Finding the best hawker center in Singapore might be a chore because of the countless options at hand.
In fact, there are over 116 hawker centers in Singapore and going through all of them is simply impossible.
So, to help you, I have made up a list of all the hawker centers that you might want to add to your to-do list on your trip to Singapore.
Let’s walk through 10 of the best hawker centers that locals actually recommend as well as get to know where hawker culture originated.
The Singaporean Hawker Culture
Hawker culture is prevalent in most southeast-Asian countries but nobody values it more than the Singaporeans do. This culture has always been embraced by the locals in Singapore and its history dates back to the 1800s.
History of Hawker Centers in Singapore
Hawker culture in Singapore traces back to when early migrants started selling affordable meals on the streets and parks for people on the go. The aroma of the delicious food being cooked was so fragrant that they started pulling in passers-by.
Many centuries went by, the Singaporean government made an initiative to bring all the hawkers together under one roof. This opened a different kind of hawker experience, with cleaner areas, safer environments, and the opportunity to see the spectacle of your food being cooked.
With countless stalls serving food perfect for any time of the day and featuring cuisines from different cultural backgrounds, it’s no wonder how these hawker centers have become a place for people to gather.
Eventually, this caught on to foreign visitors and unsurprisingly, became tourist spots for people who want to try authentic dishes without breaking the bank!
Because of its long-running significance in Singapore’s history, ‘hawker culture was successfully inscribed as Singapore’s first element on the UNESCO Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity on 16 Dec 2020’, according to the National Heritage Board of Singapore.
The UNESCO Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity is a list of diverse cultural practices, such as oral traditions, performing arts, social practices, etc. around the world. This initiative aims to raise awareness and protect cultural heritage against globalization.
The bid was a strong collaborative effort between the National Heritage Board, the National Environment Agency, the Federation of Merchants’ Associations, Singapore with the unwavering support of the experts and the community which took 2 years to achieve.
Things you should know before eating at Hawker Centers
Before you go and fill yourselves with delicious food from the hawkers, you might want to consider these tips:
- Table sharing. Don’t be startled if you find people taking the seat next to you because you might have to share tables with others.
- Expect long waiting lines. You might find line upon line of customers in hawker centers. It’s no surprise, especially for popular stalls. Just bring a ton of patience with you.
- Bring tissue paper. If you’re visiting a hawker center, you MUST bring your own tissue paper or wipes. Eating can be messy and although there are vendors who sell tissue papers, it’s still best if you come prepared.
- Alcohol curfew. As per Singapore’s Alcohol Consumption Law, it is illegal to sell alcoholic drinks past 10:30 p.m. and you can’t bring alcoholic drinks outside F&B establishments at that time as well. If you’ve bought alcoholic beverages before that time, don’t worry because you can continue drinking them inside the establishment.
- Smoking is prohibited. Singapore has strict laws against smoking so it’s no surprise that smoking in hawker centers is also not allowed. Simply follow the rules and we’ll be good.
- Check prices before ordering. For reasons unknown, some stalls do not clearly state the food prices. So before you order, ask for prices.
- Hawker centers close for cleaning day. To keep areas clean, hawker centers dedicate days just for cleaning. To make sure that you won’t arrive at an empty hawker center, you can check the National Environment Agency’s schedule.
- Bring cash. Good thing is that hawker stalls now offer cashless payments but we may never know what circumstances we will face. That is why we still recommend bringing cash.
Best Hawker Centers in Singapore
Hawker culture will always be historically significant to the people of Singapore. For tourists, it’s exciting to see such a sight where countless of stalls and a pool of people are gathered in one place for cheap meals!
But the thing is that in Singapore cheap doesn’t necessarily mean low quality. In this list, we’ll find some of the best hawker centers that serve budget-friendly meals at Michelin-level quality!
Home to Liao Fan Hawker Chan, the very first hawker stall that received a Michelin Star for its famous Soya Sauce Chicken and Rice dish, Chinatown Complex Food Center is probably one that you should go to first.
With over 260 stalls under one glass roof, Chinatown Complex is the largest hawker center in Singapore. And with the number of hawkers in one area, competition equals reasonable prices.
A serving of Tau Suan (split mung bean dessert soup) starts at S$1.40. They offer great Chinese dishes, seafood, and grilled meat. Other popular dishes are Char Kway Teow, Satay skewers, Laksa, and Popiah. And if you are suddenly down for a warm cup of coffee, head on down to the Michelin-listed kopi stall, ‘The 1950’s Coffee’.
Unfortunately, there’s not much Halal food in this hawker center but some stalls do offer halal-certified dishes.
Chinatown Complex can get crowded during lunchtime but no need to fret since there are available tables all the time.
Location: 335 Smith Street, Singapore
Business hours: Daily, from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m.
Amoy Street Food Centre
Built in 1983, Amoy Street Food Centre boasts six stalls listed in the 2019 edition of the Michelin Guide Singapore, and four were given Michelin Bib Gourmand distinctions.
This center is a favorite lunch spot for professionals and white-collar workers. It houses traditional hawkers as well as modern fusion hawker stalls that sell food at affordable prices.
Popular dishes in Amoy Street Food Center include sliced fish soup, vadai (fried Indian snacks), mee goreng, and rice dumplings at Hoo Kee Rice Dumplings which is a Bib Gourmand awardee.
Location: 7 Maxwell Road, Singapore 069111
Business hours: Daily, from 6:30 a.m. to 9 p.m.
Tiong Bahru Market
Formerly known as Seng Poh Market, Tiong Bahru Market is another hawker center that houses Bib Gourmand-awarded stalls.
This is not the biggest hawker center but it is the best one for quality seafood and guaranteed fresh produce! Prices start at S$3 for noodles and rice dishes but compared to other hawker centers, Tiong Bahru is reported to be pricier compared to others.
However, this is probably one of the cleanest hawker centers in Singapore with plenty of seats and a well-ventilated area. The best time to visit is around breakfast and after lunch. Tiong Bahru gets a bit crowded during lunchtime and closes
Location: 30 Seng Poh Road, Singapore 168898
Business hours: 6 a.m. to 11 p.m.
Old Airport Road Food Centre
Considered by locals as the best, Old Airport Road Food Centre wasn’t always like this.
In this area once stood Kallang Airport, the first civil airport but when the new Singapore International Airport opened at Paya Lebar, the airport closed. Then, in 1973, the food center was opened and has had loyal customers ever since.
The food center houses 140 stalls that serve a variety of dishes from different cultural backgrounds. Expect fresh seafood, grilled meat, and desserts!
Location: 1 Old Airport Rd, Singapore 390051
Business hours: 6 a.m. to 10:30 p.m.
Newton Food Centre
If you’ve seen the movie, Crazy Rich Asians, you probably wondered what hawker center Rachel and Nich ate at. Well, the hawker center you are looking for is Newton Food Center!
This is another food center that offers the best and the freshest seafood in town. And if you are not up for any savory dishes, you can try out white and black fried carrot cakes at Heng Carrot Cake!
Halal-certified food stalls can also be found here. Simply go to stalls 31, 53, 74, 35, 49, and 78 for pork-free, lard-free dishes.
We might not be crazy rich Asians but we’ll leave this hawker center stuffed with crazy rich food!
Location: 500 Clemenceau Avenue North, Newton Food Centre, Singapore 229495
Business hours: 12 p.m. to 2 a.m.
Alexandra Village Food Centre
Alexandra Village Food Centre may not be the most popular but it is definitely a go-to for locals in Bukit Merah.
This food center is only minutes away from IKEA and is well-known for the countless number of stalls selling juice drinks, but its roasted meat with special dark sauce available at Lau Phua Chay Authentic Roasted Delicacies is probably one of the most in-demand.
Location: 120 Bukit Merah Lane 1, Singapore 150120
Business hours: 7 am. to 9 p.m.
Halal-Certified, Vegan-friendly Hawker Centers
The best thing about these hawker centers is that they have Halal and meat-free options too. However, it can be difficult to find these options especially if we do not know where to look.
So, we dug a little more and found these hawker centers that offer pork-free and vegetable-based dishes.
Tekka Food Centre
Right in the middle of Little India is Tekka Food Centre! This hawker center serves mainly Indian food as well as Halal food.
This is a multi-level building and when you go up to the higher floors, you’ll find more stores selling products from India like Bollywood movies and music, silks, and saris.
Location: 665 Buffalo & Serangoon Roads, Little India, Singapore
Business hours: 6:30 am. to 9 p.m.
Lau Pa Sat
Get your cameras ready because Lau Pa Sat is an architectural gem that you’ll surely want to remember!
Aside from its architecture, this beautiful hawker center is also well-known for being the first wet market in Singapore dating 150 years back! With that many years in the business, Lau Pa Sat knows what’s up when it comes to food.
It is known for its satay dipped in peanut sauce but if you are up for an adventure, you might want to try sea snails for your next meal! Simply order gong gong and siput sedut! The best part is this hawker center is open 24/7!
Location: 2 Shenton Way, Singapore 068804
Business hours: 6:30 am. to 9 p.m.
Adam Road Hawker Centre
If you want to eat Presidential style, you can visit Adam Road Hawker Centre! They have the best nasi lemak fit for any president, literally! The nasi lemak at Selera Rasa Nasi was ordered by Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong to be served to the President of Indonesia.
Location: 2 Adam Rd, Singapore 289876
Business hours: 6:00 am. to 3 a.m.
Golden Mile Food Centre
Ready for some lip-smacking, finger-licking goodness? No, this is not KFC! We’re talking about Tulang Merah, spicy-sweet bones drenched dripping with sauce! The best part is the bone marrow so prepare to get your hands covered with saucy goodness because the best way to eat this dish is with your hands! Head on down to Golden Mile!
Location: 505 Beach Rd, Singapore 199583
Business hours: Thursday 11 a.m. to 9:30 p.m.
Saturday 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.
Sunday 11 a.m. to 9:30 p.m.
Monday 11 a.m. to 9:30 p.m.
Tuesday 11 a.m. to 9:30 p.m.
Wednesday 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.
Hawker centers are great places to try authentic and local food in Singapore. They are a lot cheaper than food at restaurants. They may not be as aesthetically pleasing but to be able to experience Singapore’s long-standing hawker culture is already an experience worth remembering. And you get to save money too!