The best hawker food stalls in Singapore
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A Singaporean can be defined as someone who loves to eat Singaporean style hawker food. I have not met anyone who has grown up in this country who does not have an intimate relationship with the dishes that define our culture.
In Singapore, the term “hawker” no longer describes the reality. In the early days, the early migrants really did ply the streets of Singapore, selling food that fed a developing nation. But nowadays, our hawkers are all located in 'hawker centers,' purpose-built facilities where each stallholder has a little shop space to sell their food.
There are hundreds of such hawker centers all over the island with thousands of stalls selling an array of different dishes. Finding the gems amongst the thousands of stalls has been my personal mission in the last few years. Here I am going to take you on a walkabout to discover some of the best hawker foods that Singapore has to offer.
We start our journey at Old Airport Road Food Centre which is widely regarded as one of the best hawker centers around. Here you will not only find nearly all the different hawker dishes, but some of Singapore’s best hawker stalls.
Hokkien mee: Only in Singapore
One of the most famous is Nam Sing Hokkien Mee, which has recently been voted as serving the best hokkien mee by my blog readers. Hokkien mee is the one dish you must try in Singapore because it is only found here and nowhere else. Hokkien mee is almost like a seafood pasta dish except that we fry our noodles with the seafood stock so that that noodles get totally infused with garlic and crustacean flavor.
A great side dish to go with hokkien mee is satay, so head over to Chuan Kee Satay, which serves one of the best Hainanese-style satays on our island. We should balance off our meal with some veggies, so make sure you look for Toa Payoh Rojak to order your salad of cut fruits and vegetables tossed in a sweet fermented prawn and peanut dressing. It might not sound or look pretty, but it is downright delicious.
Choices from Chinatown
If you are spending the day in Chinatown, head over to Smith Street Food Centre to be totally inundated with great food. In the early days, Chinatown was where the early Chinese immigrants, who were mainly from the southern coastal regions, settled to start businesses. Nowadays, it is seeing a fresh influx of Chinese from the northern parts of China. Just like the first wave of migrants, these people would rent a stall in the hawker center to serve the food that they used to eat back home.
Over at China La Mian Steamed Buns you will find such a couple selling xiao long bao (small dragon dumplings) which can now be considered nouveau hawker cuisine.
For a taste of something more traditional, Teochew Street Mushroom Minced Meat Noodles serves one of the best minced meat noodle dishes around. Watch closely as the hawker poaches the egg noodles and tests each batch with his fingers before topping it with a savory mushroom sauce, minced pork and boiled dumplings.
For dessert, head for Hai Seng Ah Balling which serves our version of the mochi. Each glutinous rice ball is filled with crushed peanuts or black sesame and served in a sweet pandan-flavored soup.
Satay and sugarcane at East Coast Lagoon
If you are looking for a hawker center where you can chill out with some satay and sugarcane juice under the swaying coconut palms, then the East Coast Lagoon Food Centre is where you should be.
The East Coast Food Centre is located along the beach and houses one of Singapore’s biggest satay clubs. Here is where you can find a whole stretch of satay stalls all vying for your attention. I could recommend you a stall, but I think it would be more fun if you just let yourself be confused for choice.
The truth of the matter is that there really isn’t one that stands out amongst the crowd so just go with your instinct. Here is also where you can find stalls selling barbecue seafood. Amongst these is a little gem called Leng Heng BBQ Seafood that is run by an energetic 'auntie'. Her black pepper crabs are guaranteed to clear your sinuses. If you are a little more adventurous, you can try their claypot duck with salted vegetable soup which is one of the best on the island. As you walk along the same row of shops away from the sea, you might chance upon a long line of people. Here is where you find a lesser known dish we call satay bee hoon at the Ming Kee Satay Bee Hoon stall. The hawker at this stall has a secret blend of peanut sauce that he uses to smother his plate of rice noodles and seafood. Don’t be alarmed, the sauce is not too spicy, so you don’t need to be a masochist to enjoy the dish!
There is so much to eat in Singapore. But beware, not every stall is going to serve you a dish which memories are made of. So it pays to do a bit of research to make sure that every morsel is worth the calories!
For something really spectacular, on the eyes as well as the taste buds, you can also try some of the crab on offer here. Chin Huat Live Seafood Restaurant does an amazing crab feast, featuring crabs from around the world. And Geylang Lor 29 Hokkien Mee is also worth checking out.
The hawker stalls
Nam Sing Hokkien Fried Mee, Old Airport Road Food Centre (Renovated), #01-32, 7 a.m. to about 8 p.m. Closes when everything is sold out, or when Uncle feels tired
Chuan Kee Satay, Old Airport Road Food Centre, #01-85, 6 p.m. until sold out around 10 p.m. Closed Monday and Thursday, Sunday opens at 1 p.m.
Toa Payoh Rojak, Old Airport Road Food Centre (renovated), #01-108, 12 p.m.-8 p.m. Closed Sundays
China La Mian Steamed Buns, Chinatown Smith Street Food Centre, Blk 335 Smith Street #02-135, Singapore 050335, +65 9743 5287, 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Closed Thursdays
Teochew Street Mushroom Minced Meat Noodle, Chinatown Smith Street Food Centre, #02-023, Closed Mon - Tues, 12:30 p.m. to 9 p.m.
Hai Seng Ah Balling, Stall 02-059, Chinatown Food Centre, Blk 335 Smith Street, Singapore 050335, 12 p.m. to 9 p.m., Thursday 12 p.m. to 6 p.m.
Leng Heng BBQ Seafood; Claypot Deluxe, East Coast Lagoon Village Stall No. 6 (Near the beach), +65 6445 0513 Lao Ma, Opened 3:30 p.m. till 11 p.m. Closed Thursdays
Ming Kee Satay Bee Hoon, East Coast Lagoon Food Village, Stall 17, 6 p.m. to 11:30 p.m. Closed Tuesdays
Chin Huat Live Seafood Restaurant, Blk 105, #01-30 Clementi St 12 (Sunset Way), Singapore 120105, +65 6775 7348
Geylang Lor 29 Fried Hokkien Mee, 396 East Coast Road, 11.30am to 9.30pm, Closed on Mondays