Imagine the plethora of sounds created by the sizzling wok, the clanking of dishes being arranged, and the slurping made by gluttonous patrons on a bowl of piping hot broth. You might think that your senses are in complete disarray but in a good way that will make your mouth drool.
Chances are, you stumbled upon one of the busy hawker centers in the Singaporean metro. If you have never been to the Hong Lim Hawker Centre, chances are you have never tried their Char Kway Teow. You might already have been to the Zion Road Food Center but you never tried their delectable carrot cake for breakfast.
You might also have encountered a lousy food guide and you ended up on a crummy food trail. Fret not my friend, because you are in for a treat because asiaone will provide you a quick guide on navigating the busy and yet vibrant hawker food scene.
Singaporean hawker culture
Singapore as we know it is a cultural melting pot of indigenous Malay, Chinese and Hindu immigrants. The result is an amalgam of food culture from these races that makes up the whole umbrella of Singaporean food identity.
The hawker food culture dated back to the 1800s when early immigrants built food stalls for hungry passers-by. The first hawker stalls are found on town squares and parks where most of the population congregate for common activities. The main attraction of these stalls is quick and affordable meals that offer a variety of flavors and aromas.
Today, the same formula remains in the culture of hawker stalls, to sell a variety of quick and affordable dishes that can be consumed by busy passers-by. Nowadays, hawker stalls are organized in secured food centers where tables are shared by the customers.
Common hawker dishes
There are a wide array of dishes being served on a hawker food center but a few stand out and are being searched for by hungry tourists to try. These quick and affordable dishes usually came from the ‘big three’ cultures of Singapore and also occasionally they cater to Western dishes as well.
One of the must-try dishes is Char Kway Teow, it is a dish made from stir-fried flat noodles in light soy sauce with bean sprouts and topped with prawns and Chinese sausage. It is Chinese-inspired and made into the hearts of nostalgic patrons who enjoy them from old stalls in the streets of the busy metro.
Another common dish being served in hawkers is satay dishes. Today, many stalls continue to reinvent their recipes of satay on skewers and incorporate them into many iterations. Roti prata is a dough filled with chicken and eggs, a variety of mee noodles and laksas, carrot cakes for breakfast, Hainanese chicken rice, and oyster omelets. These are a few of the examples, feel free to try other dishes and you’ll be surprised by the delight each one can bring.
Top hawker centers
When it comes to hawker centers, we will provide a few that you can start to try when you visit Singapore. One of them is Satay by the Bay, located within the Garden by the Bay park for the best satay dishes you will ever find. The Makansutra Gluttons bay offers a dine with a view where you will witness the beauty of the bay in open-air, it is also good to be visited at night.
The Tekka center is popular for its Biryani dishes that are mouth-watering, their curries are also great and cheap. The Chinatown Food Street of course offers the best Chinese dishes from roasted duck to a variety of dim sum.
A few things you should know
Minding your etiquette is the best advice you need to keep in mind in navigating the food stall streets of Singapore. There is an unspoken rule called ‘chope’ in Singlish which is a practice of putting a packet of tissue or any item that can be left unattended to mark a reserved spot and must be respected by other customers.
An appropriate utensil is provided for your meal by the stall according to your order, chopstick for Chinese dishes, spoon and fork for Western, and when it comes to Indian and Malay foods, feel free to use your right hand. Remember to use paper napkins for your mess and leave the table as it is. Now that you know these, you can now visit any hawker centers in Singapore.