Hawker centres in Singapore have found their place in the hearts of Singaporeans and travellers alike. Known for their delectable food that is incredibly affordable, these places promise a gastronomical experience like no other in the world. With over a hundred hawker centres in Singapore, a journey to the nearest one in the neighbourhood will never be more than a stone’s throw away.
These establishments have several food stalls serving a range of local street food, while larger hawker centres can even boast about a hundred stalls with seemingly endless variety. This quintessence of Singapore’s food culture has attracted flocks of tourists as a much cheaper alternative to the expensive chilli crabs in restaurants.
Singapore’s Street Food Culture
In the mid 20th century, before hawker centres in Singapore became the norm, locals would sell their food from carts, and street food became a common sight in Singapore. However, as the little red dot became increasingly urbanised from the 1950s, hawker centres were built to house these local food sellers.
This effort proved to be a more hygienic alternative while concentrating the hawkers in specific locations for convenience. What started as a dining establishment catered to the less affluent quickly became part of Singapore’s identity.
The food served at hawker centres encapsulates the various cultures in Singapore. From Chinese, Malay, to Indian cuisines, every visit to these food markets will turn anyone into a kid in a candy store.
7 Best Hawker Centres in Singapore
Several main dishes are commonly served in hawker centres that have endured the test of time. Chicken Rice, Char Kway Teow, Bak Chor Mee, Laksa, and Satays are among the most popular street foods and are staples to the majority of hawker centres today.
Recipes around the island only slightly differentiate from one stall to another, and these hawker dishes are surprisingly consistent in their taste. However, some vendors have surpassed all expectations, perfecting their local street food that even won the prestigious Michelin awards.
We have listed 7 of the most prominent hawker centres that are worth visiting for their array of food options and indeed their quality, along with their noteworthy stalls that serve the most irresistible of Singapore’s street foods.
Tiong Bahru Market
Tiong Bahru Market has become one of the most prominent hawker centres in Singapore for its range of quality street food, but not many would know about its humble beginnings.
In 1945, two shophouses along Tiong Poh Road were converted into a market for vendors to sell their street food. However, due to its small capacity, many continue to park by the streets and soon the area became a popular neighbourhood eating spot.
Not long after, a new Seng Poh Market was constructed to house more hawkers in 1950, pushing the carts from the streets into huts with thatch roofs made up of woven palm leaves. This would endure for over half a century until 2004 when Seng Poh Market was demolished for a complete rebuild.
In 2006, Tiong Bahru Market emerged and began to thrive as a hotspot for local street food. Located in the heart of Singapore, the two-storey market and hawker centre is renowned for many of its house vendors whose names have reverberated around Singapore.
Tiong Bahru Char Kway Teow
This Char Kway Teow stall is the brainchild of Mr Tay Soo Nam. Now over 90 years old, he started serving this iconic dish from a pushcart by the streets, and his experience has shown. Mr Tay’s Char Kway Teow was included in the Michelin guide several years ago, boosting its popularity as one of the best in Singapore.
Rather than the typical black colour, his Char Kway Teow is distinctly whiter. However, this does not hinder the wok hei taste of the dish that customers have come to love. At only $3 for a regular plate fried with prawns, cockles, fish cake, and beansprouts, this stall stays true to its humble origins as an affordable yet comforting street delicacy.
Lor Mee 178 & Tiong Bahru Lor Mee
There has been much debate about which Lor Mee is the best in Tiong Bahru market. But rather than settling for either, both versions of this dish have their merits.
Lor Mee 178 is famous for their shark nuggets, while Tiong Bahru Lor Mee serves the traditional version of the dish with fish nuggets and ngoh hiang. Whichever type of Lor Mee you are in the mood for, you can never go wrong with either stall.
Tiong Bahru Fishball
Tiong Bahru Fishball makes the perfect side dish to go with any meal. Its fish meat used is always fresh, without that fishy taste that lingers unpleasantly in your mouth. Choose from a variety of snacks from giant fishballs to juicy fishcakes.
|Address||30 Seng Poh Rd, Singapore 168898|
Maxwell Road Food Centre
Maxwell Road Food Centre has perhaps the richest history among the others on this list. In 1929, it was constructed with the intention to relocate street vendors indoors. Unfortunately, many choose remaining to sell from their pushcarts to avoid paying rent.
Despite the multitude of stalls, the hawker centre was still scarcely occupied. This would last until the 1980s when almost a hundred street hawkers around China Square were transferred permanently into Maxwell Road Food Centre. Eventually, in 1987, it firmly established itself as the to-go spot for delicious local street food.
Tian Tian Hainanese Chicken Rice
Without a doubt, Tian Tian Hainanese Chicken Rice is the main feature of Maxwell Road Food Centre. During the peak hours, expect to see an endless queue of locals and tourists waiting to taste Singapore’s most famous chicken rice brand.
If there is a checklist for the perfect chicken rice, Tian Tian’s award-winning chicken rice might tick all the boxes. From its succulent chicken to its aromatic rice paired with a touch of heat from its house chilli sauce, it’s no wonder why this establishment has even earned praise from celebrity chef Gordon Ramsey.
Yi Jia Chao Yu Chou Yu Tang (One Familiy Teochew Fish Porridge and Fish Soup)
This humble stall serves up one of the best fish soups in Singapore. Despite attracting mostly locals, Yi Jia has gained a loyal customer pool throughout the years.
Along with the classic batang fish, the stall also offers pomfret soup although at a steeper price. And don’t let the clear soup deceive you; it is packed with unparalleled flavours that surely to amaze you with every sip.
Hum Jin Pang
Hum Jin Pang (or Hum Chim Peng) stalls are not a common sight in hawker centres, but this one in Maxwell Road has earned a reputation for its comforting snack.
In the past, customers helped vendors to fry their own Hum Jin Pangs to promote efficiency. Today, this stall chooses to retain that tradition. Choose from two flavours between five spices and red bean for this simple yet enticing street food.
|Address||1 Kadayanallur St, Singapore 069184|
Old Airport Road Food Centre
Earning its name by replacing the demolished Kallang Airport, Old Airport Road Food Centre was constructed in 1972 and soon became one of the most popular hawker centres in Singapore. What started as a one storey market for food had to be expanded another level, catering to the increase in street vendors setting up their stalls.
As a result, this huge food market has a seating capacity of nearly two thousand, with over 150 vendors selling mouth-watering local food. Some even consider Old Airport Road the best hawker centre in Singapore, and they might have an argument there.
Nam Sing Hokkien Fried Mee
Hokkien Mee has earned its way into the hearts and stomachs of Singaporeans for many decades, and not many whip up a dish better than Nam Sing. This family-run business has been serving their unique Hokkien Mee since the 1960s, attracting tourists and locals alike.
Unlike most Hokkien Mee dishes that use a mixture of flat yellow noodles and thick bee hoon, this stall uses only the noodles and thin bee hoon. Moreover, freshly cut chillis are used instead of the belachan chilli commonly associated with the dish. What results from this is a unique taste of what is perhaps the traditional method of cooking Hokkien Mee.
Toa Payoh Rojak
One of the most popular rojak stalls in Singapore, this stall lives up to its reputation for its fresh ingredients and irresistible sweet and spicy sauce.
This dish makes the perfect sharing platter for friends and family, and at only $4 a plate, it certainly is an excellent value for money.
|Address||51 Old Airport Rd, Singapore 390051|
Chomp Chomp Food Centre
In 1961, a market was built in the Serangoon Garden Estate for street hawkers to sell their food in. However, it was way too congested and many vendors littered the streets around the area.
Soon, the government decided to expand its capacity, and local hawkers named the market “Chomp Chomp”. This name is derived from the Teochew phrase tiong tiong, translated loosely as loyalty and righteousness. However, Chomp Chomp is more commonly known for its English definition to chew noisily and vigorously, which is indeed a common sight in this hawker centre.
Chomp Chomp is a common tourist spot by day, and a supper hangout for locals by night. Its range of BBQ food items is often the most sought after dishes in the market.
Chomp Chomp Satay
Satay stalls are typical in hawker centres, but not many can boast an inclusion of their dish in the Michelin guide. Chomp Chomp Satay has been deemed one of the best satays on the island, for a good reason as well.
While some satay stalls tend to have that odd distasteful chao tar taste from being overcooked, this stall’s satays are consistently cooked with the right amount of char to its meat. From a range of chicken, mutton, pork, and beef, a combination of these meats paired with the perfect peanut sauce promises a plate to savour.
Chong Pang Chicken Wings
With so many BBQ chicken wings to choose from, Chong Pang Chicken Wings has emerged as one of the most popular in Chomp Chomp.
Before even tasting the wings, feast your eyes on the glistening crimson meat fresh from the fire. This sight alone is enough for you to salivate before you sink your teeth into the juicy chicken wing drizzled with lime and chilli sauce.
|Address||20 Kensington Park Rd, Singapore 557269|
Chinatown Complex Food Centre
In 1983, 300 street hawkers were relocated to a whopping $18 million Chinatown Complex. Temporary stalls and street vendors were no longer obstructing traffic following the government’s urbanisation efforts.
Many locals were initially apprehensive about this approach given that street stalls were part of Chinatown’s identity. However, the interior of the complex was designed with Chinese elements that maintained the essence of Chinatown.
Today, about 20% of the original hawkers can still be selling their timeless local food in the complex.
Liao Fan Hong Kong Soya Sauce Chicken Rice & Noodle
Dubbed as the world’s first hawker to be awarded one Michelin star, chef Chan Hon Meng’s (better known as Hawker Chan) roasted delights has reached a global following.
Under the tutelage of a Hong Kong chef, Hawker Chan eventually developed his culinary skills and invented his soya sauce chicken recipe. His flagship stall is located in Chinatown Complex, attracting a trail of customers from over the world.
From his succulent pork to his incredibly tender chicken, Hawker Chan’s simple dishes has to be the highlight of this hawker centre.
Woo Ji Cooked Food
Woo Ji is known for its sparse yet affordable and delicious menu consisting of laksa, prawn noodles, and fried wontons.
Having the food here is like receiving a warm hug on a cold day. Laksa makes the perfect all-day meal, and a bowl of it includes yong tau fu ingredients that retain the luscious gravy. If you prefer something more mellow, Woo Ji’s prawn noodles is another good option.
|Address||335 Smith St, Singapore 050335|
Lau Pa Sat
Lau Pa Sat (Old Market) lives up to its name as one of the oldest markets in Singapore. The first market in Telok Ayer was built in the 1800s long before Singapore established. It was not until a century later in 1972 did the market undergo serious renovations, transforming it into a hawker centre. It officially named Lau Pa Sat in 1989.
Located in the Central Business District, this hawker centre is the go-to lunch and dinner spot for office workers.
Seng Kee Local Delights
Just as its name suggests, Seng Kee Local Delights serve authentic local favourites. Its menu includes Hokkien Mee, Laksa, Carrot Cake, Oyster Omelette, and their most popular dish Char Kway Teow.
Its wok-fried dishes guarantee the wok hei satisfaction with every bite, and they do not scrimp on the ingredients like its competitors. Their oyster omelette is also commendable, achieving the right balance of crispiness and softness in the middle, and the oyster’s taste is not too overwhelming.
Song Kee Fishball Noodles
It is difficult to make a bowl of fishball noodles terrible. But it is even harder to make it memorable. Song Kee Fishball Noodles have done the latter. Every element of their signature mini pot noodle is delightful, from the savoury soup to the springy mee pok on a bed of chilli mixture.
|Address||18 Raffles Quay, Singapore 048582|
Makansutra Gluttons Bay
Makansutra Gluttons Bay has come to be known as the hawker centre for tourists. Because of its location beside the Esplanade, it has inevitably become a tourist hotspot. However, this establishment manages to capture the essence of Singapore’s street food culture, boasting a variety of local food that many locals still patronise.
Entrepreneur KF Seetoh founded Makansutra in 1997 to celebrate Singapore’s immense food culture. Set strategically in a scenic area of the island, this hawker centre is always buzzing at dinner time as hungry customers enjoy a spread of local delicacies while enjoying the cool evening breeze by the bay.
Unlike the enormous markets on this list, Makansutra is substantially smaller with only 12 specially selected vendors that encompass most if not all of Singapore’s street food culture.
Stingrays became immensely popular in Singapore after our Malaysian neighbours found the perfect way to cook this largely forgotten dish in the past. BBKia’s stingray is served the traditional way: off the grill on a pandan leaf with a generous portion of sambal chilli to spice up the dish.
Hong Kong Street Old Chun Kee
This tze char establishment has been serving local delights for decades. Led by owner Ah Yau, the dishes served include elements from Indian, Malay, Chinese, and Western cultures, capturing the true Singaporean identity in their flavours.
Old Chun Kee’s signature Har Cheong Gai (Prawn Paste Chicken) and San Lor Hor Fun are among its speciality dishes. Other favourites include Salted Egg Yolk Pork/Prawns and Yang Zhou Fried Rice.
|Address||#01-15 8 Raffles Avenue Next to Esplanade, Singapore 039802|