Eating at a hawker centre is one of the must-do experiences in Singapore. Not only do you get an amazing variety of cheap local food, you’ll also experience the casual, laid-back food culture for which this country is so well-loved. A hawker centre in Singapore is a dining venue, usually outdoors, with tables set up in a large area surrounded by food stalls. In most hawker centres you'll find a good mix of Chinese, Indian, and Malay food, plus drinks and desserts. Some centres are best-known for certain dishes and cuisines (for example, seafood and satay at East Coast).
Hawker Centre Etiquette
Let’s start with some hawker centre etiquette. When you get in, pick a table and have a seat. Some vendors will approach you immediately at your table, but it’s perfectly fine to walk around and see what you’d like. Remember that you’ll have to leave someone at your table to prevent it from being taken by another group! When you order at individual stalls, some may ask you to collect the dishes from them and others will send it to your table. Generally, hawker centres accept cash only.
Here are some of the most popular hawker centres on the island, each with their own specialties and atmosphere.
The Maxwell Road Hawker Centre is in the heart of Chinatown
and a great place to grab authentic Singaporean food after exploring the colourful streets and fascinating temples in the area. It gets pretty crowded around lunchtime when the office crowd heads down from buildings in the area, so get there early to avoid long queues.
Newton Hawker Centre
Newton Hawker Centre is just outside the CBD and is one of Singapore’s best-known spots for local cuisine. Located adjacent to Newton Circus, it’s not far from the Orchard Road shopping belt and a short MRT ride away from Little India
. Newton Hawker Centre is a real slice of Singapore history, with some hawkers who’ve been in the trade since the 1950s!
Head out of the city to a charming residential enclave called Serangoon Garden, and you’ll find Chomp Chomp. While it’s not as big as other hawker centres, it’s well-known for select dishes and a great place to soak in the atmosphere in one of Singapore’s oldest low-rise residential estates, quirky cafés, and quiet streets. If you’re planning to visit one of the reservoirs
in the middle of Singapore, Chomp Chomp isn’t far.
East Coast Lagoon Village
With a view of the sea, the smokey aroma of barbecued seafood and satay, and palm trees all around, you’ll understand why Singapore is a food paradise at East Coast Lagoon Food Village. The trip is worth it for the food alone, but work up an appetite cycling or wake-boarding first for a great day out. Don’t forget to pair your meal with a refreshing local drink
such as lemon sugar cane juice, fresh coconut water, or a frosty jug of Tiger beer.