Singapore Street Food Culture ..........................................................................
Singapore is a tropical island where eating is a national passion but an addiction. For a nation of three million, there are over 20,000 eating establishments at last count. When we think Singapore food, we think not of all the glitsy super chic international restaurants but of hawker food, or street food if you will, to be found in food centres, coffeeshops and eating houses. It's hot, it's shiok, it's cheap, often messy and most likely unhealthy!! But hey! we're talking about good food here.
Photo: An outdoor satay stall.
Photo: One of the hundreds of coffeeshop type eating houses that dots the country. ..........................................................................
  • List of popular street food.
  • Makan Time - all about eating out in Singapore
  • A note about local eating places

    Wherever you are in Singapore, there is a food centre, a coffeeshop, a tuck shop, a canteen or an eating place of other sort near you. These are places where locals eat and where you'll find the most delicious and inexpensive food.

    hawkercentre.jpg - 22565 Bytes
    At a hawker centre.
    My family and I at the World Trade Centre
    bus interchange food centre ... the
    background shows a Muslim(Halal) food
    stall with arabic writing on its signboard.

    An open air food centre is hard to come
    by these days, Chomp Chomp Food
    Centre is one.

    Opening hours: mostly from early morning
    till late night, some till 2, 3 am.

    Food Centre/Hawker Centre
    A so called "food center" or a "hawker center", is a collection of at least 20 food stalls at the same location, serving a variety of dishes from drinks, rice to desserts, from vegetarian to halal. It is a very casual place to eat. Previously open air, they are now mostly housed together with neightbourhood wet markets. Noisy, often uncomfortably hot and messy, it is the quality of food that is drawing the local crowd!

    If you're a first time visitor, Newton Food Centre right next to Newton MRT station is a great place to start exploring. Opens till well after midnight, this open air place is packed with tourists so occasional over charging do occur(many of the hawkers do accept credit cards, and they speak Japanese too ... a bad sign!), but with the authority imposing strict panelty on offenders, I believe the practice is under control. But still, do check the price before ordering just to be sure.

    If you're looking for somthing more authentic, try Chinatown Complex Food Centre alongside Smith Street. Take a look at the wet market while you're there. Zhu Jiao Food Centre(and Market) in little India along Serangoon Road is another very interesting place to check out for intersting food and Asian spices and produce.

    foodcourt.jpg - 25610 Bytes
    A food court
    air conditioned, comfortable, trendy and also
    more expensive ... it lacks the charm of the
    tropics the adventurous tourist is looking for.

    Opening hours: from around 10am to 9:30pm.

    Food Court
    A food court is a million-dollar, air-conditioned, cleaner-on-duty, at-least-twice-the-hawker-center-price version. Traditionally you find only local food, but nowadays you're likely to encounter dishes ranging from Japanese to Mexican. Many stalls are franchised operations, a worrying trend resulting in the compromise of quality and authenticity.

    A food court is a major draw for shoppers and there is one in every(well, nearly!) shopping centre. So I'm sure you'll walk into one sooner or later.

    coffeeshop.jpg - 14730 Bytes
    A traditional coffeeshop
    Coffeeshop like this is hard to find these days.
    you might come across one in some of the
    older neighbourhoods.

    Opening hours: early morning till late in the

    Days of manually roasted coffee beans are gone but the Javanese coffee still tastes great. A coffeeshop is a great neighbourhood place to read your morning papers, fill your stomach and exchange gossips. It serves the early morning crowd as well as satisfying your taste buds late in the evening.

    If you're lucky, you might find one that still serve traditional toasted bread grilled over charcoal with kaya(coconut egg jam)! don't miss it!

    Canteen and such

    Apart from food centers, there are numerous canteens which are much smaller in scale but nevertheless great places to eat. Whether you're visiting a factory, an office, a hospital or a school, the canteen is where you should never miss!

    If you had a chance(strangers may not be allowed without permission, be neat and courteous helps!), just walk into any school you may come across and head straight to the canteen, you'll be surprised at the variety of food served. Apart from the usual rice and noodle stalls, there is usually a muslim Halal food stall and sometimes an Indian food stall, and if you're lucky, even a dessert stall! Our school kids are probably the most privileged in the World! But don't expect to find Colas and candies, for they are banned for obvious reason. (You see ... a big percentage of school kids is overweight these days! Blame it on burgers if you like.)