First published 12 Sep 2014
Revised and Updated: 30 Aug 2018
OK, so you’ve watched “Crazy Rich Asians” and now you want to visit Singapore to experience the glorious food here. Well, you have come to the right place. This article is a shortlist of 10 of the best hawker dishes that our island can offer, written with you in mind.
With so much published on the internet, it’s too much work to look through hundreds of blog posts to plan a food trail. What you really want is a list of the stalls what are easily accessible and would give you a great introduction to our hawker culture. After blogging about Singapore food for the last 13 years and having published two guide books on Singapore food, viz The End of Char Kway Teow and Only The Best, I present to you a food trail covering the key hawker stalls which I would bring my visitors to eat when they visit our island food paradise.
Why these 10 dishes in particular? Unlike my last Top Ten Hawker Food article where I selected what I thought were the 10 most iconic dishes, these 10 dishes were voted by our local foodies as their all time most favourite hawker dishes. So if you want to discover the heart (more like stomach) of the Singaporean foodie, then these are the 10 dishes you must try!
I know you don’t have time to waste so let’s go! Chop Chop kalipop! (That’s local slang for stop blabbering and get going already!)
1 Chicken Rice
Singapore had one legendary chicken rice shop which made it the culinary icon that it is today — Swee Kee. If it were still around, I would have brought you there. But they closed in 1997 after 50 years of serving the world’s best chicken rice and no one has been able to take their place at the top. Truth be told, most of the major chicken rice chains in Singapore serve pretty decent chicken rice and you won’t go wrong with familiar brands like like Boon Tong Kee, Wee Nam Kee, Tong Fong Fatt and Five Stars. The stall that was voted most popular in our polls was Tian Tian Chicken Rice and that would be the stall I would bring my guests to. There is always a long queue at their stall at Maxwell Food Centre (But it’s central and convenient) so I always like to bring my guests to their air conditioned restaurant at either Bedok or Joo Chiat.
While you are at Maxwell Food Centre, you can check out the other famous stalls there!
2. Hokkien Mee
Hokkien Mee is very straightforward, I bring all my guests to Geylang Lor 29 Hokkien Mee. Over the years I have brought them to some of the other stalls in my Famous Five list, but the responses have been mixed. However, I have never gone wrong with Geylang Lor 29 Hokkien Mee. Of the Famous Five, they are the only ones who is still using a charcoal fire and the coffeeshop has been recently renovated so it is a comfortable place to eat. Best to head there early if you are going for dinner as they do sell out early. Just a short walk away is Beach Road Prawn Mee which is also worth checking out!
3. Char Kway Teow
My personal favourite Char Kway Teow is Hillstreet Char Kway Teow, but this is a little far from town, so I would usually end up bringing them to Outram Park Char Kway Teow instead. This stall was just listed as a Bib Gourmand eatery in this year’s Michelin Guide and they are a slightly different style from Hillstreet but still has that long heritage like Hillstreet. Located at Hong Lim Food Centre, they are more central and there’s plenty of other stalls that you can also check out at the same time!
4. Carrot Cake
For Carrot Cake I would head to Zion Road Food Centre for Lau Goh Teochew Chye Thow Kway. This stall has a rich heritage and Peter Goh’s dad is widely regarded as the pioneer of the white version of the dish. Zion Road Food Centre is quite central and also has other famous food stalls, notably Zion Road Char Kway Teow which is also one of the famous five Char Kway Teows. Peter is hearing impaired, so there is a special way to order the carrot cake which you can read about in my post.
For Laksa I like to bring my guests to Sungei Road Laksa because it’s quite central, the laksa has a long history and they are still cooking it over charcoal. It’s also really darn tasty without being too jelak (rich). While in that area, you can also check out an old school char kway teow as well as some of the stalls at Jalan Berseh Food Centre. (more about this food centre later)
My personal favourite is Janggut Laksa because it was there that I first had by laksa epiphany but it’s location at Roxy Square and Queensway shopping centre which just isn’t as iconic as the coffeeshop at Sungei Road.
6. Bak Chor Mee
Without a doubt, the most popular Bak Chor Mee in Singapore is Tai Hua Bak Chor Mee at Crawford Lane. It also happens to be the first stall in the world to be awarded a Michelin Star! But I have to warn you that the queues can be really long. Another one that has a long history is Ah Kow Bak Chor Mee which is more centrally located at Hong Lim Food Centre where there are a lot of other stalls worth checking out.
7. Wanton Mee
Wanton mee is a tricky one. It is a dish that is more of a comfort food for locals than one which I would bring visitors to eat since it is usually linked to Hong Kong cuisine. We do however have our own twist to the dish with the addition of chilli sauce and tomato ketchup. Eng’s at Tanjong Katong is my personal favourite as it is a standalone restaurant and I like the wantons there. Nam Seng is probably more convenient for most visitors. The stall has a long history and the spritely old granny there is already pushing 90! While you are there, you should stop by for a cup of kopi and kaya toast at Ya Kun Kaya Toast. This is a famous brand with many branches across the island but this is their original stall which is still run by the family and they still toast their bread over charcoal. You can also check out Tan Hock Seng which is a traditional pastry shop to try some cantonese pastries.
8. Prawn Mee
If I really wanted to impress someone, I would bring them to Wah Kee prawn mee for the jumbo prawn noodles. BUT, it can be a little intimidating as the queues are usually very long and the place is a little out of the tourist trail. A good alternative would be Blanco Court Prawn Mee which has a rich and long history and the prawn mee is more typical of the Singaporean style prawn mee. You can also get to order the Ngor Hiang there which is quite good. It is located along beach road in the Kampung glam area which is quite a tourist attraction.
While in the area, you can check out some of the Nasi Padang stalls like Rumah Makan Minang and Warung Nasi Pariaman. Do check out the Murtabak at Zam Zam and Victory which are some of the oldest eateries in Singapore having been around in the same for over a century! For some old school pastries and a cup of local coffee, Colonial Dong Po cafe nearby and you can check out a hole-in-the wall Teh Tarik place nearby.
Check out all the famous eateries at Kampung Glam here.
9. Oyster Omelette
There are many versions of oyster omelette found across asia, but we feel ours is the best! To have a taste of old school oyster omelette, head to Lim’s Fried Oyster at Jalan Berseh Food Centre. While you are there, order some BBQ chicken wings and satay from the stall nearby! During lunchtime, there is a stall at the same food centre selling really delicious Fuzhou oyster cakes.
For a crispier version of oyster omelette, you might want to head to Simon Road Oyster Omelette which is located in the suburb of Kovan. There are several other things to eat while you are there, most notably Ponggol Nasi Lemak which is one of my favourite places to eat Nasi Lemak and Soon Soon Teochew Porridge where I go for my Teochew Porridge fix.
Lim’s Fried Oyster
Stall 32, Berseh Food Centre, 166 Jalan Besar, Singapore 208877
10. Roti Prata
My personal favourite place for Prata is Mr and Mrs Mohgan’s prata which is only opened in the mornings. There are many prata stalls around, but not many are run by an old couple. Most are 24 hour restaurants that operate around the clock. Another stall nearer town that is more accessible is Master Prata. They have another stall at Alexandra which is air-conditioned. The oldest stall in Singapore is Zam Zam which is over a hundred years old and located near the Sultan Mosque in Kampung Glam. They are more famous for their murtabak which is the same dough filled with eggs and mutton/chicken.
Mr and Mrs Mohgan’s Super Crispy Roti Prata
7 Crane Road, Singapore 429356
6.30am – 1.30pm, Closed Tues/Wed 3rd week of the month
I hope you enjoy your visit to Singapore and and please, for goodness sake (and your own health and well being) remember my motto every time you eat: “Never Waste Your Calories on Yucky Food!”
To learn more about Singapore’s Hawker Food Heritage, do pick up my book, “The End of Char Kway Teow” from the local bookstores. (Kinokuniya at Ngee Ann City should have it). My latest book Only The Best is in its second print run and has recently been revised and updated (2014) and lists all the best hawker food stalls which I have visited since I started blogging. It is now also available at all good bookstores!
If you enjoyed this article and want an even more in depth look at Singapore food, please check out Top Ten Iconic Singapore Foods!