Hawker centres are scary for the uninitiated – they’re stark, snappy, and possibly a tad overwhelming.
But to locals, they’re a labyrinth of culinary greatness forming a quintessential part of Singapore’s culture.
Here’s the beginner’s guide to the best hawker centres in Singapore, and what to order.
Nestled within a quiet housing estate, there’s much to love about this hawker centre – and the district around it.
Shop for cheap sporting ware at Queensway Shopping Centre just across the road, or hit up Anchorpoint for the outlet stores – it’s probably enough to work up an appetite. Then, needless to say, head here.
Must-tries: the Claypot Laksa (Peranakan curry coconut milk noodles, pictured), served steaming hot and chock full of ingredients.
If it’s too spicy, wash it down with the famed avocado milkshake – you’ll find 5 to 6 stalls selling this same drink, but we say look out for the stall called King Avocado, because, well, it’s king.
NEXT: Old Airport Road Food Centre →
The Old Airport Road Food Centre is an everyday haunt of the elderly from the nearby housing estates, and it’s also the place for hip locals who are looking to feast on a bit (or, you know, more than a bit) the cheap.
One of the largest (and oldest!) hawker centres in Singapore, it’s also home to many legendary hawker stalls that have been around for ages. So you know you’re getting both quality and quantity.
Must-tries: in a field pack with winners, look out for the stalls Nam Sing Hokkien Mee (fried Hokkien noodles cooked in prawn stock) and Dong Ji Fried Kway Teow (flat noodles wok-fried in dark soya sauce, pictured).
If you’re into local desserts, have a tau huey (sweet beancurd) showdown between the two stalls, Lao Ban Beancurd and 51 Beancurd.
51 Old Airport Rd, Singapore 390051
NEXT: Maxwell Food Centre →
Pro tip: Come lunchtime, the queues are snacking with hungry office workers, so visit after the working crowd goes back into hiding to avoid the wait.
Not to say that the best of foods here isn’t worth the wait – they sure are.
Must-tries: some crown Chicken Rice as Singapore’s national food, and Tian Tian Hainanese Chicken Rice (pictured) does one of the best.
The queues don’t lie – like the one at Zhen Zhen Porridge. If you’re thinking, “How good can porridge yet?”, we thought so too, but after trying it for ourselves, we’re converts.
1 Kadayanallur St, Singapore 069184
NEXT: Chinatown Complex Food Centre →
Just a stone’s throw away from Maxwell Road Food Centre – also in Chinatown – is this gem.
Perhaps the best introduction to local food to uninitiated expats, most of the stalls here have english translations of their dishes, which makes your job at ordering food much easier.
Must-tries: no prizes for guessing what we’re about to recommend. This hawker centre is home to the chepaest Michelin star restaurant in the world, Hong Kong Soya Sauce Chicken Rice and Noodle (pictured).
Chinatown Complex, 335 Smith St, Singapore 050335
NEXT: Chomp Chomp Food Centre →
The hawker centre that never quite sleeps, many of these stalls are open till late, satisfying troves of hungry night owls come nightfall.
Pro tip: seats are in high demand here, so acquaint yourself with the skill of “reserving” a table at a hawker centre before you take on this place. (But then again, we’re not complaining – surely this is an indicator of how good the food is!)
Must-tries: Carrot cake isn’t anything like what you have back home – the local version is a wok-fried, smoky plate of goodness comprising radish and egg. The carrot cake stall here is simply announced by a white signboard with striking red letters proclaiming “Carrot Cake“.
Go to any BBQ stall for the Sambal Stingray – ribbony, juicy stingray flesh bathed in fiery sambal chili sauce.
20 Kensington Park Rd, Singapore 557269
NEXT: Alexandra Village Food Centre →
By Pinky Chng, September 2016