Top 10 Hawker Centres: Part 2

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First published 15th October, 2009

This week we'd like to introduce Part 2 with a few words of hawker centre etiquette. Singapore is a crowded place and so are its popular hawker centres. This has lead to the phenomenon of 'choping' -- reserving an empty table before you go get your meal. No, those aren't free napkins at each table, they're being used to 'chope' it. Packets of tissue are the most common item used (and usually sold 3 for S$1 by touts outside the hawker centre), but we've also seen it done with newspapers, books, umbrellas, mobile phones, and even purses.

Food Republic @ Wisma Atria

Grumbly tummy on Orchard Rd? It feels like cheating to put a mall food court on this list, but most cheap places to eat around Orchard are mall food courts and this one is definitely the best. It occupies most of Wisma Atria's fourth floor and attempts an old-fashioned Chinese coffee shop vibe with red lanterns and long wooden tables that end up being shared by strangers during busy lunch times. Many of Singapore's esteemed hawkers have set up higher-end stalls here -- try the oyster omelette, popiah, carrot cake, or famous Thye Hong Hokkien prawn noodles. This is also an easy place to try your first bowl of yong tau foo as all the items are labelled in English. International options include pasta, fish and chips, north Indian, Thai, dim sum, and a sushi bar. For dessert sample the perfect little coconut cakes from Tan's Tu Tu.

Newton Food Centre

Long hyped by the Singapore Tourism Board as the best place to sample local cuisine, Newton Food Centre is famous for its hawkers as well as its reputation of over-charging and touting the tourists who are delivered here by the bus-full. Still, this doesn't stop hordes of people (locals included) from going to Newton for great BBQ seafood and a convivial atmosphere. Newton is famous for its seafood -- chilli or pepper crab, sambal stingray, tiger prawns -- and this is what the vast majority of the stalls serve. Competition between them is fierce so just ignore the touts who try to direct you to certain tables and stalls. If you're not into seafood there's also chicken rice, carrot cake, satay, noodles, and popiah, but you're probably better off elsewhere. Yes, Newton is a bit of a tourist trap, but it's fun, a short MRT ride from Orchard, and open 'til the wee hours of the night. Just remember to check the seafood prices (usually per 100g) before ordering!

Fortune Centre

This one's for the health nuts out there. In the Bugis area, Fortune Centre isn't exactly a hawker centre but a collection of quaint cafeterias and cafes serving organic and vegetarian food. Most of the restaurants serve Chinese-type dishes and the sheer number of things they can make out of bean curd will astound you. At Luo Han you can try vegetarian versions of local hawker favourites like laksa, char siew, and even mock chicken rice! Get acquainted with Chinese veggies like bitter gourd, kai lan, and taro -- all served with wholesome brown rice. In the building you'll also find lots of stalls selling fresh fruit juices, natural teas, and health-boosting herbal soups. The newish Basil Alcove cafe here was a pleasant discovery -- fusion flavours, organic ingredients, and low prices (especially the set lunches around S$7).

Nameless delights at a Singapore hawker stall

Golden Mile Food Centre & Complex

We'll treat these as a 2-in-1 since they're directly opposite each other. Near Kampong Glam, the lower level of Golden Mile Food Centre is dominated by Malay/Indian stalls serving halal fare like roti prata, mee goreng, and mutton soup. Many foodies make a pilgrimage here especially for the sup tulang, mutton bones cooked in a spiced tomato sauce -- you're supposed to suck out the marrow. Stall #B-15 has made this dish famous enough that it was visited by Anthony Bourdain in the series No Reservations. The stalls on the upper levels are more diverse and you'll find Chinese noodles, Japanese bento boxes, and even pizza. Golden Mile Complex is Singapore's "Little Thailand" and inside you'll find Thai supermarkets, discos, and lots of Thai food. Prices are higher than in the land of smiles, but otherwise it's the real deal: skewers of grilled meat, freshly pounded som tam, and spicy soups all washed down with a big bottle of Singha. We like Diandin Leluk where a plate of phad thai or basil chicken costs less than S$5.

Tekka Centre

Once the grimy heart of Little India, Tekka Centre reopened in August after upgrades to bring this fresh-market-cum-hawker-centre up to standards. The hawkers have moved back in from the temporary location and the tantalising aromas of frying spices and simmering curries have returned. If you've got a big appetite, order the banana leaf meal of assorted curries and vegetables served with a mountain of rice for under S$5. Other Tekka favourites are briyani (with fish, chicken, or mutton), roti murtabak (flatbread stuffed with minced mean and onion), dosai (lentil pancakes with curry), prawn vadai, and the Indian version of fried noodles -- bright red from the added chilli. Don't worry if you're chilli-intolerant -- It's not exclusively Indian food. Look around and you'll discover roasted duck, carrot cake, rice porridge, rojak, and more. Wash it down with some Indian tea or fresh lime juice. Most stalls here are halal, but some drink stalls also sell beer.

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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