Singapore is known as a foodie destination for a good reason. Aside from fine dining establishments, there are plenty of hawker stalls and centres to look forward to (especially for the budget-conscious).
For those looking for their next gastronomic adventure, here’s everything you need to know about hawkers in Singapore!
Why is it called hawker in Singapore?
Street food sellers are called hawkers in Singapore because they hawk cheap and easy meals via makeshift stalls in public places. The hawker culture started with the early Singapore migrant peddlers in the 1800s.
Today, they’re usually found under one roof or area, still serving delicious yet affordable food to anyone and everyone.
So when it comes to ideas for dinner in Singapore, don’t be surprised to find plenty of hawker fare as your options.
What is the most popular hawker food in Singapore?
Hawker stalls have become favourite brunch places in Singapore because of the diverse food choices they offer. But if you were to ask me which ones are my favourites, I’ll answer with the following picks.
- Hainanese chicken rice
- Char kway teow
- Bak kut teh
- Nasi lemak
- Fried carrot cake
- Bak chor mee
- Hokkien mee
- Kway chap
- Bee hon
- Caifan rice
- Chilli crab
Learn more about these top picks below.
1. Hainanese Chicken Rice
Where to get it: Tian Tian Hainanese Chicken Rice
Hawker location: #01-10/11 Maxwell Food Centre, 1 Kadayanallur Street Singapore S069184
Operating hours: Tuesday to Sunday, 8 AM – 10 PM
Being a top contender for Singapore’s national dish makes Hainanese chicken rice a must-try in any hawker stall. It comes in varieties too: soy sauce-marinated, steamed or roasted.
What makes this dish extra delectable for me is how the rice is prepared. You can’t just serve it with any old rice; it needs to be fragrant and savoury with every bite.
I love what they do at Tian Tian Hainanese Chicken Rice. It’s located at Maxwell Food Centre in the heart of Chinatown, and it’s so flavourfully poached that you’ll swear you’ll come back for more.
Helpful hawker hint: Even the rice is infused with chicken stock, so go ahead and lick your plate clean!
Where to get it: Fu Dao Homemade Satay
Hawker location: 51 Old Airport Road #01-97 Old Airport Road Food Centre, Singapore 39005
Operating hours: Tuesday to Friday, 5 PM – 10.30 PM, Saturdays, noon – 10.30 PM, Sundays, noon – 10 PM
Who doesn’t like grilled meat on skewers like satay? They’re tasty, easy to eat, and filling on their own or with a side of salad, rice, or other carbs.
What’s excellent about hawker culture is that you won’t have to go to the pricey Thai restaurants in Singapore for your satay fix. You can go to any hawker centre and take your pick of the most aromatic satay stalls without worrying about how much they cost.
I quite like the way Fu Dao Homemade Satay on Old Airport Road prepares its chicken and pork satay. But I especially like how it’s priced at less than S$0.50 per stick!
Helpful hawker hint: It’s closed on Mondays, so make sure to get your satay fix elsewhere should your cravings fall then.
3. Char Kway Teow
Where to get it: Dong Ji Fried Kway Teow
Hawker location: #01-138 Old Airport Road Food Centre, 51 Old Airport Rd., S390051
Operating hours: Monday to Wednesday, Friday to Saturday, 11 AM – 2 PM and 6 PM – 8 PM
Char kway teow or stir-fried noodles come with lots of ingredients that I’m having a hard time describing exactly what it is. It can come with eggs, sausages, bean sprouts, or your choice of other protein with flat rice noodles.
I do prefer the version they have at Dong Ji Fried Kway Teow, also at the Old Airport Road Food Centre. It’s a bit sweeter than traditional ones, but each order is fried on the spot so I can get it piping hot each time.
There might be long lines, especially during the lunch hour, mind. But if you don’t like a bit of a wait, trust that you’ll be rewarded with something truly delicious.
Helpful hawker hint: Each order is fried from scratch so you know you’ll get it fresh and hot!
4. Bak Kut Teh
Where to get it: Founder Bak Kut Teh
Hawker location: 30 Foch Rd, Singapore 209276
Operating hours: Daily, 10 AM – 4 AM
Luckily, Founder Bak Kut Teh has a branch on Foch Road which closes at 4 in the morning! The other branches close at midnight, which is still a great time to get your peppery soup fix.
If you’re confused about how bak kut teh translates into “meat bone tea”, I’m here to tell you that there’s no tea included in the preparation of this dish. But you can have a cup of tea with it to complete the experience.
Helpful hawker hint: The place is open until the wee hours should you need a protein pick-me-upper.
5. Nasi Lemak
Where to get it: Selera Rasa Nasi Lemak
Hawker location: #01-02 Adam Road Hawker Centre, 2 Adam Rd., S289877
Operating hours: Monday to Thursday, 7 AM – 5 PM, Saturdays and Sundays, 7 AM – 3 PM
If you’ve ever wondered what Singaporeans eat for lunch, you can be sure nasi lemak is on the list. It’s a burp-worthy meal that tastefully combines crispy protein with fragrant carbs, and some spicy dipping sauce if you prefer it.
A personal favourite haunt for this dish is the one at Adam Road Hawker Centre called Selera Rasa Nasi Lemak. When I’m feeling extra peckish, I order the Royal Rumble.
Aside from the fragrant long-grain rice and the crispy fried chicken, the Royal Rumble also has a variety of sides to add flavour and texture to the dish. You can expect some chilli sambal, anchovies and peanuts, and fish cake in the mix!
Helpful hawker hint: Try the Royal Rumble – you can thank me later!
Where to get it: 328 Katong Laksa
Hawker location: 51 East Coast Road, Joo Chiat Singapore 428770
Operating hours: Daily, 10.30 AM – 9.30 PM
Laksa is arguably one of the most recognised (and in-demand) Peranakan food in Singapore. It’s a hearty noodle soup that comes with its own holiday (every March 6th), and rightfully so if you were to ask me.
For starters, the insanely fragrant coconut curry broth will already make your mouth water. Stir your bowl a bit and you’ll get a whiff of spicy warmth and a vision of swimming fish, chicken, or prawn along with shrimp paste and other goodies.
I recommend 328 Katong Laksa for this very experience I just described, especially during rainy days. And if you’re feeling dim sum-y, the place has those, too.
Helpful hawker hint: The place also serves dim sum in case you’re also in the mood for them.
7. Fried Carrot Cake
Where to get it: Carrot Cake Chomp Chomp Food Centre
Hawker location: 57 Garden Way, Chomp Chomp Food Centre #01-36 Serangoon Gardens
Operating hours: Daily, 5.30 PM-midnight
Nope, this is not describing the dessert variety you can get from cake delivery services. Fried carrot cake is a hawker speciality that is savoury, simple, and oh-so-satisfying.
Many argue that it’s just an omelette, but it’s actually made up of cubed radishes (instead of carrots), eggs, and rice flour. It’s a complete and filling meal in itself.
When I’m craving fried carrot cake, I visit the Chomp Chomp Food Centre for its crispy fried version. It contains small shrimp so it’s always a delight to bite into.
Helpful hawker hint: There’s some shrimp inside the cake, so yay for surprise seafood protein!
8. Bak Chor Mee
Where to get it: Hill Street Tai Wah Pork Noodle
Hawker location: 466 Crawford Ln, #01-12, 190465
Operating hours: Daily, 9.30 AM – 9 PM
What’s in a typical Singaporean diet? As the past entries have shown, there’s a lot of protein, a lot of carbs, and anything you can think of stir/deep frying, steaming, slow cooking or stewing.
The difference is that even humble noodle dishes like the bak chor mee can get a Michelin star for being so authentically yummy. This is particularly true of Hill Street Tai Wah Pork Noodle on Crawford Lane.
It may not be in a hawker stall, but its version of bak chor mee is one of the best I’ve tasted. It’s spicy, salty, and savoury all at the same time, which is why there’s always a long queue for a bowl of it.
Helpful hawker hint: It’s a Michelin-starred place so there’s likely some waiting involved.
9. Hokkien Mee
Where to get it: Ah Hock Fried Hokkien Noodles
Hawker location: 57 Garden Way, Chomp Chomp Food Centre Stall 27 Serangoon Gardens
Operating hours: Daily, 5.30 PM-midnight
There are a lot of noodle dishes featured in hawker centres in Singapore. I won’t need to go to a fancy Chinese restaurant to get a taste of each one, not when hokkien mee hawker stalls near me exist.
If it’s your first time trying this interesting noodle dish, I’d recommend the Ah Hock Fried Hokkien Noodles, also at the Chomp Chomp Food Centre. Its drier version is something I prefer because it brings out the different textures and flavours of the dish.
Other versions feature a richer, “saucier” mixed-noodle dish with a rich broth. Either way, I boldly suggest adding a dash of sambal and a squeeze of lime juice to make the experience extra special.
Helpful hawker hint: Add a bit of spicy sambal to level up the fieriness of this dish.
10. Kway Chap
Where to get it: Golden Street Kway Chap
Hawker location: 49A Serangoon Garden Way, #01-21, Serangoon Garden Market & Food Centre, Singapore 555945
Operating hours: Daily, 8.30 AM – 3.30 PM
I have to admit that kway chap wouldn’t be everyone’s cup of tea (or broth). It contains braised pork, intestines, egg, pork skin, broad noodle sheets, and broth so there’s a lot to ingest in one slurp.
But I like it, especially on rainy days when a hot bowl of comfort is a must. That’s why I’m adding it to this listicle and recommending Golden Street Kway Chap at Serangoon Food Centre for your first bowl.
And while it looks like a simple enough dish to put together, many hawkers stay up all night just to prepare it for customers. The braising alone can take hours, and the intestines and pork skin also need to be thoroughly cleaned and softened.
Helpful hawker hint: It may look like a simple dish, but a serving of kway chap represents hours of meal prep!
11. Mixed Bee Hon
Where to get it: Yip Economic Bee Hoon
Hawker location: 115 Bukit Merah View, #01-33, Bukit Merah View Market & Hawker Centre, Singapore 151115
Operating hours: Daily, 4.30 AM – 1 PM
The main reason they call it “economic bee hoon” is — you’ve guessed it — for its cheap price. You can get one starting at just S$1 and leave the shop happily burping away.
Hawker stalls that sell this dish typically offer at least two types of noodles (or bee hoon) and two to three main ingredients to add. The ones at Yip Economic Bee Hoon bear the shop’s signature piquant sauce that veers on the sweet side.
I’d like to think of this hawker fare as everything in a typical Singaporean diet in one bowl or plate. If you’re feeling extra peckish, you can even add anything from a fried egg to some fried luncheon meat!
Helpful hawker hint: You can go for thinner or fatter noodles — or even a mixture of both!
12. Caifan Rice
Where to get it: Yummy Rice Shop
Hawker location: 270 Queen Street #01-107, Singapore 180270
Operating hours: Sundays and Mondays, 9.30 AM – 7 PM, Tuesday to Saturday, 7.30 AM – 8 PM
Rejoice, for there is a rice version of the economic bee hoon. It’s called caifan, or economic rice (well, duh).
For some time, I was eating practically nothing but this cheap yet tasty dish when my rice cooker went on the fritz. It’s basically cooked rice mixed with just about any imaginable ingredient, from seafood to stir-fried meat or veggies.
It’s a humble, basic, yet satisfying dish that doesn’t require strict preparation rules or even ingredients. This means even those who prefer plant-based food can go for this meal any time of the day.
Helpful hawker hint: You can choose veggies and plant-based options for a healthier no-meat caifan plate.
13. Chilli Crab
Where to get it: 31 Heng Heng BBQ
Hawker location: 500 Clemenceau Ave N, #01-31 Food Centre, Singapore 229495
Operating hours: Daily, noon – 10.30 PM
I can recommend dozens of places to get the best chilli crab in Singapore, but to be honest, I want to stick to somewhere that’s more or less budget-friendly. Chilli crab can get quite pricey, with some restaurants often basing the rates on market availability.
However, I do like the chilli crab at 31 Heng Heng BBQ, which is still a hawker centre-based location. It’s one of the most affordable places to get this delicacy as it charges from S$30 per 100 grams of crab.
The place specialises in black pepper crab, though its other bestsellers like BBQ prawn and stingray are also in high demand. But do go there as early as you can manage, as it can get crowded with chilli crab fanatics.
Helpful hawker hint: It’s not the cheapest hawker centre fare so make sure to check prices before ordering.
Where to get it: Toa Payoh Rojak
Hawker location: #01-108 Old Airport Road Food Centre, 51 Old Airport Rd., S390051
Operating hours: Monday to Saturday, 10 AM – 7 PM
When I’m not sure if I’m craving a salad, fritters, or a noodle dish, I often find myself asking “Why not all of those?”. If you have moments like that, welcome to the world of rojak goodness.
Rojak is a sort of Asian salad combining Chinese and Indian culinary influences, so you can imagine how interesting that tastes. There’s a light and dark version of it, with many ingredients and dressings to keep things diverse for the palate.
Personally, I like the ones with savoury sauces and crisp fritters to douse on. And I always ask for crushed peanuts to top everything off with something nutty and yummy.
Helpful hawker hint: Don’t forget to ask for crushed peanut toppings!
Where to get it: Nyonya Chendol
Hawker location: 51 Upper Bukit Timah Rd, #02-147, Singapore 588215
Operating hours: Daily, 10 AM – 9 PM
It wouldn’t be a comprehensive feature on hawker food in Singapore if it doesn’t end with a dessert recommendation. And no, I’m not going to mention ice cream, because that’s not traditional hawker fare.
Instead, I would like to add chendol to the list. It’s an iced dessert but not like anything you’d have likely come across elsewhere.
It typically has coconut milk mixed with jelly bits made from green rice flour, along with crushed or shaved ice and syrup made from palm sugar. And while it looks rock solid in its initial form, I usually wait until it melts a bit so I can slurp it up like sweet soup!
Helpful hawker hint: Best to eat chendol as a punctuation mark to a filling meal.