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Singapore's Best Street Food | Insight Guides

Singapore's best street food

As the culinary meeting point of China, India and Malaysia, Singapore offers a wide-ranging food scene that is one of the most vibrant in Southeast Asia. And the city’s hawker centers and markets are some of the best places to dine out. Here is our guide to Singapore street food.
Enjoy char kway teow – a favorite Singapore street food dish with stir-fried rice noodles, seafood, and beansprouts, on a trip to the vibrant island city state. Photo: Ariyani Tedjo/Shutterstock
Enjoy char kway teow – a favorite Singapore street food dish with stir-fried rice noodles, seafood, and beansprouts, on a trip to the vibrant island city state. Photo: Ariyani Tedjo/Shutterstock

Hawker centers, markets, and street-side shacks are scattered all over Singapore. Scores of Malay, Chinese and Indian stalls offer a wide range of traditional fare at affordable prices. Whatever your taste, you're sure to find delicious and intriguing street food on offer...


Singapore signature dishes

Your culinary journey in Singapore will be incomplete if you don't try these mouthwatering signature dishes. The tastiest versions can usually be found in hawker centers.


Chili crabs

Singaporeans will tell you this dish is best made with meaty Sri Lankan crabs. The thick, tangy and spicy sauce is mopped up with fried or steamed buns.

Singapore chili mud crab. Photo: hin255/ShutterstockSingapore chili crab – often prepared with crabs from Sri Lanka. Photo: Shutterstock


Fish-head curry

This speciality is mostly favored by the Singaporean Indian community, although many Chinese eateries are also drawing crowds for their versions. Large heads of fish are stewed in a spicy sauce with vegetables such as aubergines and okra.

Fish head curry. Photo: bonhan/ShutterstockFish head curry, a favorite dish of the Singaporean Indian community. Photo: Bonham/ Shutterstock


Hainanese chicken rice

Chicken is poached in hot stock and then blanched in cold water to render it succulent and juicy. The chicken pieces are then served with rice that has been steamed with ginger, garlic and chicken stock, and vinegary chili sauce.

Hainanese chicken rice. Photo: Piyato/ShutterstockHainanese chicken and rice. Photo: Shutterstock


Laksa

Rice noodles are bathed in coconut curry sauce that is spiced with herbs and laced with fish cake, cockles, prawns and bean sprouts. The much-loved Katong laksa can now be found at street food outlets all over Singapore.

Singapore curry laksa noodle. Photo: wong yu liang/ShutterstockSingapore laksa noodle. Photo: Shutterstock


Sambal stingray

Thin slabs of stingray (skate) are grilled and served on a banana leaf with a rich layer of chili jam (sambal) prepared with fresh chilies and garlic.

Sambal stingray. Photo: JPL Designs/ShutterstockSambal stingray. Photo: JPL Designs/ Shutterstock


Drinks and Desserts  

Teh halia (or ginger tea) is a staple of Indian drink vendors and a preferred choice over the standard lattes from Starbucks. Kopi tarik and teh tarik ('pulled coffee' and 'pulled tea'), which are poured from cup to pitcher and back again to ensure the ingredients are well mixed, are also hugely popular.

In hawker centers and food courts, try freshly squeezed fruit juice, cold soya bean milk or sugar-cane juice served with a wedge of lemon. Singapore's local beer is Tiger, a refreshing pilsner-style brew.

Local desserts to try include cendol, which is shaved ice and green jelly strips in coconut milk, and ice kacang (or ais kacang), shaved ice with red beans, jelly cubes, evaporated milk and colored syrups.

Cendol. Photo: MAHATHIR MOHD YASIN/ShutterstockCendol, a popular dessert in Singapore. Photo: Mahathir Mohd Yasin/ Shutterstock


Singapore hawker centers

The hawker center offers multi-ethnic Singaporean food at its best. Whether you choose a simple noodle dish or a three-course meal of barbecued fish, chili prawns and stir-fried vegetables with rice, the cost is a fraction of what you would pay for a similar meal in a restaurant. Low prices aside, the experience is unique, and an integral part of the way of life in this food-crazy city.  

To order food at a hawker center, if there’s a group of you, have one of your party sit at a table to reserve the seats. The others, having noted the table number, should order their food and tell the vendors where they are going to be sitting, unless the hawker stall is a self-service operation. If you are on your own or in a couple, you may well have to share a table with strangers if the hawker center is crowded, but that is all part of the experience. 

Savor Singapore street food favorites at hawker centers on your day of leisure on Insight Guides' Indulgent Singapore trip

 Street foods in Singapore. Photo: T.Dallas/ShutterstockSingapore street food dishes. Photo: Shutterstock


1. Changi Village Food Center

Where: Block 2 Changi Village Road
When: Daily 6am–late

It’s most famous for nasi lemak, a coconut-milk-based rice dish with fried chicken, ikan bilis (whitebait) and egg.


2. Chinatown Complex Food Center

Where: 335 Smith Street, Chinatown Complex
When: Daily 7am–10pm

The stalls here offer a mind-boggling array of Chinese favorites, from wonton noodles to roast meats. The basement fresh-produce market offering live fish, poultry, flowers and all manner of Asian vegetables is also worth exploring. 

Sample mouthwatering street food at the Chinatown Complex as part of Insight Guides' Uniquely Singapore trip.


3. East Coast Lagoon Food Village

Where: 1220 East Coast Parkway
When: Daily 5pm–midnight (closed Mondays)

Where else can you have some of the best local food in a lovely Indonesian-style structure and just a stone’s throw from the sea? Specialities here include curry puffs, barbecued pork noodles and vermicelli with satay sauce.

Street food in Singapore. Photo: joyfull/Shutterstock Street food vendors in Singapore. Photo: Shutterstock


4. Lau Pa Sat Festival Market

Where: Corner of Boon Tat Street and Robinson Road
When: Open 24 hours

This Victorian octagonal-shaped structure, was built in Glasgow and shipped to Singapore in 1894 to be reassembled near the waterfront. Formerly a fresh-produce market, it now houses around 60 food stalls selling a variety of hawker fare. 

Lau Pa Sat Festival Market. Photo: DoublePHOTO studio/Shutterstock Lau Pa Sat Festival Market, Singapore. Photo: Shutterstock


5. Makansutra Gluttons Bay

Where: 01-15 Esplanade Mall, 8 Raffles Avenue
When: Daily 5pm–late

The people behind Singapore’s hawker-food bible Makansutra have collected around a dozen top class hawker stalls together in this unbeatable waterfront location.


6. Newton Food Center

Where: Newton Circus, 500 Clemenceau Avenue
When: Daily noon–2am

The prices at this bustling hawker centre are a little higher than at others, but it is still a great place to order barbecued seafood and Hokkien fried noodles.


7. Tekka Center

Where: 665 Buffalo Road
When: Daily 6.30am–9pm

Stalls selling Malay, Chinese and Indian food draw sizable crowds here for breakfast. Tekka also has a fresh produce market with an incredible array on offer. Upstairs are clothing, brassware and antiques shops. 


Ready to experience the culinary delights of Singapore street food?

Insight Guides can help organize and book fantastic tailor-made trips in Singapore for you. Simply get in touch to let us know your ideas for the trip and when you would like to travel. Local travel experts will then create a personalized itinerary especially, which you can amend until you are happy with every detail before booking. Browse our existing Singapore itineraries for inspiration, and keep in mind that they can all be tailored to meet your needs and interests.


Updated 28 February, 2019