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.
Muslim travellers looking for delicious Halal eats, thrilling itineraries or places of worship should check out the Muslim Visitor’s Guide—Download your copy here.
A Noodle Story
Editor’s note: Amoy Street Food Centre will be closed for renovation work from 11 October 2021 to January 2022. Check out A Noodle Story’s online delivery site here.
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-1.30pm, 5.15pm-7pm; Sat 11am-1.15pm.
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.
Beng Who Cooks. 39 Neil Road, Singapore 088823. +65 8126 6423.
Mon, Wed-Fri 5-10.30pm; Tue 5-10pm; Sat noon-3pm, 5-10.30pm.
Editor’s note: Amoy Street Food Centre will be closed for renovation work from 11 October 2021 to January 2022.
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.
Coffee Break at Amoy Street Food Centre. 7 Maxwell Road #02-78, Singapore 069111. +65 8100 6218.
Mon-Fri 7.30am-2.30pm; Sat 9.30am-2.30pm.
Coffee Break at Hong Lim Food Centre. 531A Upper Cross Street #02-41, Singapore 051531.
Mon-Fri 7.30am-2.30pm; Sat 9.30am-2.30pm.
Ah Lock and Co
If you’re hankering for comfort food with a local twist, look no further than the rice bowls at Ah Lock and Co.
We recommend indulging in founder Lee Lock Teng’s Signature Hakka Rice Bowl—adapted from his grandmother’s recipe. It may look like a Japanese donburi (traditional rice bowl), but this trademark dish incorporates traditional Chinese ingredients like Hakka-style meatballs and tofu.
Foodies with a sweet tooth should also sample the stall’s min jiang kueh (Chinese-style pancakes)—the stall sells three distinct versions with peanut, coconut or red bean.
Ah Lock and Co at Guoco Tower. 7 Wallich Street #B2-22/23/24, Singapore 078884. +65 8312 6203.
Mon-Fri 10am-8.30pm; Sat & Sun 10.30am-6.30pm.
Habib’s Rojak [Halal]
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 11.30am-9.30pm; 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?
Fishball Story. 77 Circuit Road #01-450, Singapore 370077. +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.
Tue-Thu 10.30am-6.30pm; Sat & Sun 10am-6.30pm.
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 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.
LAD & DAD at Tanjong Pagar Plaza. 7 Tanjong Pagar Plaza #01-108, Singapore 081007.
Tue-Sun noon-2pm, 5.30-9pm.
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.
One kueh at a time. 230 Pandan Loop #01-K1, Singapore 128415. +65 9795 6119.
Sin Ming Roti Prata [Halal]
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.