Singapore is known for having a bunch of what are called hawkers centres. And in those hawkers centres are a variety of different food that are must-tries. But what is THE hawker food to try when you do get to go to Singapore?
That’s what we’ll take a look at in today’s blog. That way, when you’re in front of a Singapore hawker, you’ll know what to get or look for!
Let’s get to it, shall we?
What is hawker food?
Hawker food is called hawker food because they’re sold by hawkers that are in hawkers centres. Each hawker stall in these centres usually carry their own cuisine, whether Indian, Malaysian, Chinese, and so on.
How did hawker centres come to be? Well, we have to go back and take a look at history.
According to National Geographic, hawker culture has roots way back in the 1800s. The hawkers at the time would sell their delicious and affordable meals wherever they could. That also meant there were plenty of chances their food would not be clean or safe to consume.
Years later, the Singapore government, with the desire to get things organized and for people to eat only hygienic food, made the move to bring the hawkers under one roof.
And that’s how these food centres or hawker centres came to be. That’s actually a good thing, since now people know where to go if they’re looking for a particular food, right?
Thank you Singapore government!
Where in Singapore do you try hawker food?
You won’t run out of options in Singapore for hawker food stalls. This is not a definitive list by any chance, but these are some you can check out when you’re in their particular areas:
- Chong Boon Market
- Lau Pa Sat
- Seah Im
- Maxwell Food Centre
- Albert Food Centre
- Amoy Food Centre
- Bedok Interchange Hawker Centre
- Changi Village
- Ci Yuan Hawker Centre
- Dunman Food Centre
- East Coast Lagoon Food Village
- Golden Mile Food Centre
- Pasir Ris Hawker Centre
- Newton Food Centre
Oh, fun fact? What you might find say, in Lau Pa Sat, is not necessarily in Changi. That makes hawker centre hopping so much fun because the hawker stands have variety!
How much is hawker food in Singapore?
Hawker food has always had the reputation of being affordable meals, but how much do they cost? Are they really affordable?
Well, according to ValueChampion, hawker food meals typically cost less than 5 Singapore dollars. It just gets more expensive if there are more ingredients involved.
5 Singapore dollars as of this writing is around Php200. Expensive for street food? Compare that to prices at Singapore restaurants.
For example, if you get chicken rice at any of the hawker stands in Singapore, you’ll get it at around 3.5 Singapore Dollars or Php145. But if you get it at a restaurant, the price becomes around 7 Singapore Dollars or almost Php300!
And seeing as Singapore is ranked as the second-most expensive place in the world, we bet you’d appreciate the savings, yes?
Why is hawker food popular in Singapore?
Well, for one thing, you can’t beat the variety. Whether you’re looking for breakfast, lunch, dinner, or even snacks, there’s something for you in any hawker center. They come in different cuisines too!
And don’t look down on the taste of street food. At one point, a hawker stall earned the prestigious Michelin Star! That means it’s really, REALLY good.
The lower price is also always a good thing, plus the open-air factor of each food court allows for a different feel of community dining. Think of it as something experiential.
But for a deeper reason, it’s really pride. You see, hawker stalls represent family recipes that have been perfected for generations. Imagine, that one recipe puts one family after another through life!
That’s why hawker culture in Singapore is still going strong. It’s unlikely to lessen, much less disappear. After all, even millennials are putting up their own stalls. That’s the start of their family hawker culture.
Oh, and it’s also worth noting that the whole hawker culture of Singapore has been declared as an intangible cultural heritage by UNESCO. Isn’t that something to be proud of, indeed?
So what is THE hawker food to try when in Singapore?
Now we get to the big question: what is the most popular hawker food in Singapore?
Well, we can’t really answer that definitively. But you know what we can answer?
The must-try hawker foods in Singapore!
Well, ten of them at least. Check out our list!
Hainanese chicken rice
Hainanese chicken rice is one of those dishes that you’ll see in all hawker centres. It’s arguably one of the most popular dishes associated with Singapore culture. It’s also their national dish!
It was created by Hainanese immigrants from Southern China. It involves a poached chicken served with the skin attached, with rice seasoned with chicken oil made from the chicken fat and also cooked in the poaching liquid. It’s served with three sauces for added deliciousness.
Char Kway Teow
This is a stir-fried rice noodle dish. That’s just what the name means, actually, but in Chinese. Aside from the noodles, it’s filled with garlic, soy sauce, chili paste, whole prawns, clams, chives, Chinese sausage, and bean sprouts.
It has a unique flavor thanks to the combination of the ingredients plus how it’s cooked.
Char Kway Teow is popular with people who are looking for cheap ways to get filled up, but it’s not necessarily healthy! It has high saturated fat content thanks to it being stir-fried in pork fat and pork lard.
But hey, you only live once, right?
Shaved ice desserts
Hawkers make this dessert by combining a tall mound of shaved ice with various flavors like rose or pandan. You can also garnish it with red beans, peanuts, seaweed jelly, condensed milk, sprinkles, and more!
What makes it different from other shaved ice desserts are the flavors – you’ll only usually see those in Singapore and other Southeast Asian countries.
Oh, and do take note that this is the only sweet on this list, so that means you should get one!
If you like crabs, and you like spicy food, then Singapore has combined both into one iconic dish. This hawker food is actually listed as number 35 of the World’s Most Delicious Foods, so you should really try it if you’re in Singapore!
What makes it special? Well, it has a trademark spicy and sweet sauce that gets absorbed by the crab. It mixes very well with the crab itself – and tastes even better when you eat the whole thing with rice!
Oh and if you want to try it but you don’t like spicy food so much, don’t worry. The sauce is well-balanced, so you won’t experience any burning tongues.
We’ve talked about satay before in our blog about Thai cuisine. There’s nothing different about this one – satay is still skewered meat. But the satay served in Singapore is usually with the Malaysian flavor or taste.
Also, aside from the meat, the skewer can include cucumbers, onions, and pressed rice cakes. Don’t forget the thick and sweet peanut sauce for added yummines!
It’s another food item we’ve talked about before in our sandwich spreads blog post! Roti Pratha is a flatbread with flaky layers that’s a perfect accompaniment for flavorful saucy dishes – or, as we mentioned in the blog, condensed milk. It’s definitely a great snack or an accompaniment to main dishes.
Mee or Mie Goreng is an Indonesian noodle dish. Think of it as the equivalent of Filipino pancit canton, but this version has a sticky, savory sweet sauce. Hawkers traditionally make Mee Goreng using stir-fried yellow wheat noodles, shallots, onion, and garlic, as well as soy sauce seasoning, eggs, vegetables, and their meat of choice.
Imagine biting into chewy egg noodles covered in the aforementioned sauce and tasting meat, shrimp, and so much more. Now that’s a different kind of street noodle!
Nasi Lemak is a Malaysian dish. It’s made of rice cooked in coconut milk and is served with anchovies, cucumbers, peanuts, and boiled eggs. There’s also sambal, a spicy chili paste for an added kick.
According to Taste Atlas, it was first invented as a breakfast dish, but soon became the Malaysian national dish that can be eaten anytime.
Another name for this is Tod Man Pla. Sounds complicated, but they’re just Thai fish cakes. They’re made with fresh fish and Thai spices and are best eaten with sticky rice or a salad. There’s also an option for sauce.
Char siew or char siu is simply a Cantonese style of barbecued pork. Eat it with rice or noodles and enjoy the sweet and salty taste!
One last tip: don’t bother wondering “Is hawker food healthy?” when you’re in Singapore. After all, you’re on a vacation!
Is there any other way to try hawker food if I’m not in Singapore?
If this post got you craving authentic hawker food, then you might already be Googling “hawker near me” or “nearby hawker food.”
But what if you’re not in Singapore?
Well, you don’t have to travel far. The Bailiwick Academy has the answer for you!
Check out Chef Him Uy De Baron’s latest class: Hawker-Style Specials!
Just follow Chef Him’s delicious recipes and you’ll be able to make hawker foods (some are from the list) right from your home, namely:
- Nasi Lemak with Malaysian Style-Chicken Curry
- Roti Paratha
- Indonesian Chicken Satay with Peanut Sauce
- Prawn Mee Goreng
Serve it all as a meal, and you’ll feel like you’ve traveled to Singapore via your taste buds!
So what are you waiting for? Sign up at The Bailiwick Academy, enroll in his course, and get started cooking!
Keep coming back to The Bailiwick Academy blog for more kitchen tips, tricks, and much more!
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