Singapore offers residents and travellers every type of restaurant and food imaginable, but the food that comes from hawker centres can easily surpass some of the best restaurants in Asia. Many people travelling to Asia for the first time are sometimes concerned about eating on the street or at hawker centres, but you need not be. In Singapore the government takes cleanliness to an extreme. They have very strict hygiene laws and if the hawker is not respecting them they will be rapidly closed down and fined, and quickly!
Each month, we will give you a guide to some of the best food stalls and hawker centres in Singapore to give you an idea of where to go when you are here. Just so you know, most hawker centres will have pictures of the food they serve so it can be a great place to experiment.
This Month’s Tips
The chilli crabs and pepper crabs at the UDMC (East Coast Seafood Centre, block 1202 East Coast Parkway) have always been delicious. Make sure man-tou (a fried bread) comes with the meal to sop up the sauce. Very messy and heavenly! It also has a pretty cool view if the moon is out. The moon shines on the water as you look out to seemingly another city, until you realise it is just the hundreds of ships moored in the straits.
For lunch in Arabtown, try Zam Zams, (699 North Bridge Street). Try the Murtabak. It is fried flat bread stuffed with either minced mutton, shredded chicken or sardines along with onions,eggs and spices. All three were good, sardines and lamb were tied for my fave.
This week, I went to the Ellenborough Market, an enormous three-story centre with sticky tile floors and Chinese flute music blaring out of long-blown out speakers. The first two levels are mostly market stalls; on the third level is the cooked food. Ellenborough is less famous than many other hawker centres, partly because it’s in a corner of Chinatown still not very well known by tourists, and partly because, unlike other centres, it is almost wholly given over to the foods of a single Chinese ethnic group: the Chaozhou, or Teochew, Chinese.
I enjoyed a Teochew cake (a thin, crisp, but elastic, glutinous rice skin around sweet bean filling), fried bitter gourd, a beautiful spotted fish steamed with sour plums, braised rolls of pig’s intestine stuffed with minced pork and veal, and then something called ah balling – ping-pong like balls of glutinous rice dough filled with ground peanuts or with sweetened yellow beans and served in a light sugar syrup.
Still hungry, I buy an enormous plate of Teochew braised goose, garnished with rich, shiny chunks of goose liver and warmed with a drizzle of hot soy marinade. I am a little sad when I realise that I am too full to finish the plate of goose in front of me, and I’m sadder still when I think that I’m going to have to go home without trying the great-looking steamed iron-skin fish at a stall down the row.
Note to Newbies: Newton Circus is the most touristy, pricey of the hawker centres, you will also be hounded more at Newton. The other Hawker centre’s are the ones to go to, unless you’re really in the mood for Newton Circus.
Quick & Tasty
Maxwell Road Food Market: A little dirty and dark, but the food is cheap and tasty. Try the Black Pepper Pork Mee and the Pork Porridge! #01-10 Maxwell Road
S-11 Eating House: A popular 24-hour coffeeshop that serves up adequately prepared food for art school types. An added attraction is the presence of four TV sets. Stansford Road and Yung Sheng Road. The building used to be the former Taman Jurong Theatre
Chinatown Complex: A huge range of dishes with a predictably Chinese bias. Smith Street, at the end of the New Bridge Road, Chinatown
Orchard Emerald Food Court: A smart food court, bang in the centre of Orchard Road, where the Indonesian buffet is a great value. Basement, Orchard Emerald, 218 Orchard Road
Hastings Road Food Court: Diminutuve food court whose handful of stalls are labelled by region – Keralan, Mughlai, Sri Lankan and so on. Little India Arcade, Serangoon Road, Little India