The 10 Best Hawker Foods in Singapore
If you want to know the kind of food that Singapore is famous for, then this list is a great start, especially for a newbie to hawker dining. I’ve tried and tested all these dishes and although I have my favourites, this list of the best hawker foods in Singapore includes uniquely Singaporean dishes and therefore I’ve included them all as candidates for the best hawker foods. I’m by no means an expert though, so feel free to tell me where you think I’ve got it wrong!
Bak Chor Mee
This was a new food for me when I tried it with a local expert (well semi-local, thanks Kinny!) Bak Chor Mee is a mix of pork and noodles, we ordered ours ‘dry’ which means there’s only a small amount of gravy in the bottom, then you can add more as you go. The bowl is filled with minced pork pieces, noodles (make sure you ask for thick), liver, crunchy pork scratchings, crispy fried anchovies and in this case pork balls. The meat is fresh and very tasty and the thick noodles have a very good chewy texture. The gravy is dense without being heavy and it cuts through the rich meat well. I wasn’t a fan of the pork balls so next time I’ll just ask for something instead. Most hawker places are like this, you can mix and match to get the perfect meal. What I liked about this meal is that it was hearty, but not too oily. Perfect for a cold day in Singapore (like when it’s 24 degrees!) This one is so good that I listed it as my favourite for Hotel Club on their Secret Singapore Foodie Edition (click this link to see).
$6 will buy you a good serve of Bak Chor Mee at Hill Street Tai Hwa Pork Noodle
466 Crawford Lane, #01-02, Singapore, 190466 (closed first Monday of every month)
Between Lavender and Bugis MRT stations
I’ll start with Chicken Rice since it’s the Singaporean signature dish. I personally have found it difficult to get excited about Chicken Rice. I mean, how exciting can chicken and rice be? It’s just chicken and rice right? Well kind of. The art of Chicken Rice is theoretically in the cooking of the rice with stock from the chicken to add flavour that plain boiled rice lacks (please anyone with knowledge of this artform feel free to correct and improve on this explanation). I’ve now devoured a few Chicken Rice dishes, after asking locals where to find the best, and I conclude that it still doesn’t excite me. The chicken is indeed tender, and tasty. You can spice it up with sauces and sometimes pickles. It’s also pretty healthy as far as hawker food goes, the chicken is cooked in (sub) boiling stock and not fried. But at the end of the day, it really is just chicken and rice. After a Facebook call out to find the best Chicken Rice, I’ve decided that my favourite is at Maxwell Road Hawker Centre. I don’t have a picture of it as I visited with my niece and nephew at the time and they distracted me The picture above is from Boon Tong Kee on River Valley Road ($8.80 for a small serve).
$5 will buy you a decent serve of Chicken Rice at Tian Tian Hainanese Chicken Rice
Maxwell Road Food Centre
1 Kadayanallur Street, #01-10, Singapore, 069184 (closed on Mondays)
Another chicken based dish that Singaporeans rave about. Malaysian in origin (I believe, but, feel free to correct me if I’m wrong) I tried the one at Adam Road where they are quite famous for their Nasi Lemak. In fact, the day I went, this was the only hawker stall with a massive queue, so be prepared to wait. Essentially Nasi Lemak is fried chicken, served with rice that’s been soaked in coconut cream and then cooked, crispy fried anchovies, peanuts, sambal, cucumber and an egg. It’s ok, and if you’re into fried chicken you would definitely like it. The crispy anchovies are probably the highlight for me, but again, I can live without it.
$5 will buy you a decent serve of Nasi Lemak at Adam’s Nasi Lemak
Adam Road Food Centre
2 Adam Road, #01-01, 289876 (closed Monday lunch)
This one is definitely at the top of the list of my personal favourites. One of my bug bears with hawker foods is that so often it is oily and greasy. Not this fish soup though. The soup is a clean and clear broth, full of thick noodles (or you can ask for thin ones if you prefer) and a massive chunk of some of the best fish you’ll taste in Singapore. The fish is poached, retaining its moisture perfectly so that it flakes off as you devour it. A little chilli on the side, coriander and crispy garlic flakes complement this perfectly simple dish. Make sure you have time to queue, I’ve arrived here at 11.45am and had to queue for 30 minutes! My best tip is to arrive at about 12.45pm to beat the second rush.
$6 will get you a massive bowl of fish soup from Han Kee
Amoy Street Food Centre
7 Maxwell Road, #02-129, 069111
Dumplings (Xiao Long Bao) and Dim Sum
I can’t put together a list of the best hawker foods without including dumplings and dim sum. Although I have to admit that you don’t normally find xiao long bao (dumplings) in a hawker centre, there are a few places where you can find them, and nonetheless pretty much every visitor to Singapore wants to try some tasty dumplings and dim sum. Now what I’d like to tell you is to go to a little Hole-In-The-Wall joint, where an old Uncle serves up his traditional xiao long bau using a recipe handed down by previous generations. But as hard as I’ve tried (as I type this my tummy is exploding on my latest tasting of xiao long bau) I cannot go past Din Tai Fung. Many foodies out there will chastise me for this no doubt, but I think Din Tai Fung is the best. I even chastise myself because Din Tai Fung is a chain and generally I’m averse to chains of any sort. But I love their pork dumplings. The texture of the dough is perfect, not too thin, not too thick, and just enough to hold together the bag of goodness and deliver it to your mouth. The meat inside is tender pork, not spiced too much and it has a substantial texture. And the soup inside is rich and flavourful, again, not watery like others I’ve tried. I also think that the 18 folds they rave so much about might have something to do with the perfection. So there you have it. I’m a slave to the corporate giant that is Din Tai Fung.
$10 will get you 10 luscious dumplings at Din Tai Fung
Click the link above for locations
Murtabak or Roti with Curry
Not many of the items on this list are breakfast food, because I’m personally not mad for Singaporean breakfasts. One of my favourites though is a soft and doughy roti dipped in curry. Al Tasneem on North Bridge Road do roti plus prata and curry or chicken murtabak (pictured above).
$4 will buy you some roti and curry or a prata at Al Tasneem
709 North Bridge Road, Singapore, 198676
It took me a while to work out that Carrot Cake in Singapore is nothing like the version you have with coffee in Melbourne. In fact, it doesn’t even have carrots in it! Bizarre I know. The ‘cake’ is actually radish cake and it is made with rice flour, water and white radish (daikon or Malaysian radish). It’s diced and stir fried with eggs, preserved radish, garlic, spring onions and seasonings to produce something a little like an omelette but much more hearty. The ‘cake’ is soft and white (it’s the white colour you can see in the picture above) and has no strong flavour to speak of. The texture is soft and a little mushy, but the crispy bits of eggy, garlic mixture adds a good contrast. There is also a black version that incorporates a sweet black sauce. Recipes vary but my advice is to try Carrot Cake where you see a big line of people waiting for it – they’re usually on the mark! Maxwell Road (as above for Chicken Rice) also have a good Carrot Cake stall.
$2.50 will buy you a small serving of Carrot Cake
Bukit Merah View Hawker Centre
115 Bukit Merah View, Singapore, 151115
Again, I’m not sure these buns qualify as hawker fare, but there is a stall at Tiong Bahru market and Tiong Bahru Pau supply their buns all over town. The most delicious are the ones above, baked crispy on the outside with a soft, doughy inner and filled with slightly sweet marinated pork. So yummy it’s hard not to have more than one.
$5 will buy you enough buns to make you sick
237 Outram Road, Singapore, 169041
Popiah and Chicken Floss Rolls
These are some of my favourite hawker foods because they’re tasty without being too filling and heavy. The common feature between both the Popiah and chicken floss rolls is the thin crepe like wrapping that holds various treats inside. Fillings often include turnip, grated carrot, lettuce, bean sprouts, shredded omelette, fried shallots and peanuts. Chicken floss rolls are similar with the addition of chicken floss (chicken fried up until it’s crispy and dry, very tasty!). The rolls are served with hoisin sauce, chilli sauce and mayonaise. At Fortune Food they also do a wasabi mayonaise version of chicken floss rolls which is super tasty.
$2.50 will buy you a Popiah at Smith Street Market, Block 335, #02-112
Fish Head Curry
Another world famous Singaporean dish, fish head curry is aptly named but sometimes scares people away. Although there is indeed a fish head in the soupy, gravy mixture, the meat on the fish head is succulent and white, as with other parts of the fish. The vegetables add crunch to the mix, okra in particular goes very well. Beware that some fish head curries are hotter than others. The one at the food centre near Aljunied MRT listed below is definitely on the hotter side.
$20 from Penang Seafood Restaurant (near Aljunied MRT)
76 Geylang, Lorong 25A, 388258 Singapore
ph+65 9688 9778
This list is far from comprehensive, I’ve excluded dishes like Char Kway Teow, Bak Kut Teh and Laksa because I really find them too heavy and fattening and I haven’t managed to master eating them consistently to compare. If you have any ‘must try’ recommendations though please feel free to let us all know.
Please tell us where your favourite hawker food is in Singapore. And let me know if you have anything more to add to the background of any of these Singaporean dishes, I always like to learn more about my food history.