Iconic and delicious
Iconic Lau Pa Sat hawker centre, nestled into the heart of Singapore’s financial district and a great spot to sample local cuisine as well as international dishes, reopened in mid-2014 after a nine-month renovation that left it bigger, brighter and better than ever. The makeover gave the food centre a spruced up interior, improved ventilation and a reconfigured layout of food stalls, while leaving the original facade and central clock tower intact.
Lau Pa Sat is the only Singapore hawker centre that’s also a historic site, as the beautiful Victorian building dates back to 1894 and served as the then-British colony’s first market. The cast-iron building — the iron comes from the same company behind Singapore’s Cavenagh Bridge – was imported from Glasgow. But make no mistake, people come here for the dizzying variety of delicious food and not a history lesson.
In the new layout, the number of seats available has risen from 2,040 to 2,500, while the number of stalls has dropped from 90 to 54, but the culinary offerings remain as diverse as the office workers at nearby Raffles Place. Stalls offer everything from customised salads to Turkish kebabs to Japanese ramen soup, with traditional Singaporean hawker dishes well represented too – you’ll find steamy bowls of laksa soup, spicy stingray as well as humble chicken rice.
Many old favourites remain, such as Lai Heng, which serves delicious char kway teow (fried noodles with lard, Chinese sausage and cockles) and fried carrot cake. Newcomers include Mamacitas Costa Rican cuisine (stall 6) and Delicius Pasticceria (stall 95), which serves up delectable cakes. Your Little Brown Bag (stall 14) sells sandwiches, while cafe-cum-florist The Little Flower Shop (stall 42) serves macaroons and teas with flower and herb elements. Vietnamese is on offer at Sunny Viet (stall 98), and you’ll find Japanese yakitori at Azmaya (stall 55).
The creative use of space allows for dining in different environments as well. For example, there’s a seafood stall with crayfish and clams laid out for all to see, while Jia Le seafood restaurant offers air-conditioned comfort in a closed environment – more than a dozen mini-restaurants have their own seating. You’ll find drink stalls selling fresh sugar cane juice, bottled water, soda and Singapore-style coffee and tea.
Lau Pa Sat’s CBD location means that this hawker centre is busiest on weekday afternoons when thousands of office workers show up for a cheap lunch – show up during this time and you may find yourself sharing a table with a stranger.
In contrast, evenings at Lau Pa Sat are laidback with people sharing snacks and lingering over drinks. From around 19:00 the adjacent Boon Tat Street is blocked off from traffic to become “Satay Street”, with a dozen stalls grilling morsels of chicken, pork, beef and plump prawns. Needless to say a night out at Lau Pa Sat costs a fraction of what you’d spend at a bar or restaurant. In theory Lau Pa Sat is open 24 hours, but most food stalls close around 22:00 — don’t go too late as the best stalls sell out early.
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