Whether you have friends visiting or you are in fact, a visitor yourself, one thing you absolutely must do in Singapore is to try some of its iconic hawker favourites. There’s a great diversity of it here, and far from being tourist food, these are the dishes Singaporeans of every stripe eat on a regular basis.
The only problem? Everybody has their favourite dishes and their favourite places to eat them at. In fact, Singaporeans are so passionate about hawker fare that they will queue for hours just to have their fill.
But if you’re in town for just a short time, where do you start? We suggest whittling down your selection to just five dishes. This is by no means comprehensive, but it will at least be enough to experience all that you have to, within a few days.
What: Chilli Crab
Where: No Signboard Seafood
Why: Ignore it’s slightly wacky name – No Signboard Seafood has been around for half a century. That’s ancient considering Singapore is just 57 years old. Unlike many other places, No Signboard Seafood does not use tomato ketchup in chilli crab to get that sweet and slightly sour taste, relying instead of fresh spices. Instead, what you get is a delicious gravy that’s rich with an eggy texture to mop up. The best part? It’s located at The Esplanade Mall so you won’t have to travel out of your way to get some.
What: Roti Prata
Where: Mr & Mrs Mohgan’s Crispy Prata
Why: You would need plenty of patience and fortitude if you wish to try this famous roti prata loved for its supple folds that still, somehow, shatter from sheer crispiness. The stall is now run by Mrs Mohgan after the passing of her husband and she makes sure that the quality stays consistent. Be warned though, the roti prata is so popular it can sometimes be sold out as early as 10am.
What: Nasi Lemak
Where: The Coconut Club
Why: There are plenty of hawker stalls around the island serving up nasi lemak – or coconut rice served with a myriad of sides – but to take the hunt out of the equation, we’re recommending The Coconut Club. This bib gourmand-awarded destination takes its nasi lemak so seriously that it even makes its own coconut milk in-house, which is also used in its generous dessert offering. Pro tip: Don’t leave without trying the cendol.
What: Chicken Rice
Where: Town Restaurant
Why: Locals will balk that we’re recommending a hotel restaurant for hainanese chicken rice but hear us out: the version served here does not cut any corners. The chicken is poached ever-so-gently that it stays succulent, and the rice is fragrant without being overly greasy. Yes, it may be a lot steeper than many other proper hawker locations but its central location and comfort you get cannot be beat.
Where: Satay Power 6 at Lau Pa Sat
Why: The authentic hawker experience is a must when it comes to satay – after all, there’s no escaping the outdoor barbecue pit if you’re after the grilled deliciousness of the meat skewers. The ideal satay needs to be subtly sweet, tender and with little charred bits that makes eating it a real pleasure. Satay Power 6, a stall at Lau Pa Sat that’s patronised by many chef regulars will offer up all this goodness. Bear in mind that it’s located on the street outside the actual hawker centre where there is a row of satay stalls operating side by side.