For such a tiny city-state as Singapore, the presence of more than 200 hawker centres points to an obsession with food. Don’t get offended if a local greets you with “Have you eaten yet?” It’s a polite way to say “hello”.
Singapore is a melting pot of various cultures and nowhere is the Malay, Chinese or Indian influence more evident than in its street food. The best places to savour them are the hawker centres or the food courts. The food available here is cheap but so good that even the best gourmands and chefs around the city frequent these places. Sure, there are premium restaurants as well – such as the Azur, in Crowne Plaza Hotel on Airport Boulevard – that serve authentic local fare and global fusion food, but to sample the true flavour of Singapore, the food courts are a must-try. Here are some of the best hawker centres in the country.
Old Airport Road Food Centre
Almost 40 years old, this is one of the oldest and most popular hawker centres in Singapore. One must try out favourites such as char kway teow, prawn noodles, Hokkien mee, lor mee, kway chap, satay, rojak and soya beancurd – the last, available at Lao Ban Soya Beancurd and 51, Soya Beancurd, considered the best in the city. To order from these two stalls make sure you have ample time on hand as it is common to confront long queues in front of them. This place also has the highest number of famous food stalls in Singapore. Make a note though that this food court has very few stalls that offer complete vegetarian and Indian food.
Maxwell Road Hawker Centre
If your itinerary includes Chinatown, make a stop here. Strategically located opposite the beautiful Buddha Tooth Relic Temple and Museum, this is an ideal place for lunch. This food centre has been featured on many television channels for offering authentic Singaporean food at very reasonable rates. The 100 or more stalls serve the best chilli crab, the island-state’s most popular dish, and Hainanese chicken rice, a dish with silky smooth pieces of poached chicken served on rice infused with chicken stock. The famous stalls serving this fare are Tian Tian and Ah- Tia. Also visit the Zhen Zhen Porridge and Hoe Kee Porridge stalls. On weekdays, it is usually packed during lunch hours, so make sure you go early or for dinner. There are some stalls here that offer Indian food.
East Coast Lagoon Food Village
If it’s a public holiday, be sure to find a sizeable crowd here. Singapore’s only mainland beach-side food centre, this is frequented by locals for the scrumptious seafood prepara- 2 AI operates daily flights to Singapore from Chennai, Delhi and Mumbai with its B787 Dreamliners AIR INDIA ROUTE tions it offers. The unique laid-back resort-like atmosphere with open cabanas, natural timber tops and romantically-lit pavilions is reason enough to queue outside some old-time hawker favourites in the city. Usually quiet during the day, it comes alive at night and there are stalls that keep open till the wee hours of the morning. Another speciality of this food centre is the rojak, a sweet and sour salad that combines pineapple, cucumber and deepfried rice-flour doughnuts covered with a dressing made of shrimp paste and satay sauce. A perfect accompaniment with this is fresh sugarcane juice. For this, queue up at Kampong Rojak stall.
Tiong Bahru Market Hawker Centre
One of the cleanest and most spacious in Singapore, this food centre has the latest mechanical exhaust systems for each of its stalls. The open-air setup also gives visitors a relaxing and comfortable ambience. While this is on the second floor, you can experience a typical Singaporean wet market on the first floor – the Tiong Bahru Wet Market, which sells fresh produce. Known for serving the best breakfast dishes across the city, Tiong Bahru’s speciality is its steamed rice cakes or chwee kueh. To sample these and their delicious versions go to the well-known Jian Bo Chwee Kueh stall, where long queues are commonplace. Sample these while sipping on strong, black kopi brewed in a white cotton filter sock, or a cup of English breakfast tea or kopi cham, a quixotic local blend of coffee and tea. Other dishes to try here are fishballs at Tiong Bahru Fishballs.
Chomp Chomp Food Centre
Also known as Serangoon Gardens Food Centre, this is unlike other food courts that stay open morning to evening. This one opens in the evening and serves delicacies till well after midnight. Usually crowded at night, it can get hot and stuffy here as the ventilation system is not well-maintained. You can get your fill of Hokkien mee, carrot cake, barbecued chicken wings, grilled stingray, popiah, fried oyster and prawn mee. But it is the various satays here that stand out.