),
Although Singapore has one of the best public- just a short walk from MRT Orchard.
transport systems in the world, taking the
Singapore City Hop-on Hop-off Tour is highly Another fantastic food court in Orchard Road
recommended, as it takes you directly to the (probably even better than the one in Takashimaya)
various attractions and saves you the time and is Food Republic on Level 4 of neighboring Wisma
hassle of waiting for a bus or walking… Atria (directly linked to MRT-Orchard, as well as to
Ngee Ann City and ION Orchard).
11. Marina South Hawker Centre, the last (but not least) centre on our list, is popular for its seafood and
steamboat (hot pot) stalls. Open from around 12 noon till after midnight.
To get there: take the MRT to Marina Bay Station and transfer to SBS bus no. 400
The See Singapore Attraction Pass can save a lot of money for those of you
who wish to make the most of their precious holiday time… You can take a
Singapore River Cruise, or ride the world’s largest observation wheel, visit one
(or more) of Singapore's fantastic museums, see the world's largest collection
of tropical orchids at the National Orchid Garden, visit Jurong's BirdPark and
Singapore Zoo, join a guided walking tour and much more…
Click here to view all our FREE travel eBooks of Singapore, Hong Kong, Macau and Bangkok
Copyright © 2012 Asia-Pacific Guides Ltd. All rights reserved.