If I had to choose one reason as to why my international friends should visit Singapore, it will definitely be because of the food, more than the architecture or the shopping. Singapore’s skyscrapers and world-renowned pieces of architecture are fancy, no doubt, but I have a greater affinity towards the food scene in Singapore. There is some form of equilibrium achieved as glitzy big name restaurants accredited with Michelin stars are balanced with homey family-run stalls in hawker centres. Although both are so different in their nature, they are undoubtedly equally successful in pleasing the taste buds of the masses. I personally appreciate how Singapore is able to uphold the authenticity of international cuisines. For instance, Japanese cuisine is kept authentically Japanese, similar for other cuisines such as Korean, French, Italian, et cetera. Contrast this to South Korea; Although international cuisines like Italian can be found, it is more common to find the ‘Koreanized’ version of the Italian pizza with the occasional cherry or mashed sweet potato atop.
As an avid fan of hawker food, I will be focusing on the hawker centre scene in Singapore, giving my two cents on the must-go places if one wishes to eat good food. The reason hawker food is so popular among the local Singaporeans and tourists is mainly due to its affordability, variety and taste. With just S$10, one can easily enjoy two meals and even get a drink. Besides local cuisines like Malay, Chinese and Indian cuisines, other international cuisines like Thai and Vietnamese can be found. These are some of the food that can be easily found in hawker centres:
If you are lucky, you may even find food such as the widely loved dim sum that is not usually served at hawker centres but at restaurants.
Given that there are numerous hawker centres that can be found in Singapore, it is virtually impossible to visit all of them especially if you are just visiting Singapore for a short period of time. As such, I have narrowed it down to some of the must-go hawker centres that are well-loved by locals. At these hawker centres, there is a higher likelihood of one experiencing great food due to the congregation of good hawker stalls under one roof. The hawker centres are Maxwell Road Food Centre in Chinatown, Old Airport Road Hawker Centre at Old Airport Road, Zion Riverside Food Centre and Tiong Bahru Market and Hawker Centre at Tiong Bahru. A general observation is that older estates tend to have better food stalls, perhaps due to the long heritage of tried and tested recipes, and decades of competition with other food stalls.
Whenever I visit hawker centres, I find that I tend to gravitate towards these foods; Bak Chor Mee, Ban Mian, Sliced Fish Beehoon Soup, Wanton Mee and Fried Oyster Omelette. My to-go drink would be soya milk, sugar cane, soursop juice or avocado milkshake. If this is your first time going to Singapore’s hawker centre and you don’t have an idea where to start, maybe you can try the food that I listed above. I am sure you will find something you like!
By Sarah Chua, ASEAN Correspondent from Singapore