Hawker food in Singapore is a lip-smackingly delicious fusion of Chinese, Malay, India and South East Asian flavours. Over the decades, immigrants from across Asia have brought their recipes, spices and flavours to the port city culminating in one of the world’s best food scenes.
Some hawker food in Singapore has stuck to their original roots, others have fused into uniquely Singaporean dishes. Here’s our rundown of the top 30 hawker food in Singapore and the best places to try them.
70 Zion Road
It might be a cliché, but you can't say you've tried the hawker food in Singapore without devouring a bowl of smoky char kway teow – flat belt rice noodles stir fried with lap cheong Chinese sausage and egg and Chinese chives.
It’s hawker comfort food, each has their own recipe, and every Singaporean has their own favourite. The best char kuay teow are still cooked in rich pork lard – a throwback to the days when the labourers needed high fat lunches - but many have swapped this out for oil in an effort to keep the dish slightly healthier.
It might be easy to find – every food court has at least one hawker cooking up char kuay teow, but it’s becoming increasingly difficult to find good versions. An exception to this is No. 18 Zion Road Fried Kway Teow at the Zion Riverside Food Centre.
1 Kadayanallur Street
Like much hawker food in Singapore, chicken rice didn’t originate in the country. It hails from the south of China where recipes were adapted from Wenchang chicken by immigrants who left the country to make a new life in South East Asia.
It arrived in the country in the 20s, though it was several decades later that the chicken rice became a hit in the country when several restaurants began serving it. Today, it’s a common hawker food in Singapore and is easily identified by the poached chickens that swing from hawkers’ stands.
Without tasting chicken rice, descriptions only serve to make it sound bland. Simple poached chicken, a soup made from its stock and slightly oily rice cooked in a little of the chicken’s fat. But it’s the subtle fragrant flavours infused with ginger, garlic and coriander and salted with a dash of soy sauce that make it a favourite hawker food in Singapore.
Ask any Singaporean where to get the dish and you'll find most point you in the directionof Tian Tian Hainanese Chicken Rice in the Maxwell Food Centre.
37 Beach Road
Although it doesn’t need to be, breakfast hawker food in Singapore is often a simple affair. Hit any hawker centre in the city in the morning and you’ll spot plenty of Singaporeans tucking into slices of buttery toast slathered with kaya, a type of jam made from coconut milk and sugar infused with pandan leaves.
However, the best kaya toast in Singapore is found in the traditional kopi tiams, (coffee shops) where the dish is thought to have originated and family recipes get passed down through the generations.
It may seem like an unusual combination, but your morning spread will almost always come with eggs soft boiled and topped with soy sauce and strong black coffee.
For the best kaya toast and soft-boiled eggs, try YY Kafei Dian along Beach Road.
166 Jalan Besar
Like all the hawker food of Singapore, oyster omelettes differ greatly between stands. Its most basic recipe starts with potato starch and egg batter fried with small oysters cut through with a zingy chilli sauce and a squeeze of lime. If oysters aren’t your bag look out for a shrimp-laced variation.
Its roots are from China, specifically the Fujian region. Today, it may not have the star status that other hawker food in Singapore enjoys from international visitors, but they are a firm favourite among locals.
Gooey, crispy and somewhat starchier and thicker than you may have tried in other South East Asian countries. It’s not to be missed. A particularly good version of the Singaporean oyster omelette is cooked up at Lim's Fried Oysters in the Besar Food Centre.
281 Onan Road
Rojak is another hawker food of Singapore that tends to slide under the radar with foreigners, but it’s known as Singapore’s favourite salad. Trust us, this is one that you’re going to want to seek out.
It all starts with a dish of fresh sliced fruits – unripe pineapple and mango – and blanched vegetables like Chinese turnip dressed into sticky, delicious, sweet mess with tamarind, chilli paste, palm sugar and lime juice. Crushed peanuts add a textual topping, as does the accompanying youtiao, deep-fried Chinese-style doughnuts.
The name is apt – in Malay the word rojak literally translates to ‘mixture’. Look out for small shophouse restaurants or food court vendors mixing in large bowls – that’s your cue to get in the queue. The best rojak in Singapore is served up at Lau Hong Ser Rojak along Onan Road.
4 Woodlands Street
Forget American BBQ, char siew is the good stuff. It would be hard to pinpoint a national hawker food in Singapore, but surely char siew is up there.
It was brought by Chinese communities settling in parts of South East Asia and is made from strips of boneless pork seasoned with five-spice, honey, bean curd, soy and hoisin sauce and roasted in large, covered ovens. It’s this seasoning that gives the sliced meat its dark red layer.
You won’t need to dig around one of the hawker centres long before you find glass cases adorned with hanging, glazed char siew. Sweet, slightly sticky and undeniably tasty. It may have been born in Cantonese culture, but the country have truly adopted it as their own and it has become a staple hawker food in Singapore.
If you have the time, travel north to the Marsiling Mall Hawker Centre to try the char siew at Fu Shi Traditional Roasted.
808/810 Upper Bukit Timah Road
To many in the West, the idea of fish head curry may seem alien. But this iconic hawker food in Singapore is a highly prized dish. Recipes differ from restaurant to hawker, but the best are fragrant and spicy affairs made from red snapper simmering in a coconut cream gravy infused with chilli, cumin, curry leaves and coriander.
While the curry clearly has influence from Indian dishes, the use of fish heads has its roots in Chinese culture. Its history reportedly began in the 40s when an Indian restaurant began to use the fish heads in an effort to satisfy their Chinese customers. It also happened to be a very useful way to use up a throwaway part of the fish.
Today, it’s found across Singapore, bubbling in clay pots. Those who known the this hawker food in Singapore well dive straight into the fish’s meaty cheeks which are thought to be the best part of the snapper.
If you don't mind travelling out of the city, try the excellent fish head curry from Karu's Indian Banana Leaf Restaurant along Upper Bukit Timah Road.
115 Bukit Merah View
Forget everything you know about carrot cake. Singaporean fried carrot cake or chai tow kway is not the same thing. In fact, it’s not even made from carrot. White Chinese radish (often referred to as white carrot) is steamed, cubed and wok fried with eggs, garlic and a type of preserved radish make up this hawker food in Singapore.
Two types exist, both as delicious as one another. The original version of the hawker food in Singapore and the black chai tow kway which uses a dash of sweet dark soy sauce.
Several hawkers and restaurants claim to popularise the dish, but it’s now every food court across the land. Interesting, the common misconception about the dish’s ingredients became the inspiration behind the Singaporean food guide ‘There’s no Carrot in Carrot Cake’.
Those looking for the best carrot cake in Singapore should make a beeline for Bukit Merah View Carrot Cake in the Bukit Merah View Hawker Centre.
Riverside Point, 30 Merchant Road
If you’re going to taste just one hawker food in Singapore, make it chilli crab. There’s nothing quite like crab wok fried in garlic, chilli sambal, tomato and egg whites.
You’d think that something has indulgent as chilli crab would have originated in a restaurant, but it was supposedly invented in the 50s by Cher Yam Tian, a peddling street hawker who began adding bottled chilli sauce to fried crabs in Kallang.
Today’s recipe is based on the elevated dish that was born in the kitchen of Hooi Koh Wah, one of the four chefs known as the ‘heavenly kings’ in the '60s. Large mud crabs are fried in blisteringly hot oil and often served with steamed bao buns to mop up the tangy gravy. A truly iconic hawker food of Singapore.
There are lots of hawkers selling chilli crab in Singapore, but try the excellent version at the JUMBO Seafood along Riverside Point.
220 East Coast Road
This round-the-clock street hawker food in Singapore is a pastry morsel traditionally stuffed with potatoes, eggs, meat or fish along with spices and herbs and fried until golden brown. Today, there are more modern fillings – think sweet things like durian or even chilli crab.
While its history is lost in time, it’s thought to have been influenced by either Spanish empanadas or British pastries, perhaps both. Don’t expect the same flavours though. Malay, Chinese and Indian spices and flavours have changed this pastry pocket into a truly special hawker food in Singapore.
And for just a buck a pop, it’s undeniable good value for a quick snack or a light lunch. Try the curry puffs at Soon Soon Haut Curry Puff along East Coast Road.
216 East Coast Road
A classic hawker food in Singapore and synonymous with the country (though it originated in Malaysia) – laksa needs little introduction. Those who don’t are in for a treat – a mélange of creamy coconut broth spiked with chilli and spices, chewy bee hoon rice noodles and toppings like shrimp, fried bean curd and fishcakes.
While the coconut-based laksa is the most popular, another sour-noted Assam laksa made with tangy tamarind is equally as good but best suited for those looking for something less creamy.
There are plenty of places to get your laksa fix – cross any food court and you’ll find at least one person devouring a bowl of the spicy noodles – but not all are made equal. For some fine hawker food in Singapore, try the laksa at 328 Katong Laksa.
120 Bukit Merah Lane
Stingrays were once thought of as trash fish in Singapore, an unwanted catch either released or sold off cheap. Across much of the world this still is still the case.
Over the decades though, Singapore (as well as Malaysia) have realised this fleshy sea creature has much to offer and is best cooked by slathering in a sambal paste made from shrimp, ginger, sugar and lime juice, wrapped in banana leaves and cooked over coals. Be sure to squeeze the accompanying lime before eating.
It’s common hawker food of Singapore so you won’t have any trouble finding it, but it’s tricky to find a really good version that balances their spicy sambal perfectly. Try the spicy-spiked sambal stingray at Star Yong Kwang Seafood in the Alexandra Village Food Centre.
1 Kensington Park Road
A prime example of how the hawker food of Singapore has been influenced - roti prata (which literally translates to ‘flat bread’ in Hindi) was brought to the country by Indian immigrants and became a staple.
A malleable dough is stretched and fried until crisp in a heart-stopping amount of ghee butter. Though is can be eaten on its own, it’s almost always served with a mutton curry or lentil dhal.
Alternatively, opt for one of the stuffed varieties – fried prata filled with eggs, cheese or sweets like banana or durian – which make for a filling street snack. Roti pratas are eaten at any particular time of day, so try them for breakfast, lunch or dinner. Best paired with teh tarik, a milk tea made with sugar or condensed milk.
If you have the time, head north to R.K. Eating House along Kensington Road whose roti prata is often considered one of the best in the country.
Toa Payoh Lor 1
Ask any Singaporean where their favourite Hokkien mee hawker is and you’ll get a different answer every time and while it may share the same name as its Malaysian cousin, it’s far from the same thing.
At its most basic, this hawker food in Singapore is made up of yellow egg noodles and rice bee hoon stir fried with pork belly, prawns and egg and often served with a spicy sambal and a squeeze of lime. Some prefer a drier version, others a saucier alternative. Unless you have a particular preference, both are excellent.
Hawker food in Singapore really doesn’t get better. If you’re looking for comfort street food, this is about as close as you can get. Try the Hokkien mee at Come Daily Fried Hokkien Prawn Mee in the Toa Payoh West Market & Food Centre.
208 Rangoon Road
This Chinese-influenced soup is a dish often missed by Singaporeans living overseas. Its name bak kut teh means ‘meat bone tea’ and is made by slow simmering meat bones and pork ribs to make a medicinal broth.
There are several variations of this hawker food in Singapore – a clear peppery soup, one darker version that uses soy sauce and an herbal alternative usually cooked in a clay pot. Though it doesn’t contain any tea, its usually served Chinese tea that’s supposed to help digest the soup’s fat.
You can find bak kut teh at any time, but it’s usually eaten for breakfast. This is an often overlooked but important hawker food in Singapore and shouldn’t be missed. Try the delicious soup from Ng Ah Sio Bak Kut Teh along Rangoon Road.
20 Ghim Moh Road
This old school street snack is a fast-disappearing breakfast hawker food in Singapore, at least the labour-intensive real deal as most hawkers’ chwee kueh are commercially made.
It’s a type of Teochew water cake made milled rice that’s steamed in metal moulds and topped with preserved radish and a chilli sauce. Making it properly is an art – balancing the sweet and saltiness and keeping the jelly-like texture firm without being overly hard.
It’s unfortunate that the younger generation have a lack of interest in taking over the old-fashioned handmade chwee kueh hawker stands, but there are still some around. Most are served as four or six. Some excellent handmade chwee kueh can be found at Ghim Moh Chwee Kueh.
28 Ann Siang Road
Hawker food in Singapore like nasi lemak serve as the perfect example of Malay influence. It’s one of the country’s most popular hawker dishes and usually eaten for breakfast, though it can be found all day.
From hawker stand to hawker stand the recipe differs somewhat, but at its core lies a heap of fragrant rice steamed with coconut milk, fried eggs, salty roasted peanuts, cucumber slices, crispy fried ikan bilis anchovies and a spicy sambal sauce. It’s a simple but perfectly balanced hawker food of Singapore and can be made more complex with the addition of extras like fried chicken.
It may not be a hawker centre, but the decadent nasi lemak at The Coconut Club on Ann Siang Road is well worth the extra spend.
95 Joo Chiat Road
There’s something deeply satisfying about popiah, a Chinese Fujian paper-thin pancake wrapped up around stir-fried turnip, carrots, beansprouts along with other fillings like egg, cured Chinese sausage, roasted peanuts, tao pok fried tofu and prawns. Sweetness from this hawker food in Singapore comes from the bean sauce slathered on top.
If you’re a vegetarian, make a beeline for the nearest popiah stall, you won’t regret the meat-free version. The best popiah should be tightly wrapped without feeling too firm and with a good balance of ingredients throughout. There’s also a deep-fried version, much like spring rolls, which are crispy and golden. Try the local favourites at Kway Guan Huat Joochiat Popiah along Joo Chiat Road.
183 Jalan Besar
It’s difficult to mention the hawker food of Singapore without including the broader category of dim sum. Like most dishes in Singapore, dim sum didn’t originate in the country (it was brought by Hong Kong immigrants). But Singaporeans love dim sum and have taken it as their own.
You could spend many years diving in the dim sum culture in Singapore. It’s most often eaten between breakfast and the mid-afternoon, though some restaurants change to a dim sum dinner menu.
Stand out dim sum to look out for includes siew mai (prawn and pork parcels), har gow (steamed shrimp dumplings) and char siu bao (fluffy white pillow buns filled with barbecue pork). Some excellent dim sum gets cooked up at the famed Swee Choo Tim Sum along Jalan Besar.
20 Kensington Park Road
Other than an aversion or allergy to peanuts, you’d be hard pressed to find someone who doesn’t like satay. Originating in Indonesia, it’s now popular across South East Asia including Singapore where it’s become a hawker favourite.
For those who don’t know satay – the dish is typically made from beef, pork or chicken, which are marinated, skewered and grilled over charcoal coals which imparts a smoky flavour. This hawker food in Singapore is almost always accompanied with a rich, slightly spiced peanut sauce, rice cakes and raw onion and cucumber.
Like most hawker food of Singapore, the recipes differ greatly between the hawker stands, but the standard is generally very high. There are some particularly good satay being cooked up at Chomp Chomp Satay in the Chomp Chomp Food Centre.
11 Lor 3 Toa Payoh
There are so many different types of wonton mee, it’s a little hard to keep track. The Cantonese noodle dumplings has had many iterations through South East Asia and they have all seemingly landed in Singapore.
The classic hawker food in Singapore calls for fresh noodles, choy sum greens, sliced barbecue pork and small noodles dumplings. It’s most popular dry with the wonton dumplings service in a separate bowl of broth.
Then there’s the fried version. Crispy pockets of peppery pork and prawn or sometimes crab meat paired with a chilli sambal. Along with other hawker food of Singapore, this sits as one of the country’s classics and you can't do better than Chef Kang's Noodle House.
466 Crawford Lane
Another popular hawker food in Singapore, bak chor mee is a minced meat noodle dish which is either served dry or with soup and originated in China. The more popular version is springy flat or thin egg noodles dressed in pork lard and a vinegar-chilli sauce with a side bowl of broth.
There are plenty of modern varieties that have sprung up in recent years – think fish balls and wonton dumplings, though the old-school origins are still the top contenders. Like most hawker food in Singapore, the balance is important – a light tasting broth with just the right amount of fat and minced pork can make or break a bak chor mee. That's exactly what you'll find at Hill Street Tai Hwa Pork Noodle on Crawford Lane.
48-50 Dunlop Street
Hailing from Persia and brought to India before being travelling with immigrants to Singapore, biryani is aromatic rice-based dish cooked with saffron and spices and slow-cooked tender meat. Fried shallots and tangy achar pickle cut through the fragrant rice.
The best in the city are still created the old-fashioned way by marinated the meat overnight and cooking the dish with long-grained basmati in large sealed pots.
Biryani is best eaten, like many Indian hawker food in Singapore, with your hands. Forget cutlery and follow the locals by diving with your fingers first. There’s plenty of Indian restaurants and hawker stands across Singapore to try biryani, but there are just a few stand out spots like Bismillah Biryani Restaurant along Dunlop Street.
665 Buffalo Road
Siamese noodles or mee Siam are an underrated breakfast hawker food in Singapore made up of bee hoon rice vermicelli noodles swimming in a gravy of tangy tamarind, salted soybeans and rempah paste. As you may have guested from the name, the dish is inspired by Thai flavours, though the dish is quite different from its Thai equivalent.
It’s either eaten on its own or as a more complex arrangement with eggs, fried chicken, spicy sambal and otak grilled fish cakes. There’s a dry alternative too, but it doesn’t compare in popularity to the wetter version. The best in town is often considered to come from Grandma Mee Siam in the Tekka Centre.
724 Ang Mo Kio Ave 6
Another noodle hawker food in Singapore – mee rebus are blanched yellow egg noodles, similar to those used in Hokkien mee, swimming in a lightly sweetened gravy made from lemongrass, shallots, galangal, kaffir lime leaves and shrimp broth thickened with a touch of corn starch.
Like satay, the dishes roots are Indonesian and unsurprisingly the pair work well and are often served together. Other accompaniments include boiled potatoes, eggs, bean sprouts and tau kwa fried tofu.
The noodles were sold on from two basket hawkers on the streets of Singapore years ago before moving into the food courts across the city. Today, the mee rebus at Yunos N Family is considered the best in Singapore.
590 Upper Thomson Road
There are two main versions of duck rice – a Hokkien style dish with a thick sauce and sometimes cooked with yam rice and a lighter Teochew-style alternative. Both are equally good. This is another hawker food of Singapore that you’d call comfort food.
The duck can either be braised or roasted, it’s then deboned, sliced thinly and topped on fluffy, steamed rice. You may find it garnished with boiled eggs, bean curd or preserved vegetables. There are many worthy contenders for the best duck rice in Singapore, but there some standouts to look out for like those cooked from Seng Huat Duck Rice along Upper Thomson Road.
49A Serangoon Garden Way
This refreshing bean curd dessert may be simple but ask any Singaporean about their tau huay taste and you’ll find myriad answers.
Some like this hawker food in Singapore hot, others cold straight out the fridge. Some want it topped with extra sugar syrup, others prefer a dash of soy milk. Speak with the younger crowd and you might even find some modern tastes like tapioca pearls. Then there’s the with or without youtiao, a type of fried Chinese doughnut or even the time you have your tau huay – as a refreshing morning treat or a late-night snack.
There's a delicious version sold from Tan Soon Mui Beancurd along Serangoon Garden Way a little north of the city.
6 Jalan Bukit Merah
Desserts don’t come much more impressive looking than ice kacang, a towering pyramid of shaved ice dowsed in sugary neon syrups made from pandan and rose water, grass jelly, corn and red beans. There’s something alien but familiar to the Western palette.
When you get used to the more basic version, you can customise your ice kacang as you like. Try peanuts and sweetened milk for a nutty alternative. Don’t hang around though. Shaved ice, syrup and Singaporean heat usually result in a sticky, warm mess in very little time.
You can try this hawker food at Jin Jin Hot/Cold Dessert in the ABC Food Centre and Market.
117 Commonwealth Drive
Easily one of the most popular hawker desserts in Singapore, cheng tng is a good way to tackle the city’s blistering heat.
Its name translates to ‘clear soup’ and it’s packed with a whole host of mineral rich ingredients – lotus seeds, gingko beans, longans, sago pearls, candied winter melon and pearl barley – as well as some crowd-pleasers like sweetened jelly. The star of the show though is undoubtedly pang dai hai or fried malva nut which has medicinal properties and helps cool down the body.
There's an excellent cheng tng at Xi Le Ting Dessert along Commonwealth Drive.
Last but certainly not least is cendol named by CNN as one of the world’s 50 best desserts. The mound of ice mixed with green rice flour jelly, sticky gula melaka palm sugar and coconut milk and topped with any number of ingredients from corn to red beans, makes for an Instagram-worthy treat.
The best hawker stands build cult-like followings and on hot days (of which Singapore has many) expect long queues. Stay cool in the midday sun with a bowl of refreshing cendol. This hawker food in Singapore is best eaten at Four Seasons Cendol.
Still confused about the hawker food in Singapore? Fear not. You can always hop on this Singapore food tour and learn the ins and outs of the city’s cuisine with an expert local food guide.
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