6 Iconic Hawker Stalls for Foodies in Singapore
At this point in time, Singapore has fully cemented its reputation as a culinary destination, known throughout the world for its amazing food, most of which can be found in humble open-air hawker centres where citizens gather and commune. Some of the best food you’ll find will be cheap and accessible, sold out of a hawker stall that likely has been in its spot for generations. These tireless chefs work diligently, recreating the same dish day in and day out until he (or she—shout out to the aunties who run these institutions) has perfected the specialty. Below, we take you on a tour of Singapore by way of its best hawker stalls:
For Hainanese Chicken Rice
Chicken rice is so ubiquitous in Singapore that it has the honoured distinction of being called the country’s national dish, despite originating from a different country entirely. Brought by southern Chinese immigrants from the province of Hainan, it is a deceptively simple-looking plate that belies the technique that goes into preparing it: poached chicken and oily seasoned rice are served with a variety of sauces, commonly dark soy, ginger, and garlic chilli.
- Tian Tian Hainanese Chicken Rice is the most well-known stall at the iconic Maxwell Food Centre, and it was already drawing queues around the block long before world-renowned chef, author, and host Anthony Bourdain came to try it for the Singapore episode of his 2012 Travel Channel show, No Reservations. It continues to attract long lines to this day, but if you’re not up for standing around and waiting your turn, there’s also a Tian Tian at Hotel Boss’ 24-hour food court, FoodClique.
- Wee Nam Kee is a multi-awarded stall that has been serving chicken rice since 1989, when they opened their flagship outlet in Novenaville, along Thomson Road. Over the years they’ve expanded their menu to include Hainanese staples and Nonyang-inspired dishes, and the reception to their food was so good that it has enabled them to open three additional branches in Singapore and even export their food around the world, with branches in the Philippines, Tokyo, Jakarta, and Seoul.
For Bak Kut Teh
Said to have originated from the Fujian province in China, Bak Kut Teh is a well-loved dish in Singapore made with pork ribs simmered for hours in a broth flavoured with a variety of herbs and spices, the exact blend of which is kept secret from stall to stall. The blend generally includes aromatics such as star anise, garlic, cinnamon and cloves, and when combined with the flavour of long-stewed pork bones and meat, it is positively explosive. The addition of mushroom, fried tofu, choy sum or offal only creates additional depth.
- Founder Bak Kut Teh is known for their peppery take on the dish, which they have been preparing with the same meticulous care for over 40 years out of the flagship in Balestier. There are three more spots where you can try their masterpiece: Founder’s has branches in Bugis, Downtown East, and Hotel Boss. The Hotel Boss outlet stays open until 5 AM daily to satisfy your post-midnight cravings. Their braised pig trotters also come highly recommended.
- Leong Kee (Klang) Bak Kut Teh is for fans of the dish prepared Malaysian-style, where the broth is distinctly more herbal in taste. The stall is located in Geylang and is open until 1 AM, making it an excellent spot for a post-bar-hopping or clubbing meal.
For Char Kway Teow
Rice noodles stir-fried in pork fat over very high heat with a mixture of seasonings and spices, prawns, de-shelled cockles, Chinese sausage, and vegetables make up char kway teow, a dish that may have originated in China’s Guangdong province. Served fresh and hot off the wok, it is a common breakfast dish in Singapore, though you are absolutely free to eat it any time you wish.
- Outram Park Fried Kway Teow Mee at Hong Lim Food Centre consistently tops the lists for Best Char Kway Teow in Singapore, and it’s easy to see why. The owner fries the noodles with the eggs first, resulting in a creamier, wetter dish that has customers lining up for hours. Head over early, or you will be forced to brave the crowds.
- Hill Street Fried Kway Teow does their noodles smoky with the distinct taste of wok hei, the essence imparted to food when it is stir-fried in a wok over very high heat. They also add Chinese chives to their noodles, which provide it with a unique taste and aroma. It’s so good that the stall has received a nod from the Singapore Michelin guide with a Michelin Plate for its signature dish. Find them in the Bedok South Road Market & Food Centre.
There’s no shortage to the number of exceptional food stalls in Singapore: places like Liao Fan Soya Sauce Chicken Rice & Noodle in the Chinatown Complex Food Centre come to mind, where the signature dish is known as the world’s cheapest Michelin-starred meal. The minced pork noodles locally known as bak chor mee are best had at Hill Street Tai Hwa Pork Noodles, similarly listed in the Singapore Michelin guide for their brilliant execution of the dish. At the end of the day, the hawker stalls of Singapore are proof positive that great meals need not be served with pomp and circumstance—they can be simple, approachable fare, a quality that all foodies can surely appreciate.