To call Singapore’s hawker scene “vibrant” would be an understatement. Step into a hawker centre today and you are likely to see a traditional chicken rice seller rubbing shoulders with a young ‘hawkerpreneur’ dishing out modern takes on local classics. Here are the folks who are revolutionising the hawker culture and keeping it in lockstep with our increasingly sophisticated palates.
Coffee and toast with a twist
Fancy a sea salt-flavoured latte? How about a honeydew mint long black? These unusual flavours are the works of a trio of young siblings who have taken over their parents’ drinks stall in Amoy Street Food Centre. Coffee Break uses a blend of Robusta and Arabica beans, and brews the coffee the traditional way—with a sock. The flavours, on the other hand, are anything but orthodox—they also include caramel rum, pumpkin spice and butter pecan, all of which pair perfectly with a few slices of kaya (a traditional jam made from coconut and eggs) toast. Coffee Break also isn’t shy in experimenting with its toasts, sandwiching black sesame and matcha (green tea powder) coconut cream in between slices of bread.
Amoy Street Food Centre. 7 Maxwell Road #02-78, Singapore 069111. +65 8100 6218.
One kueh at a time
Handcrafted traditional snacks
As an homage to the traditional kueh (bite-sized snacks) his mother used to make at home, Nick Soon opened a hawker stall dedicated to the old-school culinary craft. His kueh comes in many forms, and most are vegetarian. The soon kueh (shredded turnip and dried shrimp encased in a rice-tapioca flour skin) is the specialty here, but the stall’s ku chai kueh (garlic and chive dumplings) and peng kueh (glutinous rice wrapped in pink rice flour skin) are just as good.
Berseh Food Centre. 166 Jalan Besar #02-61, Singapore 208877. +65 9795 6119.
A Noodle Story
Ramen done the Singapore way
Wanton noodles, a hawker stalwart of barbecued pork, egg noodles and a light soya sauce base, gets a modern makeover at this stall run by two fresh-faced local boys. They take their cues from Japanese ramen, layering their dish with sous vide marinated pork belly, a soft-boiled egg, two plump pork dumplings and a sauce so rich in umami you’ll be licking your bowl clean. In 2016, A Noodle Story won a Bib Gourmand award in the inaugural Michelin Guide Singapore, adding further cred to its craft.
Amoy Street Food Centre. 7 Maxwell Rd #01-39, Singapore 069111.
Mon-Fri 11.15am-2.30pm, 5.30pm-7.30pm; Sat 10.30am-1.30pm.
LAD & DAD
Halal British-inspired grub
As its name suggests, this hawker stall is run by a food-loving local and his son, whose studies in London left him with a craving for British food when he returned home. The solution? Set up a stall that specialises in stews, Sunday roasts, mashed potatoes and other hearty dishes from the UK. The Halal-certified stall uses only choice cuts of beef and mutton, with a generous helping of herbs and spices to suit the local palate. Come hungry for this one—the portions are massive.
Maxwell Food Centre. 1 Kadayanallur Street, Singapore 069184.
Mon-Fri 11.30am-2.30pm, 6.30-9pm; Sat 11.30am-2.30pm.
Snack ‘cubes’ inspired by hawker staples
Timbre+ is one of the city’s buzziest hawker centres, slathered in murals and decked with food trucks. So the quirky cube-shaped snacks on display at this stall match well with the artsy décor. They’re actually reimagined versions of local staples, such as nasi lemak (fragrant rice dish cooked in coconut milk and pandan leaf, accompanied with an array of side dishes like omelette, fried fish and anchovies), bak zhang (meat-filled glutinous rice dumplings) and laksa (spicy coconut-milk based noodle soup), moulded into neat little squares. Don’t be fooled by their looks—these morsels manage to pack in big, bold flavours.
Timbre+. 73A Ayer Rajah Crescent #01-31, Singapore 139957.
Smith Street Taps
Craft brews on tap
In the maze that is Chinatown Complex Market & Food Centre, follow the roar of laughter and chatter and it’ll lead you to this perpetually crowded drinks stall. Smith Street Taps is far from your usual kopi o (black coffee) kiosk—it specialises in draught craft beer from all over the world. On its rotating tap list, you’ll find beers (prices vary depending on availability) from cult breweries in the UK, Japan, Australia, the US and, of course, Singapore, among other countries. Unsure of what to try? Hit up owner Daniel Goh or one of his team members for recommendations and the best local dishes to pair the beers with.
Chinatown Complex Market and Food Centre. 335 Smith St #02-062, Singapore 050335.
Tue-Fri 6.30-10.30pm; Sat 2-10.30pm.