Top 10 Hawker Centres: Part 1

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First published 8th October, 2009

Singapore is a food lover's paradise. Luckily for those on a shoestring budget the city's best eats aren't at five-star restaurants but at the plentiful hawker centres. Squeaky-clean Singapore forbid street food decades ago, rounding up its sidewalk chefs into foodcourt-like settings called hawker centres. They're clean, cheap, and offer diverse and delectable food. Hawker centres are everywhere, but if you're feeling overwhelmed by choice here's the first five of our top 10 picks -- we'll share the other five next Friday.

Hawker centres are, of course, the best place to sample Singapore's famous hawker dishes, but you'll also find stalls serving up international fare from spaghetti bolognaise to phad thai. In true Singapore style, each stall is required by law to display its prices and most recent hygiene grading (from A to D).

Lau Pa Sat

A historical site and a great place to eat, Lau Pa Sat was built in 1894 as one of Singapore's first markets. Its Victorian archways and clock tower stick out amongst the shiny skyscrapers of downtown Singapore, and on weekdays you'll find it overflowing with hungry office workers. There are nearly 100 food stalls serving every conceivable type of food from Mumbai street snacks to Filipino style burgers. Typical Singapore hawker dishes are well represented and the feeding frenzy spills out onto Boon Tat Rd. to become "Satay Street" every evening. Pitchers of Tiger draft are a bargain at $14.50 before 19:00 and there's live music on weekends. Open 24 hours. More information.

Chomp Chomp

Though it got a modern makeover in 1998, Chomp Chomp has been around since '72. It's a bright, busy, boisterous place perfect for an evening of drinking and dining in true local style. While you'll probably be the only tourists there, don't be surprised to see lots of expats -- many live in the surrounding Serangoon Gardens area and adore this hawker centre as much as any local. Many of Singapore's "famous" hawkers cook here and some have been perfecting their cuisine since the place opened! Try the carrot cake from Stall #36, chicken wings from Stall #3, and grilled stingray from Stall #1. Chomp Chomp doesn't get going until 17:00, but stays open late (24:00-ish).

Maxwell Food Centre

Chinese-style dishes reign supreme at this hectic hawker centre between the business district and Chinatown. Many people say that the city's best Hainanese chicken rice -- practically the national dish -- comes from the Tian Tian Chicken Rice stall and it only costs S$3. Other must-tries include oyster omelets, congee, char siew BBQ pork, and fried fritters and dumplings. If you have the patience, look for the stalls with the longest queues and join the line, it's probably worth the wait.

A typical Singapore hawker centre

East Coast Lagoon Food Village

The best way to enjoy Singapore's East Coast beach isn't a dip in the ocean but an al fresco dinner beneath the swaying palm trees. There are more than 50 stalls serving chicken satay, fried noodles, roti, and hot pot soups, but most people make the trip out here especially for the seafood. Choose from tiger prawns, stingray, squid, fish, and crab -- it's very fresh and competitively priced. If it's a sticky night cool off with a fresh glass of sugar cane juice or an icy chendol dessert -- it tastes better than it looks. When you're done feasting you can work off some calories with a stroll along the beach.

Gluttons Bay

Every Singaporean is a foodie and one of the most respected judges of hawker fare is the Makansutra Guide. At Gluttons Bay, a chic outdoor eatery by the Esplanade theatre, every stall has been hand-picked by Makansutra as an exemplary example of a classic Singapore hawker dish. There's char kway teow, carrot cake, satay, oyster omelets, roti kaya, spicy seafood, and more. If you want to try one of everything you can -- sampler plates of seven dishes start as S$20. Prices are a bit higher than other hawker centres, but for an al fresco dining experience along the river this is as affordable as it gets. More information.

Singapore hawker centre map

Something to add?

If you've got a favourite hawker market in Singapore that belongs on this list, please add it via the comments section below. Thanks!

About the author:
Tanya Procyshyn is a Singapore-based freelance writer and photographer. With a passion for unusual destinations, she has camped alongside Komodo dragons and shook hands with soldiers in North Korea. She blogs at

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