One of the most exciting things about visiting Singapore is that it’s so multi-cultural. There are communities of all ethnicities living together in the Lion City and the beauty of this is that it ensures travellers to Singapore can enjoy authentic foods and flavours from all four corners of the world.
Etiquette for your Hawker Centre experience
If you’re travelling around the world on a budget – like us! – there’s no better place to experience the varied Asian cuisines and mix with the locals than Singapore’s Hawker Centres, which offer a variety of street food and hidden culinary gems. There are many different Hawker Centres dotted throughout Singapore, many of which we will list in a little while, but it’s important that you are up to speed with the necessary etiquette that’s valid in each centre.
As soon as you enter a Hawker Centre, you must first choose a table and seat. You will find that some of the vendors will walk up to you immediately, but you are within your rights to wander around and pick a vendor you like the look of. Those vendors who tout are not only breaking the law, they are also indicating that the quality of their food isn’t the best. Stick to stalls which have plentiful customers and no need for pushy marketing.
As you’ll need to reserve your table, it’s a good idea to go up individually so that someone is always at your table. Some vendors will deliver your dishes straight to your table, while others will require you to wait by the vendor while it’s cooked fresh. Once you’re finished with your food and drink, it is your responsibility to dispose of your plates and cutlery. There are plenty of bins located in the Hawker Centres and leaving your rubbish on the table is most definitely frowned upon here!
The best Hawker Centres to visit in Singapore
Lau Pa Sat
Arguably the most iconic Hawker Centre of them all, Lau Pa Sat is located in Telok Ayer and has been open since 1894. It’s a wonder of colonial architecture, with its octagonal-shaped roof, cast iron columns and charming clock tower further adding to centre’s character. Choose from over 80 food vendors, serving a great range of local delights, fresh seafood and sweet desserts. If you’re venturing there at night, sit on Boon Tat Street while you eat to soak up the atmosphere.
Situated in the thick of the action in Singapore’s Chinatown, Maxwell Road Hawker Centre is another must-visit. It’s a little more daunting than Lau Pa Sat in terms of the atmosphere, particularly at lunchtimes when the office workers leave their desks to frequent the vendors and tables. If you’re happy to wait, we recommend visiting some of the nearby streets and temples until the crowds die down.
Newton Hawker Centre
A stone’s throw from Singapore’s main CBD and the Orchard Road shopping precinct. Newton Hawker Centre is another historic place to enjoy a meal. Some of the vendors have been operating from here since the mid-1950s, such is the heritage and pride the people of Singapore have for their Hawker Centres. Newton is only a few stops down the MRT from Little India, which is also worth experiencing at night time when the streets come alive.
East Coast Lagoon Village
If you’re prepared to venture further out of the city, East Coast Lagoon Village is the most unique place to sample Singapore’s delights. Overlooking the Straits of Singapore from its beachfront setting, there’s something about the view which makes the tasty morsels from the vendors even better. Don’t forget to wash your dishes down with a cooling local drink such as a glass of fresh coconut water or, if you’re inclined, an ice-cold bottle of Tiger beer.
During our time in Singapore, we quickly realized that eating is more than just a necessity, it’s a way of life. The humble Hawker Centres continue to punch above their weight, offering unique Asian dining experiences that you’re guaranteed to remember for a lifetime.