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Ultimate Tourist Guide to Hawker Food in Singapore

Ultimate Tourist Guide to Hawker Food in Singapore

With this guide to some of the best local eats, it's easy for anyone to enjoy Singapore's food paradise. We've shortlisted five hawker centres and 13 dishes we believe both tourists and locals alike must visit, but also with convenience and variety in mind! From a family-run stall that cooks laksa over a charcoal fire to our take on where to find spot-on renditions of chicken rice, chilli crab, Peranakan kueh, zi char, Hokkien mee and more, the ideas are all delicious. Next time a friend from overseas is in town, just send them this link.
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If you’re thinking of a hawker breakfast, then Tiong Bahru Market & Food Centre is a must visit. Fun fact: before undergoing a two-year revamp in 2004, this hawker centre initially existed as a wet market (Seng Poh Road Market) that hosted non-permanent hawkers and nearby coffee shops under its roofs. Recently re-opened after a three-month renovation, this iconic venue is home to many morning crowd favourites including Jian Bo Shueh Kueh (#02-05) — known for their ultra soft, melt-in-your-mouth Chwee Kueh ($2 for five pieces) topped generously with fragrant preserved radish (chye poh) and chilli sauce on the side. For something more substantial, look no further than Zhong Yu Yuan Wei Wanton Noodles (#02-30). Despite the auntie’s grumpy demeanour, this stall is famous for its premium Char Siew Wanton Noodles ($5), featuring thick, juicy pieces of caramelised pork. It’s also said that the char siew here is more tender than most, as the meat is taken from the armpit of the pig (as compared to the commonly used pork shoulder). While you’re at it, don’t forget to check out 178 Lor Mee (#02-23) for their Lor Mee (from $3) — yellow noodles drenched in slurpy, flavourful gravy paired with crispy shark meat nuggets and deep-fried batter bits — comfort food at its best.
Photos by Burpplers Jasen Tay, Eat Dreamlove and Reiko Lee

At this familiar and highly popular lunch venue for CBD office folks, don't be surprised if you spot an array of empty tables adorned with packets of tissue paper. This indicates that a table is ‘occupied’ while patrons are busy queuing for their food. This hawker centre is home to many noteworthy stalls including Zhen Zhen Porridge (#01-54), known for its generous portions of silky smooth bowls of Cantonese-style Congee (from $3) topped with ingredients like century egg, chicken and even a raw egg. For a snack, go to Maxwell Fuzhou Oyster Cake (#01-05) for their Oyster Cakes (from $3) — moist, fluffy pancake-like discs of sinful indulgence, each consisting of a mixture of coriander, minced pork and oysters coated in a housemade batter and deep-fried to a crisp shell. Last but not least, don't forget Tian Tian Hainanese Chicken Rice (#01-10/11), a current holder of the Michelin Bib Gourmand 2017 award. They master the four elements crucial to Chicken Rice (from $3.50) — super tender chicken, fragrant rice, tangy chilli sauce and a sesame-soy sauce drizzled over the chicken for that umami goodness.
Photos by Burppler Meiyen Tan and Burpple Tastemakers Julius Lim and Marc T.

Nothing beats sitting down to a satisfying dinner after a long day of exploring Singapore, so make plans to visit this hawker option in the East. Come nightfall, East Coast Lagoon Food Village bustles with activity — hawkers are whizzing through the dimly-lit maze of tables with piping hot dishes, tables are covered with plates of food and empty clam shells and there's laughter all around. Start with the easier orders: Charcoal BBQ Chicken Wings ($1.30) from Ah Hwee BBQ Chicken (#01-14) and Satay (skewered meats)($0.70, minimum 10 sticks) from Haron 30 Satay (#01-55). Choose to have the latter in three different proteins — chicken, mutton or beef and be sure to add on a dumpling of compressed rice (Ketupat, S$0.50), to dip into the lusciously rich peanut sauce. Then, head to Stingray Forever BBQ Seafood (#01-43) to secure a BBQ Stingray (from $12) for your table. The large slice of stingray is slathered generously with fiery sambal sauce before grilling it in a banana leaf to give it its distinctive smoky flavour. Add a squeeze of lime over the fish before tucking in! For more dishes, venture off to find the Oyster Omelette (from $4) from Song Kee Fried Oyster (#01-15) and the Black and White Carrot Cake (from $4) from Lagoon Carrot Cake (#01-40) — both come highly recommended by our Burpple community.
Photos by Burpplers Veronica Phua, Gaik Kee Deewi Tan, Ong Chin Meng Zidane and Burpple Tastemaker Julius Lim

When it’s late and you’re craving to indulge, Newton Food Centre is your one-stop supper solution. Although this hawker centre is famous for its BBQ seafood stalls, it actually presents a chance to savour a wide variety of hawker dishes. Begin the feast with a plate of Fried Oyster Omelette (from $6) at Hup Kee Oyster Omelette (#01-73). Previously run by a hawker icon, Hup Kee’s reigns have now been taken over by his son, but still produces the same crispy, eggy and slightly starchy omelette coupled with plump and fresh oysters that it’s famous for. Be sure to dunk your omelette pieces in the provided chilli sauce. A fan of duck meat? Then you’ll be glad to know that Kwee Heng (#01-13) opens till late as well. With over 50 years of history, this stall is especially famous for its Dried Duck Noodles (from $4). Opt between having thick yellow noodles or kway teow (flat rice noodles). The dish is then tossed in a fragrant light sauce together with lard and accompanied by umami, tender pieces of expertly braised duck meat. End the meal with Fried Carrot Cake (from $4) from Heng Carrot Cake (#01-28). This stall has been around ever since the hawker centre was first built in 1971, and maintains the tradition of making their carrot cakes from scratch daily. Give both their white and black versions a try, as both have been said to be equally as delicious.
Photos by Burpplers Alex Chua, I Makan SG and Burpple Tastemaker Steve G

Situated near major attractions like the Buddha Tooth Relic Temple and the Sri Mariamman Temple, this sprawling hawker centre on the second floor of Chinatown Complex Market & Food Centre is where you should head to before and after sightseeing. There's much to see in the Chinatown area, and even more to eat here — all day long. While the air-conditioned one Michelin-starred Hawker Chan along Smith Street may be tempting, we urge you to try the original stall here, Liao Fan Hong Kong Soya Sauce Chicken Rice & Noodle (#02-126). The queue may be long, but for this perfectly cooked, succulent and flavourful bird (from $7), it'll be well worth the wait. Make the most out of your order and add on their Char Siew (from $2.50, barbecued pork) too, thick cuts of glistening fat with caramelised edges that will leave you wanting more! If you're in a group, consider ordering the hearty Claypot Rice (from $5) from Lian He Ben Ji Claypot Rice (#02-198/199) to share. Cooked upon order, expect tender chunks of chicken meat, salted fish, lup cheong (Chinese preserved sausages) set atop a bed of white fluffy rice. Be sure to scrape out all the charred bits at the side of the claypot as you mix the dish with black sweet sauce and chilli. If you're here in the evening, chill out with craft beers on tap from Smith Street Taps (#02-062) or On Tap Fresh Brew Craft Beer (#02-75) — prices start from an affordable $6/pint!
Photos by Burpplers Sarah Wong, I Makan SG and Burpple Tastemaker Russell Leong

A term used to describe Chinese communal dining, where various homestyle dishes are shared and eaten with white rice, "zi char" is a great meal option for groups — the more diners there are, the more dishes you get to try. A Burpple community favourite for zi char, KEK offers dishes that are full on flavour and affordably-priced, plus the service is prompt and friendly. Get the popular Coffee Ribs (from $12), which sees tender ribs slicked in a sweet and sticky sauce, redolent with the aroma of coffee; as well as the Salted Egg Yolk Sotong (from $12), where perfectly deep-fried battered squid rings are tossed with umami-rich salted egg sauce. Instead of pairing these with rice, get a plate of Moonlight Hor Fun (from $5) for carbs. Bearing a delicious smokiness from the wok, this dish of flat rice noodles is cooked with Chinese sausage, prawns, bean sprouts and lard, finished with a raw egg that completely transforms the dish when you mix it in. Pro tip: Order small portions of the dishes, so you have tummy space to try more. They also charge a very reasonable $5/bottle for corkage if you wish to BYOB. A cold Riesling goes wonderfully with the food here.
Avg Price: $15 per person
Photos by Burpplers Muriel A, Su Yin Neo and Burpple Tastemaker Xing Wei Chua

Tender, moist glistening poached or roasted chicken slices set atop aromatic rice — it is no question why chicken rice is an ubiquitous Singaporean favourite and a hit among locals and tourists alike. Ask locals which stall is best and you're likely to start quite a heated debate. Our advice? Taste from as many as you can! Start at Wee Nam Kee Chicken Rice, one of the more established chicken rice brands in Singapore. The outlet at Marina Square is decked out like an old-school coffeeshop for ambience, yet diners get to eat in air-conditioned comfort. With options for poached, roasted and soya sauce chicken, the Chicken Rice (from $4.80 a plate) features tender and juicy chicken slicked in an aromatic sauce, and the garlicky rice is fragrant and well-oiled. It is served with accompanying saucers of dark soya sauce, piquant and tangy housemade chilli sauce and minced ginger. There are no rules to adding these condiments. Some, like Burpple Tastemaker Julius Lim, like drenching their rice in black sauce and dipping the chicken in chilli and ginger. Others prefer to simply dip sparingly. Go crazy.
Avg Price: $5 per person
Photo by Burppler Joe Yang

Featuring thick rice noodles swimming in a spiced coconut broth, topped with fresh cockles and sliced fishcake, laksa is best described as unparalleled comfort in a bowl. While guidebooks may point you to Katong, we highly recommend a trip down to family-run stall Sungei Road Laksa in Jalan Berseh. Step into the coffeeshop and you'll see virtually every customer tucking into a bowl of the Laksa ($3). The star is no doubt the spiced coconut broth, which is painstakingly simmered over charcoal fire to result in a flavourful yet light gravy that's not overly rich. It is also not too spicy — great if you're still acclimatising to local flavours — but if you like it hot, take Tastemaker Wei Zhi Chiang's advice and stir in a few spoonfuls of their sambal. And lest you worry about fumbling with chopsticks, the slippery smooth noodles are cut for easy eating so you can slurp it all up with a spoon.
Avg Price: $5 per person
Photo by Burpple Tastemaker Wei Zhi Chiang

No trip to Singapore is complete without a taste of chilli crab. One of the foodie city's international claim to fame, chilli crabs see the meaty crustaceans served in a sweet and spicy gravy and served with fried buns for dipping. Because seafood can get really expensive here, we recommend playing it safe with JUMBO Seafood. With five outlets in Singapore, the restaurant turns out consistently tasty crabs, and has even won several awards for it! Prices fluctuate according to market rates, but as a gauge, expect to pay about S$70 for 1kg of crabs. JUMBO's take on the chilli crab hits the mark with super fresh crabs and a sauce that is well-balanced, albeit on the slightly spicy side. To truly enjoy this dish, tear apart the Deep-Fried Mini Buns (known as mantou, $0.70 each) and dunk them in the luscious gravy. While you're here, also try the Pepper Crabs (market price), where the crustaceans are tossed in an aromatic black pepper sauce — the dish is not as saucy as the chilli crabs, but the black pepper flavour is stunning. Let loose and suck unabashedly on the the crab legs for the full experience. Pro tip: Make a reservation if you don't want to risk sitting alfresco in Singapore's tropical heat.
Avg Price: $50 per person
Photo by Burppler Chelsea Foong

An appetising dish of fried rice noodles and various ingredients slicked in a thick and sweet dark sauce, Char Kway Teow is a hawker centre favourite and a must-try on any food lover's itinerary. Cap your visit to Chinatown with a meal at this stall in Hong Lim Market & Food Centre, revered for its rendition of Char Kway Teow ($3). Expect a mix of flat rice noodles and yellow noodles, tossed in the above-mentioned sauce, eggs, bean sprouts, cockles and lard (trust us, it's worth the cholesterol), and fried over an open flame till smoky (what locals term 'wok hei'). The key to a good plate of char kway teow lies in the cooking technique and an expert management of heat, which the cook here has nailed down pat. The result here is a faultless plate of slippery, saucy and eggy deliciousness.
Avg Price: $3 per person
Photo by Burppler Jayson Yeo

Old Airport Road Food Centre (nearest MRT station: Dakota) is an undisputed haven for tasty hawker fare — when in doubt, just follow the queues! One of the Burpple community's favourite stalls here is Nam Sing Hokkien Fried Mee, which has been serving up a smoking good rendition of its namesake dish since 1963. Better known simply as Hokkien mee, this dish sees a mix of thin rice vermicelli and thicker yellow noodles, fried with prawns, squid and and eggs in a rich seafood stock base. As with many hawker dishes, this relies a lot on the heat of the wok to impart a smoky flavour that completely elevates the dish. Nam Sing's rendition of Hokkien Fried Mee ($5) is a little less saucy than most, but it is no less, possibly even more, flavourful. Getting your hands on a plate of this deliciousness takes a bit of luck — even though operating hours are stated as 10am to 5pm, the hours can change depending on the owner's mood. Our advice? Don't leave this till your last day, just in case!
Avg Price: $5 per person
Photo by Burppler Marvin Lowe

Come meal-times in Singapore, roasted meat rice is often a delicious no-brainer. Set along the foodie haven of Keong Saik, this long-time corner coffeeshop stall is a favourite among the Burpple community for its stellar roast meats. They are best known for their Char Siew, a Chinese-style barbecued pork that comes slicked in a sticky sweet sauce and sporting a deliciously smoky char. They also do a tasty rendition of Sio Bak, roasted pork belly with a lovely crunchy crackling. Choose to have the meats with white rice or with al dente yellow noodles, and consider ordering a bowl of Wanton Soup ($3) that comes chock-full of plump dumplings. Prices start at a very affordable $3.50 for a plate of rice with meat. Pro tip: This place gets packed, so come by when they open at 11am for lunch, or an early dinner no later than 6pm.
Avg Price: $5 per person
Photo by Burppler Muriel A.

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