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Sassy Mama Guide to the Best Hawker Dishes in Singapore

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As the famous local saying goes: even as we’re eating a meal, we’re already planning where to eat next.

As our little city-state blooms and grows, gentrification is inevitable. There’s talk aplenty about hawker fare dying out. But those who’ve eaten and grown up here know that hawker eats are the fabric of Singapore, our spirit and bones, and something we introduce our kids to from a young age. From swanky boss-types to the regular man-in-the-street, it’s in our DNA and not going anywhere anytime soon.

Two key ingredients required to enjoy hawker food are: going dressed for the occasion (tees + shorts, bring hand wipes too), and a good group of hungry makan kakis (eating companions).

Admittedly, many local must-eats aren’t the healthiest out there, often laden with good ol’ lard and cholesterol-busting broths. They’re not for the faint-hearted, although the kids are sure to adore it all!

We do believe however in making those calories count, so we’ve put together the most well loved hawker dishes and some finger-licking places you can find them at (yes, long queues are mandatory, get used to it mama!).

hokkien meeImage sourced via Pinterest

Fried Hokkien Mee
Originating from one of the major Chinese dialect groups, this hearty prawn broth-drenched fried noodle dish fills you up quickly, thanks in part to the little lethal cubes of fried pork lard – hallmarks of a good plate. The lighter, white Hokkien Hae Mee (prawn noodles) is more popular in Singapore, while the Hokkien Char Mee variety – a darker, thicker version – is more commonly served in Malaysia.

Ah Hock Fried Hokkien Noodles
You know you’re in good company when almost every table in this perennially crowded hawker centre has plates of Ah Hock’s noodles. The thin beehoon does a fantastic job soaking up the prawny broth, giving great bite and flavour.

Ah Hock Fried Hokkien Noodles, 20 Kensington Park Road, Chomp Chomp Food Centre Stall 27, Singapore 557269

Nam Sing Hokkien Fried Mee
Prawn stock packs an amazing punch and, when allowed to steam and mingle properly with noodles, creates a drool-worthy plate of Hokkien mee, which is how Nam Sing does theirs. There isn’t the traditional chilli paste here; the dish is so flavourful on its own. Instead, cut chilli balanced with lime is sufficient to give a little heat as required.

Nam Sing Hokkien Fried Mee, Block 51 Old Airport Road, Old Airport Road Food Centre #01-32, Singapore 390051

Tian Tian Lai 
Fried Hokkien Prawn Mee
Pork lard, pork belly strips and ooey gooeyness – three good reasons you’ll keep coming back, as their stall name promises (it means ‘come everyday’ in Mandarin).

Tian Tian Lai 
Fried Hokkien Prawn Mee,
 Block 127, #02-27 Toa Payoh Lorong 1 Food Centre, Singapore 310127

hainan chicken riceImage sourced via Pinterest

(Hainanese) Chicken Rice
Another legacy adapted from one of Singapore’s Chinese dialect groups – the Hainanese – is the famous Singapore chicken rice (perennial favourite of kids everywhere). Eagerly embraced all over the world with wide-open mouths (especially in Hong Kong), the oily pandan–infused rice is a much of a star as the savoury poached chicken. The pale red chilli sauce is another key component for locals and the garlicky pungency is a must to make the meal whole.

Tian Tian Chicken Rice
As a frequent visitor of Maxwell Food Centre, I’ve always seen a snaking queue for this Anthony Bourdain-approved stall. Get comfortable and bring the husband to chat with as you wait in line for the famous chicken, served slightly chilled for best taste with the most fragrant rice ever.

Tian Tian Chicken Rice, 1 Kadayanallur Street, #01-10 Maxwell Road Hawker Centre, Singapore 069184 

Yet Con Hainanese Chicken Rice
With decor from the 70s prevailing, this old school coffeeshop is an iconic place to bring out-of-town visitors for some good chicken rice. Together with their poached ‘white’ chicken (don’t ditch the skin, that’s the best part), order a portion of their sweet and sour Hainanese Pork Chop too – it’s just so good.

Yet Con Hainanese Chicken Rice,
 25 Purvis Street, Singapore 188602

Hainanese Delicacy Chicken Rice
This somewhat hidden gem is a personal favourite, set unexpectedly in town. The best of their white/roast chicken is brought out by the light soy and sesame oil gravy, going beautifully with the gizzard/heart sides for those who dare.

Hainanese Delicacy Chicken Rice 14 Scotts Road
, Far East Plaza #05-116, Singapore 228213

oyster omeletteImage sourced via Pinterest

Oyster Omelette (Orh Luah)
The simpler the ingredients, the greater the skill it takes to make a dish outstanding – an Orh Luah (oyster omelette) being the case in point. Many make a soggy, doughy mess of the potato starch-egg mixture; the key is to achieve crispy edges while maintaining the starch’s chewy centre. There’s also the Orh Neng version, with more egg and minus the potato starch.

Ang Sa Lee Oyster Omelette
Brave the hungry throngs, snag an empty seat (that’ll take some hawk-eyed scouring) and tuck into their fluffy omelette created with just the right balance of starch and egg, with the chilli providing a good sour kick.

Ang Sa Lee Oyster Omelette, 20 Kensington Park Road, Chomp Chomp Stall 33, Singapore 557269

Simon Road Oyster Omelette
The Serangoon area folks are lucky to have two awesome orh luah stalls in the hood. The crispiness of the starch here is a highlight, as well as the smokiness of their fried oysters – made possible only with highly skilled hands working the wok.

Simon Road Oyster Omelette, 965 Upper Serangoon Road, Mee Sek Coffeeshop, Singapore 534721

Bedok 85 Fried Oyster Omelette
Like many hawker dishes, the chilli accompaniment is so important, especially for our spice-trained tongue. With just the right mix of sourness and heat, the chilli sauce here is one of the best.

Bedok 85 Fried Oyster Omelette, Block 85 Bedok North Street 4, Fengshan Market & Food Centre, Singapore 460085

Ah Hock Fried Oyster Hougang
Packing a good wok hei (pan smokiness) punch, the owner uses oysters from Korea that are smashing with the crispy flour-omelette bits. Yum.

Ah Hock Fried Oyster Hougang, Block 90 Whampoa Drive, #01-54, Whampoa Hawker Centre, Singapore 320090 

laksaImage sourced via Pinterest

Laksa
A highly contentious fight for the ‘original’ and the ‘best’ recipes stirred up much emotion as supporters took sides to pledge their loyalty for this iconic dish with Peranakan origins. Singaporeans, with our taste for the ‘lemak’ (enriched – in this case, with coconut) love the curry laksa (laksa lemak) over the harder-to-find assam lasak (tamarind-based). If you hear the term ‘Katong Laksa’-style, you don’t have to just nod and look like you know they’re referring to anymore – they’re talking about cut up thick vermicelli that you can eat with a spoon, no chopsticks needed.

328 Katong Laksa
Even more famous now after beating Gordan Ramsay in the Hawkers Heroes Challenge, the laksa gravy here is good to the last slurp – thanks to the mountain of dried shrimps as you near the bottom of the bowl.

328 Katong Laksa, 51/53 East Coast Road, Singapore 428770

Sungei Road Laksa
History never tasted so good. Tucked in a tiny corner of an old coffeeshop is the owner and his family turning out amazing bowls of laksa heaven, with a lighter broth perfect for those looking to avoid a food coma, especially those heading back to the office after lunch.

Sungei Road Laksa, Block 27 Jalan Berseh, #01-100, Singapore 200027

Depot Road Zhen Shan Mei Claypot Laksa
An interesting variant served up in claypots that retain heat and flavour. As you spoon through the thick coconut gravy, you’ll find perfectly cooked noodles nestled inside.

Depot Road Zhen Shan Mei Claypot Laksa, Block 120 Bukit Merah Lane 1, #01-75 Alexandra Village, Singapore 150119

char kway teowImage sourced via Pinterest

Char Kway Teow
Frying up flat rice noodles with bean sprouts, gu chai (Chinese chives), lup cheong (preserved Chinese sausage) and hum (cockles) is done one plate at a time, with the cook engulfed in gusts of wok smokiness. This guarantees a considerable wait for your char kway teow, but good things need patience, and this is a dish well worth your time. Cubes of fried pork are a must – disown anyone who tells you to skip them in the name of health, they’re no friends of yours.

Hill Street Char Kway Teow
Their servings are small, but loaded with bean sprouts and gu chai – that makes char kway teow kinda healthy, doesn’t it? All the more reason to go for seconds!

Hill Street Char Kway Teow, Block 16 Bedok South Road, #01-187 Bedok South Road Market & Food Centre, Singapore 460016 

Outram Park Fried Kway Teow Mee
Armed with numerous awards and truckloads of eggs, the secret to this delectable stall is – you got it, eggs. Generous platings laden with lightly fried eggs boost protein quotient – such well-rounded deliciousness!

Outram Park Fried Kway Teow Mee, Block 531A Upper Cross Street, #02-17 Hong Lim Food Centre, Singapore 510531

No. 18 Zion Road Fried Kway Teow
This stall is an institution. The owner and his two helpers are on a constant roll frying up platefuls of black sweet sauce-clad kway teow. No rest for the weary – both the hawker and his hungry queuing customers have much work to do.

No. 18 Zion Road Fried Kway Teow, 70 Zion Road, Zion Riverside Food Centre #01-17, Singapore 247792
www.burpple.com/no-18-zion-road-fried-kway-teow 

Lao Fu Zhi Fried Kway Teow
This stall was named back when lao fu zhi comic strips were popular – that’s how long-standing it is. Seek it out among Old Airport Road’s mélange of hawker stores and you will be rewarded with a wok hei char kway teow that packs a sturdy aromatic punch.

Lao Fu Zhi Fried Kway Teow, Block 51 Old Airport Road, #01-12 Old Airport Road Food Centre, Singapore 390051

Bak kut tehImage sourced via Pinterest

Bak Kut Teh
Best known as supper food, there are two variants of the popular bak kut teh: the peppery lighter version popular in Singapore and the darker herbal version rampant in Malaysia. Don’t be shy to ask for soup refills, that’s a given. Side dishes of tau pok (stewed beancurd puffs), chye buah (preserved veg), tung oh (veg), and you tiao (fried dough fritter) are also mandatory to complete the eating experience, which is why you need to be smart – bring your mama friends along.

The famous founder stalls Bak Kut Teh and Ng Ah Sio Pork Ribs Soup are not on the list, unfortunately. We think their standards have fallen over the recent years and are sadly now missing the old-school goodness that used to highlight their dishes.

Outram Park Ya Hua Rou Gu Cha
Service is not a hallmark of hawker fare, but at Ya Hua, eating bak kut teh is a breeze. Waiters approach you to take orders (instead of you waving crazily to attract someone’s – anyone’s – attention). They volunteer soup refills, and there’s actually service with a smile. Jaw-dropping, in the land of curt hawker service. And of course, there’s stellar bak kut teh to go along.

Outram Park Ya Hua Rou Gu Cha, 7 Keppel Road, #01-05/07 PSA Tanjong Pagar Complex, Singapore 089053

Song Fa Bak Kut Teh
The large, tender ribs have earned this iconic stall several awards and many are willing to hover, waiting for seats during the crazy lunchtime peaks.

Song Fa Bak Kut The 11 New Bridge Road #01-01, Singapore 059383 

Leong Kee (Klang) Bak Kut Teh
This Klang-influenced version packs a strong herbal punch with its thick cloudy soup, and unusual addition of soft folds of bean curd skin.

Leong Kee (Klang) Bak Kut Teh, 321 Beach Road, Singapore 199557 (junction of Beach Road & Sultan Gate)

chwee kuehImage sourced via Pinterest

Chwee Kueh
Visit at the right times and you’ll get to see the trademark rows of neat little tin cups in giant multi-layer steamers, creating rice cake magic locally known as chwee kueh. Sold cheaply, chwee kueh makes excellent breakfast fodder, topped with salty chye poh (preserved radish) and the unmistakable chilli swimming in oil.

Ghim Moh Chwee Kueh
Old school rules at this stall with a 55 year-old recipe handed down from the owner’s mother. Everything is painstakingly made by hand, resulting in a unique umami edge, made possible only with years of devotion and tradition.

Ghim Moh Chwee Kueh, 20 Ghim Moh Road, #01-31 Ghim Moh Market and Food Centre, Singapore 270020

Jian Bo Shui Kueh
One of the tent-pole stalls at the famous Tiong Bahru Food Centre, these little rice cakes are heavily doused with almost-burnt, caramalised chye poh in all its oily goodness, making it such a killer dish.

Jian Bo Shui Kueh, 30 Seng Poh Road, #02-05 Tiong Bahru Market and Food Centre, Singapore 168898

Bedok Chwee Kueh
Again chye poh is the star at this stall, with the owner stir-frying for two hours to create the necessary steeped aromas from the accompanying garlic, onion and mandatory pork lard.

Bedok Chwee Kueh, Block 207, New Upper Changi Road #01-53, Singapore 460207

85ce8d29526bef650fd9312181951ef6Image sourced via Pinterest

Rojak
Just like the bubbly hodgepodge of races and religions that is Singapore, ‘rojak’ literally means ‘mixture’ in Malay. The dish is a happy jumble of turnips, pineapples, tau pok (grilled beancurd puffs) and – most importantly – hei gor (prawn paste), banana flower shavings and crushed peanuts. This is a dish that should be eaten as soon as it’s made, drop those thoughts of ta-powing (takeaway-ing) right now.

Toa Payoh Rojak
Confusingly located on Old Airport Road, this popular stall has certainly kept the usual hawker ordering chaos to a minimum with their electronic numbering system, making it a relative breeze to get your food.

Toa Payoh Rojak, Block 51 Old Airport Road, #01-108 Old Airport Road Food Centre, Singapore 390051 

Lau Hong Ser Famous Rojak
Best known for its somewhat strange operating hours of 4.38pm to 1.38am, the rojak here is crowned with toasted dried cuttlefish and crunchy you tiao (fried dough fritters). Do the smart thing and call ahead to place your order.

Lau Hong Ser Famous Rojak, 271 Onan Road #02-14, Singapore 424768

Hoover Rojak
This stall needs no introduction. The owner has been making rojak for more than 50 years, way back when a plateful cost just $0.10. He can whip up rojak with his eyes closed and you can taste the joy he gets from doing a job he loves, in his unbeatable homemade hei gor (prawn paste) mixture.

Hoover Rojak, 90 Whampoa Drive, #01-06 Whampoa Food Centre, Singapore 320090

Soon Heng Silver Stream Rojak
The rojak here is characterised by very generous showers of peanuts, often called “a beautiful mess” and readily polished off by hungry waiting customers.

Soon Heng Silver Stream Rojak 480 Toa Payoh Lorong 6, #B1-23 HDB Hub, Gourmet Paradise Food Court, Singapore 310490

nasi lemakImage sourced via Pinterest

Nasi Lemak
A lip-smacking legacy of Malay cuisinenasi lemak is ‘rice enriched with coconut milk’ and as much a breakfast as a supper staple. The fragrant rice, when done right, elevates the dish to heavenly heights. The accompanying ikan bilis (fried anchovies), fried chicken and fried egg means ‘fried’ does seem to be a running theme here!

Selera Rasa Nasi Lemak
Better known as ‘Adam Road Nasi Lemak’, the fragrant lemak rice is the star. Don’t skimp on the chilli – a sweet complement that’s easy to appreciate.

Selera Rasa Nasi Lemak, 2 Adam Road, #01-02 Adam Food Centre, Singapore 289876

Chong Pang Nasi Lemak
Good veggie options at this wildly popular stall help ease the gluttony guilt, so load up and you can then enjoy the crunchy fried chicken with a clear health conscience.

Chong Pang Nasi Lemak 447 Sembawang Road, Singapore 758404

Mizzy’s Corner
Open round the clock, this halal stall is a regular haunt especially popular with late night owls. It’ll take all your self-restraint to keep from going for seconds of the fluffy rice, laced with discernible coconut fragrance.

Mizzy’s Corner, 2 Changi Village Road, #01-26 Changi Village Market and Food Centre, Singapore 500002 (note that it’s no longer at #01-55)

Boon Lay Power Nasi Lemak
You’ll be spoilt for choice at the most popular nasi lemak stall in the West, with trays of non-traditional additions like fried tau gua (beancurd), sausages, various forms of rendangs (dry curries), and curried veggies.

Boon Lay Power Nasi Lemak, Blk 221B Boon Lay Place, Boon Lay Place Market and Food Centre #01-06, Singapore 642221

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