One of Singapore’s favourite past times is eating and there is nothing more authentic than feasting with your family in a well-loved hawker centre. From cheap and cheerful Chicken Rice to crowd pleasing dishes like Nasi Lemak and Satay Sticks, there is so much deliciousness to enjoy at your local food stall, that we thought we’d share a few of our faves here just for you mama!
Hainanese Chicken Rice
Chicken Rice definitely tops our list of most popular hawker food for kids… and for good reason! The flavourful and fragrant rice is cooked in chicken broth, pandan leaves, oil, shallots and garlic and is served with chopped pieces of chicken. The best store will have their chicken smooth and tender, and the entire dish is a sheer delight of chicken goodness perfect for even the pickiest of eaters.
A little tough to find at a standalone store, Chee Kway is a type of steamed rice cake served with bits of diced preserved turnips. Its literal translation is “water cake” and it’s due to the slight indent caused by water vapour while steaming. The rice flour is steamed in small metal moulds, and it is only removed prior to serving. The preserved turnips, or what most Singaporeans call “Chai Poh” is cooked with dark soya sauce and garlic. This springy cake is a popular breakfast food and most kids love the sweet saltiness of the turnips.
Char Kway Teow
Not the healthiest of food due to the lard used, Char Kway Teow is renowned for sending foodies scooting across the island on the hunt for the stall that sells the best version of this dish (jury’s still out on which one that is mama!). It’s basically flat noodles stir-fried with prawns, cockles, Chinese sausages, eggs, bean sprouts and a mix of dark and sweet soya sauce… delish! The best store has this dish served with the freshest ingredients, with the noodles fried over high heat in a well-seasoned Chinese wok. Once considered a “poor man’s dish” this seafood delight can now be found in any hawker centre in Singapore. You can request for no cockles if you’d rather err on the side of caution when ordering for little ones.
The local version is a misnomer to the western vision of this popular dessert. “Chai Tow Kuay” is first made from daikon and steam flour and thereafter stir fried with eggs and bean sprouts. You can choose to order the dish in “white” or “black” — in which the latter has thick dark sweet sauce mixed with the carrot cake… yum!
Seasoned with turmeric, skewered and then grilled, satay comes in any choice of pork, chicken, mutton or beef, and is a definite must try for kiddos (and their parents!). The meats are grilled over charcoal fire and served with cucumber and onion on the side. Kids can dip the slightly charred meat into the bowl of thick and tangy peanut sauce, and chow down on the delicious grated pineapple that comes served on the side. Grilled on order, these sticks of deliciousness can take a bit to prepare… so maybe consider ordering a little snack while you wait!
Fish Ball Noodle
The best stores have their fish balls bouncy and springy in texture. This neutral dish is great when the kids do not have much of an appetite, as the yellow noodles and fish balls are often served in a clear soup (it’s also a great finger food option for learner eaters – just cut the fish balls in half first and you’re good to go!). Good alternatives to the yellow noodles are the white thin noodles (beehoon) for those mums who want to steer away from gluten.
BBQ Chicken Wings
No child can resist these BBQ chicken wings… and if you haven’t tried them before mama, you don’t know what you’re missing. These wings are nicely marinated before going on the fire for grilling to perfection. A fun food for your tots to feed themselves, these crisp golden wings are, quite simply, irresistible – if we do say so ourselves!
Another sure winner with the kiddies, Nasi Lemak is rice cooked in coconut milk and highly fragrant pandan leaves. The rice has ikan bilis (anchovies) throughout and is served with either a fried or hard-boiled egg to complement (newer variations include a deep fried chicken wing on the side as well). While this dish seems easy to make, a truly remarkable Nasi Lemak should have the right amount of texture and flavour. Do not be surprised if your kiddos prefer the rice only. The fried anchovies are usually mixed with sambal and can be a tad too spicy for junior, but some stores will serve the sambal on the side if you ask for it that way. Keep an eye out for this dish wrapped in a banana leaf – it makes for a pretty interesting way for the kids to eat their meals!
One of those rare instances where you can actually enjoy oysters that are cooked to perfection, this decadent dish is known as “Or Luak” in the hawker stores, and is one of Singapore’s favourite dishes. Little ones may give the oysters a miss but they sure will pick out the crispy and chewy brown bits made from eggs, rice and sweet potato flour batter. This is definitely one dish for those that aren’t too worried about calorie intake!
After Anthony Bourdain had some wontons in Penang, it seemed like everyone wanted some too! This classic dish is served with wontons or dumplings made of meat and prawns, and most kids love the pieces of char siew (sweet meat) that comes on the side. Opt for either fried or boiled dumplings, or you could even request both! Different stores have different variations on how the noodles are served. Some mix the yellow noodles with dark sauce, while others stir it up with tomato sauce. In any case, both taste great and this dish has a very neutral palate that is ideal for most taste buds.