Singaporean cuisine is famous for its variety – with many different ethnic influences (Malaysian, Eurasian, Peranankan, Indian and Thai to name but a few) creating a rich and diverse cuisine, it’s no wonder that food goes beyond a necessity or a pastime in Singapore – it’s a national passion, and at the core of Singaporean identity. Food is used to bring people together, and nowhere is this more apparent than at Singapore’s world-famous hawker centres. If you don’t know what a hawker centre is, prepare to be enlightened – these large open-air food markets house numerous food stalls offering all kinds of different cuisine. Inexpensive, bustling, hot and lively, they’re the ultimate way to experience Singaporean food culture, and we’ve compiled this handy guide to help you get the most from your eating experience! From where to sit to whether to haggle, we’ve got you covered – go ahead and set your taste buds alight!
Choose your centre
With so many tongue-tingling destinations to choose from, it can be hard to know where to start. Hawker centres are frequently located centrally and in malls, but they’re often found near transport hubs and outside housing complexes as well – so how to know which centre to choose?
Well, Gluttons Bay is a famous favourite with everyone from locals to tourists, and it’s conveniently located near the must-see Gardens by the Bay overlooking the Marina Bay too, so if you’re fresh off your flight from London to Singapore and wanting to hit the ground running, that’s your first day sorted! Chinatown Night Market is another popular tourist destination – it’s newly renovated and a slightly upmarket centre which is perfect for experiencing the exceptional Chinese food of Singapore. Or if you fancy exploring Indian influenced cuisine, Tekka Centre is a vast, three storey complex near Little India – make sure you try the Biryani!
Placing Your Order
Once you’ve made your way to your centre of choice, you’re bound to be a little overwhelmed by the sheer number of stalls and people – so how does it work, where do you sit, and what do you do? Well, hawker centres are first come first served and you need to grab your seat before you order. You reserve your seat by placing a packet of tissues on it – these can be picked up by the dozen in any Singaporean convenience store. Then take a note of your table number – most stalls will deliver your food to your table, unless they’re ‘self-service’ (look out for a sign). There’s normally a takeaway option as well, and tipping isn’t necessary.
That’s it! Grab your self-service or make your way back to your table and wait for your food to arrive – if you’re feeling thirsty, there’s always a drinks stand nearby, so fear not. You can place your drinks order at the stand or during busy periods, they’ll do the rounds and take your order. And once you’ve finished your food, no need to clear up – there’s staff on hand to take care of your dirty plates and cutlery, so don’t feel guilty about just leaving it behind, it’s expected.
So take a tasting trip to one of Singapore’s spectacular hawker centres this summer – there’s no better way of experiencing Singapore’s obsession with food!