Oct 03 2011
To outsiders Singapore is one sprawling city, but to its residents there are two distinct divisions: town and the heartlands. Often the only part of Singapore that visitors experience is Orchard Road, Raffles Place to Marina Bay and other central areas where you find five-star hotels and people queuing to shop at Louis Vuitton. A sharp contrast, the heartlands are largely residential areas with HDB housing flats, public schools and, of course, the most authentic Singaporean food. The hawker centres in the heartlands may be well outside the usual sightseeing areas, but are worth the trip for their cheap and tasty eats.
Old Airport Road Food Centre: A bit east of the city centre, this hawker centre is highly regarded by local street foodies for its classic hawker fare with recipes (and sometimes cooks) that haven’t changed for decades. Must-tries include the rojak (sweet, spicy fruit salad) from Stall #01-108, char kway teow (fried noodles with prawns and Chinese sausage) from #01-12, yong tau foo (pick-and-mix soup — can be a vegetarian dish) from #01-125, and chilli crab from Mattar Road BBQ Seafood at stall #01-63. With their “famous hawker” reputation comes the long queues; be prepared to wait 30 minutes or more for the best dishes.
Blk 51 Old Airport Road, most stalls open 10:00–21:00, or until sold out.
Suggested pairing: Check out the Singapore Art Museum beside Bras Basah MRT station, then take the subway five stops to Mountbatten MRT station; Old Airport Road Food Centre is a short walk from here.
Changi Village: This long-running hawker centre is so far east it’s practically on the beach. Slurp up a plate of beef kway teow from stall #01-19, grilled satay with addictive peanut sauce from stall #01-52, or the classic Malay dish of nasi lemak (coconut rice with sides like fried chicken and curry) from any of the competing stalls – #01-54 #01-57, #01-64. If you’re tired of Tiger Beer, check out Charlie’s Corner (#01-08) for a huge selection of imported beer and hawker interpretations of Western food like burgers or fish and chips.
2 Changi Village Road, hours vary by stall from 07:00–00:00.
Suggested pairing: Changi Village is right beside the ferry terminal to the eco-paradise of Pulau Ubin, so fill up before or after your island trip. Alternatively, get your favourite hawker food packaged to-go and enjoy an impromptu picnic at Changi Beach Park.
Tiong Bahru Market: Tiong Bahru is one of Singapore’s oldest housing estates and the second floor of the market is the perfect place to sample hawker dishes with distinctively Chinese roots like or lak (fried oyster omelet), bak kut teh (herbal pork rib soup), and kwap chap (braised intestines with noodles). If you’re not feeling that adventurous, you can’t go wrong with the boneless chicken rice (stall #02-82), roasted pork (stall #02-67/68), or the homemade noodles with juicy prawns from stall #02-50 – it’s been a bestseller for 50 years.
30 Seng Poh Road, hours vary by stall from 06:00–23:00.
Suggested pairing: The Tiong Bahru Market is a 10-minute walk from Tiong Bahru MRT station. Make a stop for a meal before taking the MRT further west to attractions like Jurong Bird Park or the Chinese and Japanese Gardens.
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