Singapore has just recently filed for our hawker culture to be listed in UNESCO Heritage. When Aung San Suu Kyi came Singapore for a state visit, she was mesmerised by Singapore’s hawker culture and instructed her ministers to do likewise in Myanmar. So what is so special about Singapore’s hawker culture that make it mesmerising and attractive? The answer lies in, affordability and tastefulness.
Long before Singapore got its independence, hawker food was akin to the street food stalls we see in Thailand. It was a common way of livelihood and an affordable mean to get delicious food. Shortly after Singapore’s independence, the government started building hawker centreseeee to house and regulate these hawkers, ensuring hygiene standards were being followed. Thankfully, while the outlook of hawkers may have change, the essence have yet to. Let us take a look at the must try hawker food in Singapore!
1. Tian Tian Hainanese Chicken Rice
We believe this food needs no introduction. Recommended by the Michelin Guide, Tian Tian Hainanese Chicken Rice is definitely a must try while you are in Singapore. So what is so special about Tian Tian that it is worth the queue? The secret lies in the rice. It is warm, fluffy and fragrant. Not all animal are made equal, and not all chicken rice were made equally fragrant. Cooked in chicken stock overnight, Tian Tian’s rice is satisfying to be eaten by itself. The chicken is also one of the most tender one has ever eaten due to the ice bath that it has went through, to lock in the juices. The firm and tasty chicken meat paired together with the rice makes it simply satisfying.
Tian Tian Hainanese Chicken Rice
Maxwell Food Centre #01-10/11, 1 Kadayanallur Street, Singapore 069184
Tel: +65 9691 4852
Opening hours: 11:00am – 8:00pm (Tues – Sun), Closed Mon
2. Whitley Road Prawn Noodles
If you are a fan of seafood, then you can’t miss this hawker stall. Known for its big and juicy prawn, this hawker stall has been a hit amongst the locals. Cooked and simmered for many hours, the rich taste of the broth makes up for its relatively smaller portion. Despite the smaller portion, Whitley is generous with its ingredients. Each bowl is served with a gigantic prawn that one can immediately taste its freshness.
Unlike other soup base that makes you thirst after drinking, Whitley’s noodles does not have that effect as it is prepared with fresh ingredients. You can order in both soup or dry version, even though we would advise you to try out the soup version.
Whitley Road Big Prawn Noodles (威利大蝦麵)
Blk 51 Old Airport Road, #01-98 Old Airport Road Food Centre, Singapore 390051
Opening Hours: 9am – 8pm (Tue – Fri), 9am – 9pm (Sat – Sun), Closed Mon
3. He Zhong’s Carrot Cake
In case you are wondering, Carrot Cake does not refer to the slice of cake that you see over the cafe counter. It refers to radish cubes , deep fried with egg. Diners like you can choose if they want to have the “black version” which uses black soy sauce giving it a sweeter taste, or “white”, just the original version itself. If you are new to this dish, He Zhong’s carrot cake is definitely worth a try. Always having a long queue during lunch and dinner time, the radish cakes are worth every single second of your waiting time. Their Radish cakes are softly moist, well covered with the egg crust which was slightly charred. Everything is held together well and the chunks won’t fall off your chopsticks as you hold them up.
He Zhong Carrot Cake:
51 Upper Bukit Timah Rd, Bukit Timah Market and Food Centre Singapore 588172
Opening Hours: Daily 07:00-22:00
4. Ah Hak Bak Kut Teh
Yes, we know you know about Song Fa, but what about other Bak Kut Teh stalls tug in the corner of Singapore? Ah Hak Bak Kut Teh is a must try if you are looking to imagine the pre-modern Singapore. Once you step into Ah Hak, its rusty gates, granite floor, patterned bowls and wooden tables brings you back to 1970s. Despite Singapore high living cost, Ah Hak remains fairly affordable, probably to thank its loyal customer base. A bowl of bak kut teh for 1 person, together with a bowl of rice and preserved vegetables, cost $7.50 in total. If you are a fan of tender meat, Ah Hak may not suit you. However, it is still worth a visit if you are curious about the older days of Singapore.
Kai Juan Coffeeshop, 397 Balestier Road, Singapore 329800
Opening Hours: 24 hours daily, except on Sundays where they close from around 3pm to Mondays 3pm.
5. Hao Hua Cai Peng ( Mixed Vegetable and Rice)
If you ask Singaporeans what is a national dish that can truly represent Singapore, Cai Peng, is definitely part of the answer, Unlike chilli crab which Singaporeans only eat during celebrations, Cai Peng is an economical dish that is frequently consumed, especially when one is in rush. Unlike other hawker dishes, Cai Peng allows one to choose their own dish to go alongside their rice. And one of the most common reason why Singaporeans opt for Cai Peng apart from the convenience, is its home-cooked taste.
Hao Hua Cooked Food may look unassuming, but its stall is always greeted with long queue during meal time. Each dish is painstakingly prepared by an elderly couple, and each dish is greeted with a gentle smile. If the boss recognise you, he can even remember your order without telling him. And that’s what keep diners going back to his stall. So if you are sick and tired of eating Chilli Crab and other sumptuous meal in Singapore, why not try Hao Hua Cooked Food for a change! It may taste slightly more blend, but it definitely warms your heart!