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Finding the Best Hawker Centers in Singapore

Arriving in Singapore, we all had food on our mind!

hawker centers sinapore

We arrived at Singapore Airport late in the evening, and by the time we had met up with Devon and found our way into the city on the MRT, we were beyond hungry. We usually like to ask for food suggestions from the people we come in contact with so it was no surprise to hear Corinne start in on a conversation with the hostel clerk about hawker stalls. Out came the map and the other two workers on late night duty.

Most of the discussion was between the three of them; what would still be open, what would be the best food for us, how long would it take to get there, would we be able to find our way there and then back again; or at least this is what it seemed like they were talking about. Between our jet lag and their accents, who knows what was really said.

They finally came to an agreement: Lau Pa Set was best for us. With a circle on the map and a bus number to look out for we dropped off our bags and took to the streets. Our bus driver, as we would find throughout our stay in Singapore, was more than happy to help and kindly called out to us when our stop came up. We asked him again, as we looked dubiously out the bus door into a deserted financial district, if this was indeed the area. He smiled and pointed out the door and said “Lau Pa Set.”

Consulting the map, we quickly set our bearings and started walking the block and a half to the circled location. Lau Pa Set, read the small sign on the corner pointing across the street into a dark, fenced off park looking area. Under renovations, read the signs on the fence. Great.

hawker centers sinapore

We were not alone despite the late hour (by now it was at least 11:30). Another couple was consulting their maps and shaking their heads. This was it, but no hawker centers were to be found. We walked around the area a little hoping to find some late night stalls, but to no avail.

Defeated we headed off in the direction of the waterfront, hoping to at least get some good night shots of the city skyline and something, anything, to eat. We weren’t disappointed with this, the waterfront along Fullerton looks out at the incredible Marina Bay Sands and we got there just in time to catch the last light show of the night. And while it wasn’t the authentic local food experience we were hoping for that first night, we did enjoy a spicy chili-crab hot dog down by the Merlion.

We went to bed that night a little disappointed and hoping that we would have better luck the next day. Lau Pa Sat, 18 Raffles Quay, Singapore, Singapore (Downtown Core) is currently closed for renovations and expected to reopen in June of 2014.  We were told later, much later, that satay hawkers set up on Boon Tat street, just behind LPS, in the evenings  but we didn’t see them (probably too late).

Waking up on our second day in Singapore we were determined to persevere and find our way to the best food stalls in town. Singapore is touted as a foodie Mecca, and all we’d managed to find so far was a chili-crab hot dog. I felt we were failing both as food lovers, as well as travelers!

hawker centers sinapore

We decided for today we wanted to get out and experience the sights and tastes of Chinatown where we were sure we could remedy our previous failings. The MRT takes you right to the heart of Chinatown and only a few steps out of the station we quickly found a refreshing juice stall, followed up with a taste of durian.

After a couple hours of exploration we were again famished and asked for directions to the nearest hawker stall center. This question was received and answered with a knowing smile by a friendly, elderly lady visiting the rooftop garden of the Buddha’s Tooth Temple. Maxwell Road Food Centre was right across the street.

Walking through our first real food hawker center we were dumbfounded. The number of stalls and food choices was mind-boggling. OK, maybe it wasn’t that big, but there are more than 100 food stalls with a dizzying array of options, which is perfect when traveling with kids to Singapore because they can choose something they like and recognize.

The first thing we saw was Hainanese chicken. This seemed like the perfect place to sample this iconic Singaporean dish.

hawker centers sinapore

Now it was a simple matter of looking for the crowded stalls to find what would hopefully be the best. Later we would read about the fame and glory of Tian Tian Hainanese Chicken Rice, but on this day we tried it simply because it had the longest lines. The chicken was silky smooth with a hint of ginger and herb and came served on a pillowy bed of rice, cooked to perfection.

We were in heaven! We had finally found the hawker centers and food sensations Singapore is famous for. Here’ s the address for our first!  Maxwell Road Hawker Food Centre 1 Kadayanallur St, Singapore 069184, Singapore (Downtown Core).

What do you do when you first arrive in a new place?  Go for food, go to bed?  Get your bearings?

Singapore – Easy Planning Tips

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Where to Stay? There are so many great hotels in Singapore and we love using for the ease of comparison and finding exactly what we want.

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Author Bio: Jim Vail, is a travel, food, and video creator and a perpetual traveler who has been travel writing for over 15 years. For many years he lived overseas in Germany, Japan, Turkey, South Korea, and the Netherlands, and he’s visited over 90 countries.

Andrew Darwitan

Wednesday 21st of October 2020

When it comes to food, Singapore is truly a superstar, all thanks to its geographic location which means you get the best mixes of cuisine from different sides of the straits. Singapore is also the first and so far only country with hawker foods which have attained Michelin stars, imagine that!!!

Shikha (whywasteannualleave)

Monday 22nd of December 2014

I wish i'd tried the Maxwell Hawker Cenre - I think we went to the Newton one on our recent trip to Singapore. I absolutely fell in love with the food in Singapore - all so delicious! I also tried the chicken rice and could happily live off that if they had it easily available in England!!

Corinne Vail

Monday 22nd of December 2014

Shikha, I know what you delicious. Happy holidays!

Jack Maggard

Thursday 16th of October 2014

Travelling to Singapore? FOOD is coming into my mind!

Corinne Vail

Thursday 16th of October 2014

Jack...Yes!It's all about the food!

Donna Amis Davis

Wednesday 2nd of April 2014

Love those Hawker Centers! We were so lucky to have Singaporean hosts show us the ropes and order some stuff for us, as well as what we could pick out. Oh my. Deliciousness.

Corinne Vail

Wednesday 2nd of April 2014

Donna, You are right! There is nothing better than to have a local show/tell you where to go and what to do. I try to search that our wherever we travel. Happy C day!

Bronwyn Joy

Tuesday 25th of March 2014

This is an excellent question for taxi drivers. They all have their opinion! Often they won't recommend a whole centre, but they know their favourite stalls. It's here for chicken rice, or there for sambal fish, and somewhere waaaaay across town if you're in the mood for fish head curry.

Can't wait for Lau Pa Sat to open up again though!

Corinne Vail

Tuesday 25th of March 2014

Bronwyn, good point! We took buses all over the city and a couple of times were able to ask the drivers questions, but mainly they were too busy working. I agree - ask the locals!