Singapore is known for a lot of amazing things (the culture, the design, the epic experiences…), but the jewel in its crown has to be the drool-worthy food scene. While we love living in award-winning restaurants, we believe that the best food in this country can be found in its famous hawker hubs. Bursting with vibrant sounds, colors, and smells, Singapore’s hawker hubs are known for offering delicious food day in and day out. It’s also one of the only places in the world where street food vendors get Michelin stars!
With so many delicacies on offer, it can be a bit overwhelming for a novice. To help you order right, we’ve compiled a guide to must-eats for your next tasty visit.
Come hungry, because you’re going to want to smash it all!
It sounds simple, but seriously, you’ve never tasted chicken rice this good until you’ve been to Singapore. It’s made with juicy poached chicken, and white rice seasoned with garlic, soy, and pandan, and served with a spicy chili-cucumber sauce to refresh your palate. Loved by Singaporeans for generations, the dish originated in Hainan, a small island in southern China, and adapted from their Wenchang chicken dish.
It was brought to Singapore by immigrants and slowly adapted over time to become the country’s national dish. While every Singaporean you ask will have a different opinion on which street vendor makes the best chicken rice, we can’t overlook the Tian Tian Chicken Rice at Maxwell Food Centre. Gordon Ramsey and the late Anthony Bourdain were also fans, so you know you’re in good hands here.
Char Kway Teow
Char Kway Teow (pronounced ‘cha-gway tee-ow’) is the stuff foodies’ dreams are made of. Originating in the Chaozhou region of China’s Guangdong province, it was first known as a poor people’s dish due to the simple ingredients and high-fat content, read: unbelievably tasty. Traditionally cooked over a charcoal fire for a smoky fragrance, Char Kway Teow is made up of flat rice noodles and yellow wheat noodles cooked in soy sauce, garlic, and chili with a mixture of egg, fish cake, sausage, and sprouts soy.
But what makes him so mischievous? Everything is fried in lard, which gives it a texture and flavor that will have you coming back for seconds. For some of the best, head to Meng Kee Fried Kway Teow at Wei Xuan Eating House on Havelock Road. They have been selling hot dishes with the best things for more than 30 years.
You may have heard of this tasty dish before – it’s a firm favorite in Indonesia, Malaysia, and Singapore, each with its own variation. The Singapore version is our obvious favorite, consisting of egg-stir-fried rice and egg noodles, sliced pork, prawns, and squid, mixed with vegetables, sambal, and lime for a spicy twist.
Like chicken rice, this dish has a long history, originating after World War II when Chinese soldiers from China’s Hokkien province would overcook noodles along Singapore’s Rochor Road after work. at nearby noodle factories. Head to Swee Guan Hokkien Mee for a steaming bowl of noodle goodness. Ranging from $6 to $10 AUD per plate, it’s more expensive than other stalls but well worth it.
Contrary to the name of this popular dish, it does not contain carrots and is not a sweet cake either. Confused? What you really want to know is if is it delicious and that’s a resounding yes! Singapore’s staple food, also known as chai tow kway, is made of fried radish cake or daikon, eggs, and hot sauce. It comes in two varieties, white and black.
Despite their physical difference, they are quite similar in composition. Black carrot cake gets its color from a dry soy sauce that can make the cake a little sweeter. The white version was popularized by Teochew street vendor Ng Soik Theng and famous street vendor Lau Goh in the 1960s. Today, the latter’s son is serving black and white carrot cake from the Zion Riverside Food Center, which is exactly Where should you go to get yours?
Traditionally eaten for breakfast, but delicious at any time of the day, Nasi Lemak is a must-have when visiting a Singapore hawker hub. While there are tons of variations, Nasi Lemak usually consists of lots of coconut milk and pandan-infused rice, a generous serving of sambal, roasted peanuts, a fried egg, and cucumber slices.
Then add a serving of fried chicken on the side, yes, it’s a total feast for the senses. The dish originates from neighboring Malaysia and is known as its national dish, so if you’ve tried it before, expect some variations at stalls in Singapore. Our favorites can be found at Mizzy Corner Nasi Lemak at Changi Village Hawker Center and Boon Lay Power Nasi Lemak at Boon Lay Food Village.
You’re probably thinking, I already had the best laska and it’s from my local takeaway, well, sorry to burst your bubble, but the best spicy broth is in Singapore. For those unfamiliar, laska is a spicy coconut milk-based noodle soup and in Singapore, it can take a few forms depending on the manufacturer.
However, the most loved is the Katong laska, which is inspired by the Peranakans who live in the Katong area. Made with short thick vermicelli noodles, the spiced dish is flavored with coconut milk, and dried shrimp and topped with juicy cockles, shrimp, and fish cake. While there are plenty of tasty laksa stalls out there, we love Janggut Laksa located in the Queensway Shopping Centre; They have been perfecting this dish since the 1950s.
Satay is an absolute staple of Singaporean food, and its hawker hubs serve up award-worthy dishes every day. Think perfectly seasoned meat (usually chicken, beef, or lamb) cooked on bamboo skewers over a charcoal fire, constantly brushed with oil for the perfect, delicious glaze. Fresh from the fire, the skewers are served with a spicy peanut sauce made with roasted peanuts, coconut milk, and spices.
For some of the best, you can’t get past Chomp Chomp Satay at the Chomp Chomp Food Center in Serangoon. Their chicken satay marinated in a honey brown sauce and finished with pineapple earned a Michelin plate in 2018. Hey, if it’s good enough for the Michelin…
Since everyone should end their meal with something sweet, you’ll want to have some ice kacang. A childhood favorite for many Singaporeans, this treat is as tasty as it is beautiful to look at. Like the best things in life, this dessert is super simple: a huge pile of crushed ice is drizzled with brightly colored syrups and topped with everything from kidney beans and sweet corn to palm kernels.
Super tasty and also so perfect for the gram, head over to the Jin Hot/Cold Dessert booth at ABC Brickworks Food Centre. Flavors include Matcha and Red Ruby, but their signature has to be Gangsta Ice, which comes in mango or durian flavors with fresh fruit and a scoop of ice cream. The perfect way to beat the heat.