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 bold new takes on local classics. Here are the folks who are revolutionising the hawker culture, and fusing the modern and the traditional into a feast for the senses.
A Noodle Story
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 Gwern Khoo and Ben Tham.
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. A Noodle Story also won Michelin Bib Gourmand nods from 2016-2019, 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.
Beng Who Cooks
Former national boxer Jason Chua puts a modern spin on the familiar chap chye png (mixed economy rice) with customisable protein bowls at pocket-friendly prices. Each bowl comes with your choice of meat, carbohydrates, side dishes like roasted cherry tomatoes and a sauce to top it off.
For a satisfyingly wholesome meal, try the towkay bowl which consists of your choice of carbs, proteins, side dishes and add-ons. Fun fact: Towkay means ‘business owner’ in our local lingo, and this delicious eat is certain to have you feeling like a boss.
Don’t be surprised if the menu changes every few months as the aspiring chef enjoys experimenting and whipping up new creations. Hopefully his unconventional salted egg sauce will become a mainstay.
Hong Lim Food Centre. 531A Upper Cross Street #01-44, Singapore 051531. +65 9353 1428.
Fancy a sea salt-flavoured latte? How about a honeydew mint long black? These unique 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.
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 Food Anatomy 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.
For Habib Mohamed, mornings start as early as 2am at his Indian rojak stall where all the food is prepared from scratch daily to ensure freshness.
The hardworking cook learnt the ropes peeling potatoes and eggs from a young age under the guidance of his father who founded the business and named it after him.
Popular items to order include vadai (fried fritters), egg flour, coconut fritters and crispy prawns. Be sure to dip them into a special chilli gravy for that extra burst of flavour.
Ayer Rajah Food Centre. 503 West Coast Drive, Stall 68, Singapore 120503. +65 6873 7010.
Daily 11am-10pm; closed on alternate Mon.
Inspired by a love for his grandmother’s handmade fishballs, millennial hawker Douglas Ng spent months learning her recipe before launching his own stall specialising in fishball noodles.
Keeping with tradition, the fishballs and fishcakes are made by hand using pure yellowtail meat to ensure springiness.
Ng adds a creative element to the dish with toppings such as fried fishcake sticks and fried fish skin.
Within a mere two years from opening, Fishball Story was awarded the Michelin Bib Gourmand among other well-established local favourites. Do we need to say more?
Timbre+. 73A Ayer Rajah Crescent #01-14, Singapore 139957. +65 9800 5036.
Jin Ji Teochew Braised Duck & Kway Chap
When passionate hawker Melvin Chew took over the reins from his parents, he decided to refresh their classic braised duck offering with Japanese-inspired side dishes to attract younger customers.
Don’t miss the Duck Rice Bento which comes with a gooey lava egg instead of the traditional hard-boiled egg. In addition, the yam rice is moulded into balls and garnished with refreshing daikon slices alongside the usual pickled vegetables.
But the star is still the tender duck meat prepared according to his family’s time-tested recipe.
Chew carefully assembles the food in a bento style which makes for a pretty picture that’s bound to be a hit on your Instagram feed.
Chinatown Complex. 335 Smith Street #02-156, Singapore 050335. +65 9018 9052.
LAD & DAD
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.
One kueh at a time
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 delightful.
Berseh Food Centre. 166 Jalan Besar #02-61, Singapore 208877. +65 9795 6119.
Sin Ming Roti Prata
Who can resist the ultimate comfort food that is roti prata (South Indian flatbread), served with a steaming side of savoury curry?
Under the watchful tutelage of their father, brothers Mohamed Dufail & Almalic Faisal carry on the family business tossing up these well-loved fried flatbreads.
True to tradition, the dough is mixed and kneaded by hand daily before being laboriously shaped into dough balls. Each prata is deftly flipped and folded upon order so it is served piping hot.
If you’re up for a hearty breakfast, order their bestselling coin prata which is delightfully crisp on the outside and yields to a fluffy chewy middle. You will want to get to the stall early, otherwise be prepared to join a snaking queue.
Jin Fa Kopitiam. 24 Sin Ming Road #01-51, Singapore 570024. +65 6453 3893.
Tang Kay Kee Fishhead Bee Hoon
This popular establishment has been dishing out their signature fish head bee hoon (rice vermicelli) for dinner as early as the forties.
Now fourth-generation owners Debbie Yam and Kamen Tang have expanded their offerings by introducing modern zi char (traditional dishes influenced by home-cooked Chinese food) lunch bowls where novel ingredients are infused into conventional fare. A must-try is the black bean paste beef hor fun, a classic flat noodle dish cleverly elevated with crispy enoki mushrooms and a creamy sous-vide egg.
Hong Lim Food Centre. 531A Upper Cross Street #01-70, Singapore 051531. +65 8157 2641.
Mon 11am-2pm; Tue-Fri 11am-10.30pm; Sat-Sun 4-10.30pm.