What to Eat in Singapore: My Hawker Hall Food Crawl
Only a five hour and $15 bus ride from Kuala Lumpur, Singapore proved to be the perfect weekend getaway from my new home in Malaysia. I had only one real plan for Singapore- to eat! For years I’d been hearing and reading so much about the amazing foodie scene in Singapore and their infamous hawker halls. Hence I arrived in the city armed with a long list of places to try based on various other blog posts I had read, the advice of friends and the opinion of readers.
I only managed to get to about half of the places on this list, which was still an awesome achievement for the 2.5 days I had in the city. Singapore’s hawker halls offered some of the best food I ate during my whole eight months in Asia. Hence I wanted to put together this post detailing absolutely everything I ate while in the city.
Murtabak at Zam Zam
Upon arriving in Singapore at around 7.30pm, the first thing I realised was that the majority of dishes and places on my list weren’t available at dinner time. Luckily the famous Zam Zam was open late so we quickly headed there for our very first meal in Singapore.
The most popular dish at Zam Zam is Murtabak which is essentially a roti type dough stuffed with a mixture of minced meat, onions and egg. You can get it with a range of meats including mutton and chicken and it comes served with curry sauce for you to throw over or dip into. They come in three sizes; small, medium and large and this restaurant is very affordable. We all got a different Murtabak and some form of fish or chicken curry and shared all of the dishes. In total we came away not having spent more than $10 Singaporean each.
Soya Sauce Chicken and Pork at Hong Kong Soya Sauce Chicken Rice
In classic Singaporean style we decided to eat rice and chicken for breakfast on our first full day in the city. Since becoming one of the first street food stalls to gain a Michelin star, Hong Kong Soya Sauce Chicken Rice has become famous across the world. Even after expanding to another store there are still crazy lines at all hours of the day to get your Michelin starred dish. Luckily because we got there early we didn’t have to wait too long for a table. Although we did have a little bit of fun arguing with a lady who tried to steal a table we were waiting for.
I tried the combination dish which was rice served with pork cooked two ways and of course the famous soya sauce chicken. It was absolutely to die for you, the meat was tender, full of flavour and had that delicious sticky texture that you get from great barbecue. The rice was also a great addition- it was very creamy and had almost a buttery flavour to it. I loved the whole dish but controversially the chicken wasn’t the best of the lot for me- I preferred both of the pork dishes.
Sliced Fish Soup at Jing Hua Sliced Fish Bee Hoon in the Maxwell Food Centre
The Maxwell Food Centre is a great hawker hall located in Chinatown. It’s only a five minute walk away from the overpriced and almost inedible food stalls you’ll find that are set up solely for tourists in the main Chinatown area. You’ll find much better quality, more authentic and cheaper food here. Juices at the Maxwell Centre were more than 50% cheaper than what the stalls in the Chinatown tourist area were selling them for.
I had a sizeable food baby from the Hong Kong Soya Sauce dishes, but managed to push through it in order to try the sliced fish soup at Jing Hua Bee Hoon. I’m always suspicious of cream based soups in Asia- in my experience they just don’t have the same level of flavour of the more clear soups such as Pho or Tom Yum. I was pleasantly surprised by the creamy fish soup at Jing Hua Bee Hoon. It was full of flavour- it almost tasted like a delicious Asian curry with the layers and levels of spice that I found in there. The fish in the soup was perfectly cooked and the dish starts off relatively mild so I was able to add chili to taste.
Tian Tian Chicken Rice
This is an extremely famous food stall in Singapore and you’ll find a long line up anytime that it is open. It’s expanded to offer more stalls across Singapore, but the original one is the one in the Maxwell Centre.
On our second day in Singapore we decided to continue the theme of chicken and rice for breakfast and immediately headed back to the Maxwell Centre to try this dish.
Poached chicken and rice doesn’t immediately sound like the most delicious or flavoursome dish. But like almost everyone else that has tasted the standard Chicken Rice from Tian Tian, I had to eat my words after I dug into that first bite. I have no idea how they manage to get that level of flavour into the meat, or cook it so perfectly when there is a constant demanding line! My only regret was that I didn’t order a bigger plate!
Curry Laksa from Sungei Road Laksa
This stall is located in a tiny hawker stall which is a bit of a walk from the main part of town. But numerous reports had labelled it the best curry laksa in Singapore so it quickly hit the top of my ‘to-eat’ list despite the small inconvenience of getting there.
The curry laksa here is probably not what you’re used to if you’re dug into a bowl at Papa Rich or other Malaysian places in your home country. This curry laksa was basic- only a few things including cockles were added to the dish. The idea and benefit behind this is that it allows the star of the dish- the broth- to sing.
The broth was delicious and I love seafood so the addition of cockles was great. But I’ve still yet to find a curry laksa to rival my favourite bowl at Laksa King in Melbourne.
Xiao Long Bao (Soup Dumplings) at Zhong Guo La Mian Xiao Long Bao
If I had to pick my favourite dish of all time, then Xiao Long Bao is probably it. I’m absolutely obsessed with these dumplings filled with pork and a delicious broth. So when I worked out that there was a place in Singapore serving them up at hawker hall prices, I immediately had to visit.
Zhong Guo La Mian Xiao Long Bao is located in the Chinatown Food Complex, a huge and incredible hawker hall with more than 250 stalls. This is a good hall to visit at night when a lot of the other hawker halls have shut their doors. The majority of the stalls in the Chinatown Food Complex are open at night and even if some are shut there is so many to choose from that you won’t be left hungry. Given the amount of stalls if you plan on trying these Xiao Long Bao you’ll need to look for stall number 2-135.
After getting a little bit lost I finally discovered the stall I was looking for. A small wait and 20 delicious dumplings later and I was one very happy dumpling loving woman. I literally will never be able to get enough of this dish.
Claypot at Lian He Ben Ji Claypot Rice
Lian He Ben Ji Claypot Rice is one of the most famous stalls at the Chinatown Food Complex. Each claypot is cooked fresh and this means that you can expect to wait up to an hour for this dish. I was too busy scoffing down dumplings to really think about ordering from here, but my friend did and was nice enough to share it with us after it arrived about 40 minutes later.
This dish was super delicious. Upon the advice of one of the staff at our hostel (who had recommended the stall to us), my friend ordered the special which basically came with everything including sausage. It was so delicious that I wished I had ordered one all to myself. It’s something I will be seeking out at the next time I’m in Singapore.
Hill Street Tai Hwa Pork Noodle
Apparently I left the best for last. Just a few short hours before hopping on my bus back to Kuala Lumpur I headed to Hill Street Tai Hwa Pork Noodle, the other hawker hall in Singapore that has been accredited with a Michelin star for their pork noodle dish.
The line was long when I arrived and this hawker stall is only manned by two people. Hence it can take a lot of time and patience to sample this dish. By a lot of time I mean I waited more than two hours before that bowl of pork noodle was in my hands. Luckily I was reading a book that I was absolutely obsessed with and completely in to, so I didn’t really mind the wait so long as my kindle was in my hand.
And the wait was totally worth it. This dish was hands down the best food I had in Singapore. For so few ingredients, the dish had such a complicated level of flavour and every ingredient in that bowl was treated with so much love. The broth was flavoursome, the noodles were cooked perfectly and the pork was crispy enough to provide the crunch that the dish needed.
Despite the wait I’d put this at the top of my list of things you have to eat in Singapore.
Cost of Eating in Singapore
You could stay in Singapore for a month with the sole mission of eating everything and you still will only scratch the surface of what this city has to offer. It really is foodie heaven, and if you stick to the hawker halls (which I absolutely recommend) eating in the city is not as expensive as everyone makes it out to be. Yes I paid slightly more for a dish in Singapore than in Kuala Lumpur, but it’s still less than half the price I’d pay in Australia. Most meals came in at around the $4-$7 Singaporean mark.
9 hawker stalls in less than 2.5 days. Can you accept the challenge?