Singapore Street Food: A Guide to the Best Hawker Centers and Dishes
Singapore is known for its vibrant street food scene, a melting pot of flavors and cultures. Singapore’s local food culture reflects the city-state’s diverse history and the various ethnic groups that have made it their home. From Malay, Chinese, and Indian to Peranakan and Eurasian, Singapore’s street food offers diverse dishes that will impress your taste buds.
Street food in Singapore is not just about the food but also the experience. Hawker centers and open-air food courts are integral to Singapore’s street food culture. These centers are where locals and tourists enjoy affordable and delicious food in a casual and laid-back setting. Some of Singapore’s most popular hawker centers include Lau Pa Sat, Maxwell Food Centre, and Chinatown Complex Food Centre.
Whether you are looking for a quick snack or a hearty meal, Singapore’s street food has something for everyone. From the famous Hainanese chicken rice to the spicy laksa and the savory satay, there is no shortage of options to choose from. So, if you are a food lover, add Singapore’s street food to your list of must-try culinary experiences.
History and Influence of Street Food in Singapore
Singapore has a rich history of street food that dates back to the mid-19th century. Hawker centers were first set up during this time, primarily street food stalls selling various foods. These street vendors usually set up stalls by the side of the streets with pushcarts or bicycles and served cheap and fast food to the working class.
Chinese cuisine has a significant influence on Singaporean street food. Many of the dishes served in Singaporean hawker centers have their roots in Chinese cuisine, such as Hainanese chicken rice, bak kut teh, and char kway teow. Chinese immigrants who came to Singapore brought their culinary traditions, which have since been adapted and modified to suit local tastes.
Malay cuisine also has a strong influence on Singaporean street food. Malay dishes such as nasi lemak, mee rebus, Laksa, and satay are popular in hawker centers across the island. Malay cuisine is known for its use of spices, often used to add flavor and aroma to dishes. Turmeric, coriander, and cumin are commonly used in Malay cooking.
Over the years, Singaporean street food has evolved and adapted to changing tastes and trends. Today, hawker centers serve a wide variety of dishes from different cultures, including Indian, Malay, Chinese, and Western. Singaporean street food has garnered international recognition for its unique blend of flavors and influences, and it has become a major draw for tourists visiting the island.
In recent years, there have been concerns about the future of Singaporean street food. Rising costs and changing lifestyles have led to a decline in the number of street food vendors. However, efforts are being made to preserve this vital part of Singaporean culture, including the recent recognition of Singapore’s street food as a UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.
Popular Hawker Centres
Singapore is famous for its street food and hawker centers, which offer various delicious dishes at affordable prices. Here are some of the most popular hawker centers in Singapore:
Lau Pa Sat
Lau Pa Sat is one of Singapore’s oldest and most famous hawker centers. It is located in the heart of the Central Business District and is known for its satay, grilled meat skewers marinated in a variety of spices. Other popular dishes include Hokkien mee, a stir-fried noodle dish with prawns and squid, and chicken rice, a simple but delicious dish of steamed chicken and rice cooked in chicken broth.
Maxwell Food Centre
Maxwell Food Centre is another famous hawker center located in Chinatown. It is known for its Tian Tian Hainanese Chicken Rice, which several food critics voted the best in Singapore. Other popular dishes include oyster omelet, a crispy egg dish with oysters and vegetables, and char kway teow, a stir-fried noodle dish with cockles and Chinese sausage.
Newton Food Centre
Newton Food Centre is a popular tourist destination known for its seafood. It is located near Orchard Road and is known for its barbecued stingray, chili crab, and black pepper crab. Other popular dishes include satay, oyster omelet, and Hokkien mee.
Chomp Chomp is a famous hawker center located in Serangoon Gardens. It is known for its barbecued seafood, including stingrays, prawns, and squid. Other popular dishes include satay, oyster omelet, and Hokkien mee.
Amoy Street Food Centre
Amoy Street Food Centre is located in the heart of the Central Business District and is known for its nasi lemak, a fragrant rice dish cooked in coconut milk and served with various side dishes. Other popular dishes include char kway teow, Hokkien mee, and chicken rice.
ABC Brickworks Food Centre
ABC Brickworks Food Centre is located in Alexandra and is known for its famous char siew roast pork. Other popular dishes include Hokkien mee, oyster omelet, and satay.
Tekka Centre is located in Little India and is known for its Indian food. It is a great place to try dishes like biryani, roti prata, and thosai. Other popular dishes include Hokkien mee, oyster omelet, and satay.
Tiong Bahru Market
Tiong Bahru Market is located in Tiong Bahru and is known for its traditional hawker food. It is a great place to try dishes like kway chap, a braised pork dish served with flat rice noodles, and chwee kueh, a steamed rice cake topped with preserved radish. Other popular dishes include Hokkien mee, oyster omelet, and satay.
Iconic Singapore Street Food Dishes
Here are some iconic Singaporean street food dishes that every foodie should try.
Chicken Rice is a beloved dish in Singapore and is often considered the unofficial national dish. It consists of fragrant rice cooked in chicken broth and served with succulent poached or roasted chicken. The dish is typically accompanied by a tangy chili sauce and dark soy sauce.
Where to Eat: There are many places to find delicious chicken rice in Singapore, but some of the most popular and highly-rated spots include Tian Tian Hainanese Chicken Rice at Maxwell, Boon Tong Kee Chicken Rice at Balestier, Wee Nam Kee Hainanese Chicken Rice, Loy Kee Best Chicken Rice, and Chatterbox. Other notable mentions include Ming Kee Chicken Rice and the chicken rice stalls at Maxwell Food Centre.
Nasi Lemak is a fragrant rice dish cooked in coconut milk and pandan leaves. It is often served with a variety of toppings such as fried chicken, fried anchovies, eggs, and cucumber. The dish is typically accompanied by a spicy sambal sauce.
Where to Eat: Nasi Lemak is a beloved dish in Singapore, and there are many places to find delicious versions of it. Some popular and highly-rated spots include Crave Nasi Lemak, The Coconut Club, Selera Rasa Nasi Lemak, Ponggol Nasi Lemak, and Chong Pang Nasi Lemak. Other notable mentions include Boon Lay Power Nasi Lemak and Pak Mandor Nasi Lemak.
Satay is a popular street food in Singapore that consists of grilled meat skewers served with a sweet and savory peanut sauce. The meat can be chicken, beef, or mutton and is typically marinated in a blend of spices before being grilled over an open flame.
Where to Eat: Satay is a popular dish in Singapore, and there are many places to find delicious versions of it. Some of the most popular and highly-rated spots include Best Satay at Lau Pa Sat, 168 CMY Satay, Haron Satay at East Coast Lagoon Food Village, Chuan Kee Satay at Old Airport Road Food Centre, and Hjh Maimunah Satay at Jalan Pisang. Other notable mentions include Chai Ho Satay and Alhambra Satay.
Char Kway Teow
Char Kway Teow is a stir-fried noodle dish that is popular in Singapore. It is made with flat rice noodles, soy sauce, black pepper, garlic, and other seasonings and is often served with cockles, prawns, and Chinese sausage.
Where to Eat: Some of the most popular and highly-rated spots to eat Char Kway Teow include Hill Street Fried Kway Teow at Bedok South Road, Outram Park Fried Kway Teow Mee at Hong Lim Market & Food Centre, No. 18 Zion Road Fried Kway Teow at Zion Riverside Food Centre, 91 Fried Kway Teow Mee at Golden Mile Food Centre, and Outram Park Char Kway Teow Mee at Hong Lim Market & Food Centre. Other notable mentions include Dong Ji Fried Kway Teow at Old Airport Road Food Centre and Guan Kee Fried Kway Teow at Ghim Moh Market & Food Centre.
Laksa is a spicy noodle soup that is beloved in every corner of Singapore. The dish consists of thick rice noodles, savory toppings such as chicken, prawn, or fish, and a rich and flavorful coconut soup. Enjoy this delicious soup with a side of sambal chili paste for an extra kick of flavor!
Where to Eat: Some of the most popular and highly-rated spots to sample Laksa include 328 Katong Laksa, Depot Road Zhen Shan Mei Claypot Laksa, Janggut Laksa, 928 Yishun Laksa, Wei Yi Laksa & Prawn Noodle. Other notable mentions include Sungei Road Laksa (source: SethLui.com), Katong Laksa, and 49 Katong Laksa.
Hokkien Mee is a stir-fried noodle dish that is popular in Singapore. It is made with thick yellow noodles, pork belly, prawns, squid, and a flavorful broth made from soy sauce and other seasonings. The dish is typically garnished with fried pork lard and spring onions.
Where to Eat: Some of the best places to try Hokkien Mee include Kim Keat Hokkien Mee, Come Daily Hokkien Mee, Nam Sing Hokkien Fried Mee, Swee Guan Hokkien Mee, and Ah Hock Hokkien Mee. Other notable mentions include Geylang Lor 29 Fried Hokkien Mee, YouFu Fried Hokkien Prawn Mee, and Chef Goo Hokkien Mee.
Chilli Crab is a stir-fried crustacean dish that is popular in Singapore. It is made with mud crab that is stir-fried in a thick, sweet, savory tomato sauce flavored with chili peppers, garlic, and shallots. The dish is typically served with mantou buns, which are used to soak up the flavorful sauce. Some of the best places to try Chilli Crab include No Signboard Seafood and Jumbo Seafood.
Where to Eat: Here are some of the best places to try Chilli Crab in Singapore:
- JUMBO Seafood Restaurant is ranked the number one place to try Chilli Crab in Singapore.
- According to Time Out Singapore, Keng Eng Kee in Bukit Merah is a well-known seafood restaurant that serves delicious Chilli Crab.
- Alliance Seafood Bib Gourmand, featured in the 2019 hit movie Crazy Rich Asians, is a 30-year-old seafood institution at the popular Newton Circus Food Centre that serves must-try
- Chilli Crab, according to MICHELIN Guide Singapore.
- Beach Road Kitchen, Colony, and JUMBO Seafood (ION Orchard) are the highest-rated places to try Chilli Crab in Singapore, according to TripAdvisor.
Fish Head Curry
Fish Head Curry is a spicy curry dish that is popular in Singapore. It is made with a whole fish head that is cooked in a rich, tangy curry sauce that is flavored with tamarind and other spices. The dish is typically served with rice and vegetables.
Where to Eat: Here are some of the best places to try Fish Head Curry in Singapore:
- Zai Shun Curry Fish Head, located at Jurong East, is a Michelin Bib Gourmand awardee known for its fresh and high-quality ingredients.
- Na Na Curry, a homegrown chain that has expanded to 10 locations islandwide, is a must-try for Fish Head Curry.
- Zai Ji Curry Fish Head, located at Bukit Timah Market & Food Centre, is a popular choice for its affordable and delicious Fish Head Curry.
- Other notable places to try Fish Head Curry in Singapore include Muthu’s Curry, Keng Eng Kee Seafood, and Samy’s Curry.
Oyster Omelette is a popular street food dish in Singapore. It is made with a batter of eggs and potato starch mixed with fresh oysters and fried until crispy. The dish is typically served with a tangy chili sauce.
Where to Eat: Here are some of the best places to try Oyster Omelette in Singapore:
- Hup Kee Fried Oyster Omelette, located at the Chinatown Complex Food Centre, is a popular and highly-rated choice for Oyster Omelette.
- Lim’s Fried Oyster, located at the Tiong Bahru Market & Food Centre, is a well-known and long-standing establishment that serves delicious Oyster Omelette.
- Katong Keah Kee Fried Oysters, located at Chinatown Food Street, offers a unique take on Oyster Omelette called “oyster egg” that is worth trying.
- Other notable places to try Oyster Omelette in Singapore include Maddie’s Kitchen, Song Kee Fried Oyster, and Xing Li Cooked Food.
Roti Prata is a popular Indian flatbread often eaten for breakfast in Singapore. It is made with a dough stretched and flipped until it becomes thin and crispy. The bread is typically served with a side of curry for dipping.
Where to Eat: Here are some of the best places to try Roti Prata in Singapore:
- Mr and Mrs Mohgan’s Super Crispy Roti Prata, located at 300 Joo Chiat Road, is a well-known and highly-rated establishment that serves delicious Roti Prata.
- Springleaf Prata Place, with multiple locations islandwide, is a popular and highly-rated choice for Roti Prata.
- The Roti Prata House, located at 246M Upper Thomson Road, is a long-standing establishment that serves delicious and crispy Roti Prata.
- Other notable places to try Roti Prata in Singapore include Casuarina Curry, Sin Ming Roti Prata, and ENAQ.
Bak Chor Mee
Bak Chor Mee is a popular noodle dish that is often eaten for breakfast in Singapore. It is made with thin egg noodles that are tossed with a flavorful sauce made from soy sauce, vinegar, and other seasonings. The dish is typically topped with minced pork, mushrooms, and fish balls.
Where to Eat: Here are some of the best places to try Bak Chor Mee in Singapore:
- Tai Hwa Pork Noodle, located at Crawford Lane, is a Michelin-starred establishment that is widely regarded as the best place to try Bak Chor Mee in Singapore.
- Hill Street Tai Hwa Pork Noodle, located at Bedok South Road, is another highly-rated and popular choice for Bak Chor Mee.
- Seng Kee Mushroom Minced Pork Noodles, located at 49A Serangoon Garden Way, is a well-known and long-standing establishment that serves delicious Bak Chor Mee.
- Other notable places to try Bak Chor Mee in Singapore include Ah Kow Mushroom Minced Pork Mee, Song Fa Bak Kut Teh, and 58 Minced Meat Noodle.
Michelin-Starred Street Food
Singapore is known for its delicious and affordable street food; some of the best can be found at the hawker centers. In 2016, the Michelin Guide recognized the city’s street food scene by awarding stars to two hawker stalls. Since then, several more stalls have been awarded Michelin stars, making Singapore the only place in the world where you can find Michelin-starred street food.
One of Singapore’s most famous Michelin-starred street food stalls is Hill Street Tai Hwa Pork Noodle. This stall is known for its delicious bak chor mee, a noodle dish with minced pork, pork balls, and liver. The dish is served with vinegar and chili sauce, and it’s a must-try for anyone visiting the city. The Michelin Guide has awarded Hill Street Tai Hwa Pork Noodle one star.
Another famous Michelin-starred street food stall is Hawker Chan. This stall is located on Smith Street in Chinatown, and it’s known for its soya sauce chicken rice and noodles. The dish is made with tender, juicy chicken that’s been marinated in a secret blend of soya sauce and spices. The Michelin Guide has awarded Hawker Chan one star, and it’s a popular spot for locals and tourists alike.
There are several other Michelin-starred street food stalls in Singapore, including Liao Fan Hong Kong Soya Sauce Chicken Rice & Noodle, which is located in the Chinatown Complex, and Michelin-starred Indian restaurant, Bismillah Biryani, which is located on Kadayanallur Street. These stalls are known for their delicious food and affordable prices, and they’re a must-visit for anyone looking to experience Singapore’s street food scene.
Unique Food Experiences
Singapore is famous for its diverse street food scene, and there are several unique food experiences that visitors should not miss. From deep-fried buns to ice kachang, there is something for everyone to try.
One must-visit spot for seafood lovers is Red House Seafood, which has been serving up fresh and delicious seafood for over 40 years. Their signature dish is the Black Pepper Crab, which is a must-try for anyone visiting Singapore.
Another must-try dish is the banana leaf rice at The Banana Leaf Apolo. This traditional Indian meal is served on a banana leaf and includes a variety of curries, vegetables, and rice. The restaurant has been around since the 1970s and is a popular spot for locals and tourists alike.
For breakfast, visitors should try Kaya Toast, which is a traditional Singaporean breakfast dish. It consists of toast spread with kaya, a sweet coconut jam, and served with soft-boiled eggs and coffee or tea. One of the most famous places to try Kaya Toast is Ya Kun Kaya Toast, which has been serving the dish since 1944.
Dim sum is another popular food in Singapore, and visitors should head to Swee Choon Tim Sum for a unique dim sum experience. The restaurant is open 24 hours a day and serves up a variety of delicious dumplings, buns, and other dim sum dishes.
Lor Mee is a popular noodle dish in Singapore, and one of the best places to try it is at Heng Heng Prawn Mee. The dish consists of thick yellow noodles in a thick, starchy gravy, topped with fried fish, pork belly, and other toppings.
Boon Lay Power Nasi Lemak is another must-try dish in Singapore. This dish consists of coconut rice, fried chicken wings, fried fish, otah (spicy fish cake), and a variety of other toppings. The restaurant is located in a hawker center and is a popular spot for locals.
Finally, visitors should try Ice Kachang, which is a popular dessert in Singapore. It consists of shaved ice topped with sweet syrup, red beans, corn, grass jelly, and other toppings. One of the best places to try Ice Kachang is at Mei Heong Yuen Dessert, which has been serving the dessert since the 1960s.
Street Food and Singaporean Culture
Singapore’s street food culture is an important part of its identity and heritage. The country’s hawker centers, coffee shops, and food courts offer a wide variety of delicious and affordable dishes that reflect Singapore’s multicultural society. From Malay noodles to Indian curry puffs, Singapore’s street food is a cultural history feast.
One of the most iconic dishes in Singapore is the Hainanese chicken rice. This dish is considered the unofficial national dish of Singapore and can be found in almost every hawker center and food court. It consists of poached chicken served with fragrant rice cooked in chicken broth and a variety of sauces such as chili and ginger.
Another popular dish is the laksa, a spicy noodle soup that is a fusion of Chinese and Malay cuisine. The soup is made with a rich coconut milk broth and contains ingredients such as shrimp, fish cake, and tofu puffs. The dish is usually served with a side of spicy chili paste that adds an extra kick to the already flavorful soup.
Singapore’s street food culture is not just about the food, but also the atmosphere. Hawker centers and food courts are bustling with people from all walks of life, creating a vibrant and lively atmosphere. Some of Singapore’s most famous hawker centers include the Maxwell Food Centre, the Lau Pa Sat Festival Market, and the Chinatown Complex Food Centre.
In addition to hawker centers and food courts, Singapore has a growing number of modern restaurants offering a contemporary twist on traditional Singaporean cuisine. These restaurants in areas such as Marina Bay and Orchard Road offer a more upscale dining experience and are popular with locals and tourists.
Frequently Asked Questions
What are some popular street food dishes in Singapore?
Singapore is renowned for its street food scene and has a wide variety of dishes to offer. Some of the popular street food dishes in Singapore include Hainanese Chicken Rice, Chilli Crab, Fish Head Curry, Fried Carrot Cake, Char Kway Teow, Ngoh Hiang, Laksa, Satay, Ice Kachang, and Singapore Sling.
What are some vegetarian options for Singapore street food?
Vegetarians need not worry about missing out on the street food experience in Singapore. There are plenty of vegetarian options available such as Roti Prata, Vegetable Curry, Popiah, Rojak, and Fried Bee Hoon.
Where are the best places to try street food in Singapore?
Singapore is filled with hawker centres and food courts where you can find some of the best street food in the city. Some of the popular places to try street food in Singapore include Maxwell Food Centre, Chinatown Complex Food Centre, Tiong Bahru Market, Old Airport Road Food Centre, and Lau Pa Sat.
What is the most popular street food in Singapore?
Hainanese Chicken Rice is considered to be the most popular street food in Singapore. It is a simple dish consisting of poached chicken served with fragrant rice cooked in chicken broth and accompanied by a chilli sauce and ginger paste.
What is the meaning of ‘hawker’ in the context of Singapore street food?
In the context of Singapore street food, a hawker refers to a vendor who sells food from a small stall or cart, often located in a hawker centre or food court.
What are some Michelin recommended street food stalls in Singapore?
Singapore has a few street food stalls that have been awarded Michelin stars. Some of the Michelin recommended street food stalls in Singapore include Hill Street Tai Hwa Pork Noodle, Hong Kong Soya Sauce Chicken Rice & Noodle, Liao Fan Hong Kong Soya Sauce Chicken Rice & Noodle, and Tsuta.
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