Hawker centers are a big part of Singaporean life. These bustling hubs offer a plethora of amazing food choices, ranging from traditional Asian cuisine to exotic street food from all over the world. It’s a must-see phenomenon, a favorite of countless passionate foodies who enjoy yummy dishes at affordable prices.
With hungry locals and tourists descending on these gastronomic centers daily, the hawker scene can be overwhelming to first-timers. Don’t know where to start? Check out this guide and learn the best eats and what to look for in Singapore’s vibrant hawker centers.
Bak Chor Mee
Bak chor mee is a local Singaporean favorite, often topping street food lists all around the world. It has a dry and a soup version, both consisting of minced pork, sliced pork, mushrooms, and noodles. The dish is typically served with a sauce of chili, black vinegar, and pork lard.
Where to Eat: Hill Street Tai Hwa (Crawford Lane), Ah Kow Bak Chor Mee (Hong Lim Food Centre)
One of the most famous dishes in Singapore, chili crab is available in most restaurants in the island. Each chef has a different interpretation, but the dish usually features mud crabs with a sweet and savory sauce made of tomato and chili. Here’s a secret for budget backpackers: chili crab in hawker stalls can be just as tasty as high-end restaurants.
Where to Eat: Mattar Road Seafood BBQ (Old Airport Road Food Centre)
Chicken rice is even more popular than chilli crab, especially among local diners. Prepared either “white” (poached) or “black” (roasted or braised), the dish is typically served with rice, chilli, and ginger.
Where to Eat: Hua Kee Chicken Rice (Redhill Food Centre), Ming Kee Chicken Rice (Kim San Leng Food Centre), Tian Tian Chicken Rice (Maxwell Food Centre)
Stingray doesn’t sound all too appealing to foreign visitors, but it’s one of the best hawker food in Singapore. If you enjoy spicy fare, sambal stingray is probably up your alley with the barbecued stingray slathered with sambal (chilli paste), shrimp paste, and other ingredients that differ from stall to stall.
Where to Eat: Chomp Chomp BBQ (Fengshang Market and Food Centre), Alliance Seafood (Newton Food Centre)
Char Kway Teow
Char kway teow translates to “stir-fried flat rice noodles,” a simple and savory dish that’s the comfort food of many Singaporeans. With sweet dark sauce, the noodles are stir-fried with a variety of ingredients such as egg, pork lard, fish cake, and others.
Where to Eat: Hill Street Char Kway Teow (Bedok South Road Market & Food Centre), Outram Park Fried Kway Teow Mee (Hong Lim Food Centre)
Nasi lemak is a classic Malay dish that simply consists of coconut rice or rice cooked in coconut cream and wrapped in pandan leaves. It’s usually served as part of a set meal with fried egg, fried anchovies, cucumbers, and chilli paste.
Where to Eat: Boon Lay Power Nasi Lemak (Boon Lay Food Village), Selera Rasa Nasi Lemak (Adam Road Food Centre)
Bak Kut Teh
One Singaporean food that many locals reach for comfort and warmth is bak kut teh, which is basically pork bone soup. It’s a very simple dish with the most popular hawker versions featuring peppery broth and succulent pork rib meat.
Where to Eat: Leong Kee (Klang) Bak Kut Teh (Geylang Road), Joo Siah Bak Koot Teh (Jurong East Avenue 1)
Laksa is another hawker dish that’s extremely popular among travelers. Known as a staple in Peranakan cuisine, laksa has a lot of different variants, but it typically consists of coconut milk, laksa leaves, prawns, cockles, and fish cake.
Where to Eat: Sungei Road Laksa (Jalan Berseh Food Centre), 328 Katong Laksa (East Coast Road)
A popular dish in many countries, roti prata is a flat bread that’s light, crisp, and flaky on the outside and soft, warm, and chewy inside. Hawker stalls typically serve roti prata with a side of curry for dipping—the perfect side dish or snack any time of the day!
Where to Eat: Mr. and Mrs. Mohgan’s Super Crispy Roti Prata (Joo Chiat Road), Sin Ming Roti Prata (Sin Ming Road)
One of the surprising specialties of the hawker scene, the Singaporean food version of carrot cake is not what you think. For one, there’s no carrot in it and it’s not a cake at all. Carrot cake, also known as chai tow kway, is made by stir-frying cubes of rice flour and white radish with eggs, preserved radish, and various seasonings.
Where to Eat: Fried Carrot Cake (Clementi Town Centre), Song Zhou Luo Bo Gao (Bedok Interchange Food Centre)
There’s no better way of discovering the best hawker food in Singapore than hitting the streets and exploring. Check out other food experiences in Singapore on KKday now to taste the best eats on the island like authentic street food at Makansutra Gluttons Bay and delicious satay at Satay by the Bay.
*Featured image by Tang Yan Song on Shutterstock