Singapore – Chinatown Hawker’s Food Centre (Traditional Singaporean)

Restaurant: Bukit Timah Market (Chinatown) & Hawker Food Centre (Hawker’s Centre)
Cuisine: Singaporean
Last visited: April 25, 2010
Location: Singapore
Address: 335 Smith Street, Chinatown Complex
Take the MRT to Chinatown or Outram Park stations.
Price Range: $3-6 SGD (about $2-4.50CAD)

1: Poor 2: OK 3: Good 4: Very good 5: Excellent 6: Tres Excellent!!

Food: n/amultiple stalls
Service: n/a
Ambiance: 1 (but it is what it is!… and there’s no air con)
Overall: 5
Additional comments:

  • 2nd floor, open air
  • Best place for authentic Singaporean food
  • One of the best and most famous and popular Hawker Centres
  • Almost like a food court
  • Several hawker stalls located in Singapore
  • Lots of stalls
  • Very popular to locals – 99% local
  • Extremely casual
  • Budget-friendly
  • CHEAP eats!
  • Busy during lunch/peak hours
  • Offers a variety of stalls
  • Self-serve, tray service
  • No air conditioning

**Recommendations: Ann-Chin stall: Popiah Roll, Terry Katong Laksa stall: Laksa, Terry Nonya Otah, Fried Kway Teow, Hoe Kee: Hainanese Chicken Rice, Yishun 921 Fried Hokkien Prawn Mee: Rice Cakes aka Chwee Keuh, Sugar cane juice

A Hawker Centre is a MUST TRY in Singapore. It’s THE best place to get authentic and traditional Singaporean food and it’s dirt cheap too. A hawker centre is an open air place where several food stalls gather to sell different Singaporean specialties at a cheap price. It reminds me of a ghetto food court, or a hole in the wall food court, or street side vendors except undercover… you get the point.

The food is clean too because health inspectors check them often and they have ‘letter grades’ representing cleanliness that they have to post publicly at their stalls.

It’s about 99% locals and the food is really good! The best part is that I can sample everything under one roof and it will only cost me a few dollars. It was a culinary tour of traditional Singaporean cuisine.

Singaporean cuisine is influenced by a combination of authentic Chinese cuisines so a lot of dishes I’ve tried before but from Chinese restaurants. The Singaporean version is different than the Chinese version. Some dishes I tried in Malaysia, however Singapore and Malaysia will continue to debate who started what first… all I know is that I have a good sample of how each country can interpret the same dish.

I had a relative who is a local in Singapore bring me around so I tried the right stuff at the right place! These are must try traditional Singaporean dishes.

On the table:

Stall: Yishun 921 Fried Hokkien Prawn Mee
Menu Item: Rice Cakes aka Chwee Keuh


**Rice Cakes aka Chwee Keuh – 4/6

  • About $1SGD – $0.75CAD
  • It was nice and salty with a crunchy pickled vegetable topping.
  • The brown stuff on top was a stir fry of finely minced preserved radish, fried garlic and soy sauce. It had a sweet chili sauce on the side.
  • These rice cakes are very soft, creamy, sticky and VERY oily. They’re surprisingly not chewy but they just melt in your mouth like puree.
  • Almost every local was eating one, so I had to try it.
  • There is something similar but totally different in Malaysia called Ketupat – which I tried at Devi’s Corner in Malaysia. I liked the Singaporean Chwee Keuh better.

Stall: #02-194 Terry Katong Laksa
Menu Item: Laksa, Nonya Otah

**Laksa5/6

  • $3SGD/bowl – about $2CAD/bowl
  • The laksa here has no MSG, no added sugar, no evaporated milk, no pork and no lard
  • This is a traditional Singaporean laksa with a recipe from the 1950′s. Very different than what I see in Vancouver, BC.
  • The toppings are cockles (salt water clams), prawns, fish cakes, very little slices of tofu puffs, bean sprouts and minced Laksa leaves. It comes with a spoonful of salty and spicy chili sauce on the side.

  • The cockles taste like raw baby oysters. It was really interesting to have them in there – I can’t decide if I like them though.

  • The noodles are thin and round and remind me of “lai fun” or Chinese rice noodles. They’re also cut up really short (how it’s supposed to be) and it’s supposed to absorb the soup that is almost like a gravy more than a soup.

  • In the end almost all the gravy is absorbed by the noodles.
  • It’s delicious gravy! It was very creamy and tastes like Thai Peanut curry sauce. It’s very peanutty and almost like a peanut coconut sauce as well. It’s sweet and salty but not that herby in flavour.

**Nonya Otah (Otek Otek)

  • $.50SGD or $.40/stick for 5+ (about $0.38CAD)

  • It’s a traditional Malaysian/Singaporean (debatable) fish mousse or fish cake.
  • It’s a snack/appetizer usually served with bread or white rice or along side a salad.
  • It’s minced white fish, red curry paste, coconut milk, fish sauce, chili, lime and eggs made into a cake and steamed or grilled in a banana leaf.
  • In this case it was grilled, but they grilled it a bit too long so it was a bit flat and wrinkly rather than fluffy.
  • It’s called “Otek Otek” in Malaysia and it was my first time trying it there. I loved it there as well – I liked the texture of that one better.

Stall: Ling C____? (I cut off the name on accident)
Menu Item: Fried Kway Teow/Char Kway Teow

**Fried Kway Teow or “Char Kway Teow”4/6

  • Small $2.50 Large $3SGD – about Small: $1.90CAD Large $2.25CAD
  • Lots of stalls offer it, but this is THE man to buy fried kway teow from. He has the longest line of locals in the whole Hawker’s Centre so I knew it was a sure bet. That wok is never at rest.
  • Char Kway Teow is fried rice cake strips… basically fried flat rice noodles.

  • A traditional Singaporean char way teow is fried with dark soy sauce, chili, tamarind sauce, prawns, bean sprouts, egg, pork lard, and cockles (salt-water clams).
  • It reminds me of the popular fried rice noodle with beef slices you find at Chinese restaurants in Vancouver.

  • Fried noodles in Singapore and Malaysia are all made with dark soy sauce and they’re a lot more saucy and wet than the Cantonese version.
  • It was like a wet pile of slop and the noodles were very soft – almost mushy. This is how they like it in Singapore though – that’s authentic… just not for me.
  • Besides the added cockles (which taste like raw baby oysters) and the slight tang in flavour another difference is that they use 2 different kinds of noodles – flat rice noodles and round chow mien noodles. They did this in Malaysia at Madam Kwan’s too.

  • Another big difference is the pork lard! They actually have little pieces of crispy pork lard they fry into it. It’s almost like crackling on roasted pig or thick cut bacon.
  • I’m not a big fan of stuff like this so I thought chewing on a piece of salty grease fat was gross. It was SO oily!! The noodles were oily enough already! Everyone else loves this part though… so it’s just me.

Stall: Hoe Kee Hainanese Chicken Mee
Menu Item: Hainanese Chicken set

**Hainanese Chicken Set6/6

  • This is THE guy to buy Hainanese Chicken from. He has the longest line for this particular item and he’s famous for it.
  • I’ve tried several in Vancouver, BC but this is the Singaporean version. It’s originates from Hainan, China but is commonly associated with Malaysian/Singaporean cuisine.

  • This is perhaps the best Hainanese Chicken I’ve had.
  • The chicken was small, but the meat was so slippery and well marinated probably because of the size too.

  • The rice is cooked in chicken oil and fat so it’s very flavourful, but not oily. It’s made like that in Vancouver places as well.

  • In Singapore the traditional way is to pour this sweet thick really really dark soy sauce on top. They really like sauce there!

Stall: 02-168 CMY Satay
Menu Item: Satay Sticks

I really wanted to try their satay sticks and went back 2 days in a row but the first time their satay cook was off duty and the second time he had a day off. I was SO mad! Instead I tried this…

Satay Bee Hoon… which ended up looking like this… ?

Satay Bee Hoon – 2.5/6

  • $3SGD – about $2.50CAD
  • See what I mean! They LOVE sauce in Singapore!! Just like in Malaysia! See the noodles in Malaysia. Everything is just soaked and drenched with sauce. Mind you I DO love sauce, but this is a bit much and it was really bland sauce which is disappointing.

  • This is what’s underneath the pile of sauce… there ARE noodles!
  • So they were boiled vermicelli noodles and then topped with several ladles of satay sauce.
  • The satay sauce was nutty and made with ground peanuts but not very salty at all. It was just soupy and tasted watered down.
  • It had cockles (salt water clams AGAIN, just like all the other noodle dishes I had), sliced beef, bean sprouts and green onions.
  • It looked like minced pork, but there was none. I wanted ground meat. It looks a lot more flavorful than it was.

Stall: Ann Chin
Menu Item: Popiah Roll

**Popiah Roll- 6/6

  • $1.60SGD – about $1.20CAD
  • I loved this roll! It was like the Singaporean version of a Vietnamese salad roll, but better!
  • She’s the only stall selling them and everything is handmade from the popiah skin to the roll. It’s made upon order, unless you order it deep fried. Deep fried is almost like a Chinese spring roll.

  • It’s stuffed with braised cabbage, carrot and onion sautee, a mild curry sauce, lots of fried garlic chips, dried BBQ pork slices, bean sprouts, lettuce, hard boiled egg bits, ground peanuts, and a little hoisin sauce. It’s all wrapped in a soft freshly made crepe that was nice and chewy but very thin.   
  • It was packed with so many ingredients and each one was so different! I loved this thing! The texture, flavours, the crunchiness and the sauciness… I want one now!

That’s the cabbage, carrot and onion braise on the right. On the left in the box is the dried soft pork jerky she puts in.

Ho Fun – 2.5/6

  • I don’t remember which stall this is from.
  • Rice noodle soup with fish balls and fish cakes $3 SGD – about $2.50CAD
  • This is a typical Cantonese dish and I think it’s better in Vancouver or Hong Kong.
  • They do make ho fun differently in Singapore though.
  • The broth has a very strong seafood flavour and the noodles are really soft to the point where you think they’re overcooked.

Pork’s Hock/Knuckle or Pig’s Foot2.5/6

  • I don’t remember which stall this is from either.
  • Another traditional Singaporean dish, but again just not for my liking. I would rather have Bak Kut Teh in Malaysia – that was the best of the best so now nothing will ever compare.
  • The meat was fall off the bone tender and it was made really well, but I just don’t like it.
  • It was a very fatty with a little bit of lean meat.
  • The soy sauce broth it soaks in is nice and salty with a dominant dark soy sauce flavour. Not much garlic flavour and barely any herbal taste.
  • I love the cloves of garlic they give you. They’re whole bulbs and they’re very creamy, sweet and tender.

Stall: Fresh Fruit Juice
Menu Item: Sugar Cane juice, Pink Dragon Fruit juice

 

**Sugar Cane Juice6/6

  • This is fantastic! It’s so refreshing too. It tastes like Mountain Dew but not carbonated. They put lemon in it as well. It’s sweeter than lemonade but light like lemon tea and floral in flavor. It’s not too sweet at all for being sugar cane.

He makes it from fresh sugar cane.

**Pink Dragon Fruit Juice - 5.5/6

  • The pink dragon fruit one is always sweeter than the white one. This one was no exception. I think it might be better in Malaysia though.

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39 Comments

  • EnbM says:

    “$1.90CAD and Large $2.25CAD”

    Some restaurants here in GV are charging ridiculous prices for tiny servings of hawkers food that one can easily prepare at home. >_< G_A_C_K
    As a protest, I go to Richmond "Red Star seafood restaurant" for my C$2.50 chicken rice. Just place your order before 12 noon. :)

  • Mijune says:

    Wow that is cheap! Wait you think $1.90 – 2.25CAD is expensive? The portions are actually pretty big! I thought it was dirt cheap!… although $2.50CAD for chicken rice and Red Star is RIDICULOUSLY cheap!!

  • EnbM says:

    I’m poking fun at some Greater Vancouver restaurants selling hawkers food at double digit prices … half the portion, all startch and a shrimp or two, if one digs hard enough. :D
    I’m a bit naughty tonight.. he he

  • KimHo says:

    EnbM, that is part of the reason why I don’t believe street food will work in Vancouver. Chances are they will be charging borderline restaurant prices, at which point, why would I go for street food??? But, back to the topic, have you been to Hawker’s Delight?

  • Soo Wei says:

    Actually, I wouldn’t consider chwee kueh to be the Singaporean version of ketupat. Ketupat generally is the starchy filler for satay while chwee kuey is more of a snack. Same base ingredient of rice but that’s probably about it.

    I haven’t found a place in Vancouver that has chwee kueh, it’s one of the foods I miss the most as an anytime snack. :(

    There’s a good history lesson about chwee kuey here:
    http://ieatishootipost.sg/2010/05/ghim-moh-chwee-kueh-why-chwee-kueh-is.html

  • Mijune says:

    KimHo – I want to try Hawker’s Delight! I want to compare now that I have a good idea o what it is! :)

    Soo Wei – thanks for helping me clarify… I’m still quite new to the cuisine since we don’t have much of it (authentic) in Vancouver. I actually didn’t know the name so I had to google names and try to figure it out on my own… thanks for the link! You’re right though they are different and I will change that…that’s why I wrote “I like the Singaporean one better” because they taste totally different and I thought they were supposed to be the same thing ;p… it’s what happens when you point at pictures to order lol

  • Rmd_Foodie says:

    Hi Mijune,

    Could you clarify what exactly is minced Laksa leaves in the Laksa? What do Laksa leaves taste like??? I’ve never heard of it before!
    And I would totally agree with you on the whole sauciness and mushiness topic. I like my sauces as well, but too much is just overkill and I HATE overcooked pasta and noodles. I don’t think I would really appreciate the noodles there in Singapore if they are all like that. LOL.
    I think the closest thing that looks similar to the Hainanese Chicken Rice in your pics is the version you can find at Prata Man at the corner of Capstan Way and Garden City in Richmond. Have you tried? Not my cup of tea, but I’ve heard others sing high praises about the chicken there.

  • Mijune says:

    Rmd_Foodie – It was my first time having Laksa leaves as well! It’s a popular Vietnamese herb and they call it “Vietnamese mint” although it didn’t taste like mint to me. They gave me so little so honestly I could barely taste it since the broth was so strong. It’s weird because laksa laves are supposed to be strong yet delicate in flavour.

    lol it was definitely a common characteristic! The softness and sauciness was a bit like eating slop… but they just love it! I actually have had the Hainanese Chicken from Prata Man! It is very good, but still not like Singapore of course! It’s the type of chicken they use I think… ours are pumped with chemicals and massive so the flavour is not “real chicken”… I hope that makes sense lol

  • Tessa says:

    I don’t really like Hawker’s Delight :/ Maybe it’s because I have such high standards of Authentic Singaporean food haha. Ooh you should’ve went to the ACTUAL Katong Laksa!! It’s located at Katong itself. So goood. Sigh, food is way too cheap there.

  • Mijune says:

    Tessa – I know!! I thought ti was so cheap so I couldn’t stop ordering!! Then I felt bad for wasting if I didn’t finish it…then I thought but I may NEVER GET IT AGAIN…so I was so torn!!! Nice to know that from your perspective Hawker’s Delight just doesn’t work… now I really have to check it out… just to see where you’re coming from :)

  • henry ng says:

    oh goodie I miss so much for typical S’pore food,feel like to spend a week for goodie food.
    want to have them all especially Laksa,Ho fan.beef noodle,wantan mie,nasi brani,prata,etc
    my mouth watering all the time after looking of the food.
    so see you soon singapore miss u so much ha,it’s my second home been stayed for abaout 10 years.Miss u so much…much,,

  • Mijune says:

    @henry ng – I miss it too! Oh I feel your pain! I’m not sure where you live, but I hope you are finding some alternative to fix your Singaporean food cravings… or at least able to find he ingredients to make it yourself. There’s nothing like home cooked :) Thanks for commenting.

  • Crappies says:

    Actually Chinatown area has more than 1 hawker centres. The one next to People’s Park has great hawker food too! And yupz there are also great hokkien mee.
    http://hulrulto.blogspot.com/2011/04/peoples-park-hokkien-mee-chinatown.html

  • Mijune says:

    @Crappies – thank!! i was there for too short of a time so I didn’t get to visit all the hawker centres although I knew there were a bunch! Thanks!!

  • Nick says:

    This is just making me bleed envy. I’m originally from Singapore now in the States, and all I ever crave is hawker and kopitiam (coffee shop) food. I wouldn’t classify Singaporean food as just a mixture of Chinese dishes though. Yes, Chinese-Singaporean cuisine is varied in its influences but when I think of our national cuisine, the various Malay, Indonesian, Indian and Peranakan dishes of all permutations play a strong role. Laksa, in fact, is something very Peranakan in origin and a favourite of my grandma to make. Some hawker centres are very cuisine-specific (or specifically Halal) while some are mixed in offerings. Side note-chwee kueh and ketupat are in fact different dishes. In Singapore, ketupat is very popular during the end of ramadan (Hari Raya Puasa) and eaten with various saucy dishes and curries. Today, many satay places serve ketupat alongside the condiments-peanut sauce, cucumbers and onion. I could spend hours waxing lyrical about my favourite dishes, snacks and eating spots in Singapore but, oh well. Various trips to Singaporean/Malaysian restaurants in North America are mostly futile, or at best half-satisfying. I haven’t been to Hawker’s Delight but my experience with the cuisine in Vancouver hasn’t been terrible, at least better than Toronto and most major North American cities. Cheers and happy eating!

  • Mijune says:

    @nick – Thanks for your comment and welcome to my blog! Thank you for all your additional info and I’m glad you helped me clear things up. It was my first time in Singapore, but can’t wait to go back! we have amazing food in Vancouver, so when you’re here again be sure to check back for some recs on my blog :)

  • CL says:

    Sorry to say I’ve tried your recommended chic rice stall and it’s one of the worse I’ve tasted since I started working in SIN. Some MRT stations selling same thing taste better. You should go and try Boon Tong Kee chic rice. Much much better.

  • Mijune says:

    @CL – I’m sorry you feel that way. He has the longest line and the customers are very loyal to his product so maybe you had an off day? Mine was really good! I don’t live in Singapore though so I have nothing else to compare to in Singapore. Thanks for your suggestion though!

  • CL says:

    Anyway thanks alot for your post. If not for you I would not have taken weekends off to China town to discover this huge food court. I’ll be trying one by one starting from your recommendations. Cheers

  • Mijune says:

    @CL – aw thanks!! Let me know what you think about the others! This post is froma year ago now so I hope they’re still good! :)

  • vivian says:

    Did you check out the Maxwell food court as well? Which do you recommend? I’m going to Singapore only for a few days so I’m trying to narrow down my choices. Do you have any dim sum recommendations? Ones that I’ve read good reviews on are Cherry Garden, Jade, YU Cuisine. Let me know what you think. THanks!

  • Mijune says:

    @vivian – I actually only got to come to this food court, but if you click locations – asia – singapore at the top you can see everywhere I went to there! It was only a couple days so unfortunately not many :( Crap I wish you were going to Malaysia I have more recs there! I might have a Twitter follower in singapore I can tweet to find out! Keep you posted!

  • vivian says:

    I already have your other singapore rec’s in my to do list. There’s just so many places I want to try! I will be Kuala Lumpur as well for a couple days so please let me know your rec’s for there (other than the ones already on your website). I’m trying to look for things I won’t be able to get back here in vancouver which I know is pretty difficult:) Thank you so much!

  • vivian says:

    Does your twitter follower do food walking tours?!!lol

  • Mijune says:

    @vivian – I’m so jealous!!!! Ok so according to @kitchening and @humandoing who both spent time in Singapore here are some must trys!

    From @humandoing: Zam Zam, Al Ameen on Bukit Timah Road… High Tea on weekends at Shangri-La. Brewerkz and Cafe Iguana at Clarke Quay. Satay at Lau Pa Sat… Best pork knuckle I’ve ever had at a Swiss/German place called Stammtisch on Bukit Timah @ 6th Avenue.

    From @kitchening: Gorgeous food & atmosphere at Ember in Hotel 1929, many awesome restaurants at Chijmes and Jaggi’s for North Indian.

    Personally, I’d pass on the hotel ones just b/c that sounds too “tourist” to my lol… except for the Shangri-La in KL… omg that is a must see/try!

  • vivian says:

    wow thank you so much Mijune!!! Wish you were coming along too for the food adventure!lol I’ll let you know what I discover. I think I should go on a diet before to give me more eating quota!

  • Mijune says:

    @vivian – I’m hoping the commenter @CL will respond since he’s IN Singapore! But another commenter left me this:

    “The one next to People’s Park has great hawker food too! And yupz there are also great hokkien mee. http://hulrulto.blogspot.com/2011/04/peoples-park-hokkien-mee-chinatown.html

    Hey me and u on a foodie tour… we’d KILL that city. It would be so fun!! I’ll be ur personal food guide!!! LOL that quota comment is hilarious!! I should have done that too! I’m in NYC Sept 1-14! I’m gunna be HUGE.

  • david says:

    You should also try the highly rated hawker stalls in Hong Lim Food Centre and Maxwell Road Food Centre, all within walking distance in Chinatown. Details of the stalls in this link: http://netsenger.com/topwok/best-food-in-chiinatown.htm

  • Mijune says:

    @david – thanks david! When I’m in Singapore next time!

  • rolling says:

    i came to your blog through the youtube video you made on shit foodies said cos the video was just too interesting! love how everything on your blog is so concise yet bursting with information! there are so many more hawker centres you need to explore in Singapore, and I agree Maxwell Food Centre has one of the best food around!

  • Mijune says:

    @rolling – wow!! what a comment to receive! Thank you so much! I’m so glad you enjoy Follow Me Foodie and I hope you visit back! Yes I only had about 2 days in Singapore so I need to go back! Thank you Rolling for leaving me such a nice message!

  • May says:

    My family is malaysian so my grandma made a lot of this stuff at home. I miss the popia the most….craaaving it so much now after reading this…thanks alot =P

  • Mijune says:

    @May – lol! I love doing that to people!

  • Autumn says:

    Agree with you. China town hawker’s food centre just has so much food to choose from. You missed out the satay which was really good. I did not try the popiah roll as I came from a town in Malaysia call Taiping, which was where the popiah originated.

  • Lucienne tan says:

    Dear foodies, I have a severe reaction to MSG in food .
    Does anyone know of a list of hawker stalls and restaurants who do not use MSG .
    Many thanks

  • Steven says:

    I had the Popiah roll from Ann Chin today on your recommendation and I wanted to report that it is still pretty great!

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