While Singapore does not have a traditional street food culture, it is only because they do not sell food on the street. What they do have is a hawker culture. These are essentially food vendors who are in an open air building with communal seating. Similar to a food court, but so much better than your standard mall food. Hawker centers in Singapore are a signature of the country.
While there are over a hundred hawker centers in Singapore, and I haven’t been to nearly enough, this list is a selection of the centers I enjoyed and recommend to you. If your favorite hawker center is not on this list, maybe I’ll visit it on my next trip to Singapore and make an update.
Let’s just start with what I think is the best hawker center in Singapore right off the bat. I know that title would be quite contentious, but I do think that this one would at least make most people’s top 3. This hawker center is located just a couple blocks south of Geylang road so it is a bit away from the central business district where most tourists stay. That being said, it is definitely worth the 20 minute bus ride to get there.
This was the hawker center closest to us on our second trip to Singapore of 2019, and we planned staying in the area on purpose. There are so many great vendors in this center so it is hard to recommend just one. Instead I’ll recommend a few:
I wrote a more detailed list to the Old Airport Road Food Centre which you can read for more suggestions, as well as stall numbers and working hours. Or just if you want to see more pictures of delicious hawker food.
Address: 51 Old Airport Rd, Singapore 390051
Probably the most famous hawker centre in Singapore, Maxwell is more frequently visited by tourists than locals. However that isn’t to say it is devoid of all charm. In fact it is one of the most famous for a good reason; the chicken rice war between Tian Tian Chicken Rice, and Ai Tai Chicken Rice.
Chicken Rice is a truly Singaporean dish created by Hainanese immigrants back in the mid 20th century. While it isn’t for everyone (one of the signature factors of the meal is how slippery the chicken pieces are) it is no doubt the most famous dish from Singapore. And the two aforementioned stalls both do an excellent job. Seeing as they both always have long lines, you may wonder which one you should go to.
I say go to both and make your own comparison, just don’t go between 12:00 and 14:00 since that is prime lunch time. We went to Tian Tian around 15:30 and waited less than 15 minutes. If you want to know which one I prefer, well, the truth is I think Ai Tai does a better chicken rice, but maybe Tian Tian was just having a bad day since I found their chicken not as moist as Ai Tai.
Address: 1 Kadayanallur St, Singapore 069184
This is quite an unusual addition to this list especially since I’ve never seen it on a top hawker centers in Singapore list before. The reason I love it so much is that it was the first hawker center I have ever been to. It is a truly local destination, as it is quite far away from all the action, but that just means cheaper food, and easier to find seating (provided it’s still not prime lunch time).
Actually, this center is better for breakfast as that is when most of the stalls are open. But, if you are coming from a western culture, you may find breakfast to be quite different than what you are used to.
I suggest getting some fried carrot cake (black), Laska from , and some _ for a hearty and filling breakfast to start your day. Plus, as long as you are already in the Toa Payoh area, why not stop by Cremeary (sp) for some wonderful ice cream
This place is best visited on weekdays as some vendors close for the entire weekend. Why? Well because this is a popular lunch spot for all the business people working in the CBD. That means if you go during lunch hour, expect lines. As we went around 14:30 we didn’t have a problem getting our food fast.
This food centre is also one of the biggest that I’ve been two, with hawkers taking up two whole floors! I think there’s almost 200 hawkers at the Amoy Food Centre, so of course I couldn’t nearly try them all. That being said I do recommend the Fried Kway Teow at stall #01-01, the sardine curry puff at the Bib Gourmand recognized J2 famous crispy curry puff (sp), and the fish ball soup from Ah Ter Teochew Fish Ball Noodles.
You can read my in detail review of the Amoy Food Centre for more information about stall numbers and extra recommendations! Amoy Food
This is another unusual entry to this list because aside from being a Hawker centre it is also a wet market! Not just that, but it is also split into two buildings: the morning/lunch hawkers and the dinner hawkers. Of course, both buildings will have vendors open so you can visit both of them. Especially because my Guide To Whampoa Market Place gives recommendations from the morning and afternoon stalls.
Whampoa Market Place is located a bit further from the center than most people normally go for food, but it is truly a foodie paradise. Being mostly for locals means fair prices and HUGE portions. The serving sizes here may be the biggest I’ve seen from all the hawker centers I’ve been to.
I recommend starting with Yu Chu for some Shanghai style soup dumplings. These are so flavorful and delicious, and way better than ordering them at a fancy dim sum place paying 5x the price. Here you get 5 soup dumplings for just S$3!
Perhaps one of the most famous places in Whampoa is the Fish Head Soup at Beach Road Fish Head Bee Hoon but there will always be a line, so no timing advice from me there. If you are craving chicken rice and want what could be the best in Singapore, head to Nan Xiang Chicken Rice. I know the big competition is between Tian Tian and Ai Tai at Maxwell, but Nan Xiang might even be better in my humble opinion. At the very least, because the chicken can be so contentious, I will say the rice is definitely better.
Address: 91 Whampoa Dr, Singapore 320091
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