Singapore is often called a food paradise thanks to its distinct hawker centers and hawker culture. A big part of everyday life, there are over 100 open-air food courts located across the island, where a majority of Singaporeans go to dine out. Ask any local for recommendations and they will have a curated list of favorite stalls, some they’ve been going to since childhood, or a new find they’re happy to drive across the island for.

So distinctive is Singapore’s hawker culture that it was added to UNESCO’s Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity in 2020. Whether you're in Chinatown, Little India, or Kampong Glam, you won’t be far from a good meal, and best of all, it’ll barely cost you more than $5. Here are some of the best hawker centers to hit up, and to make things easier, we’ve given you recommendations on what to order.

Amoy Street Food Centre

Be warned, this bustling double-story hawker center, within walking distance from the central business district, is packed come lunchtime so be prepared to queue. There is no shortage of things to order with heritage hawkers, Michelin Bib Gourmand awardees, and new generation hawkers doing modern takes on hawker staples. If the selection is confusing, join the longest queue, or do a discreet walkabout to check out who’s ordered what; it’s not uncommon for people to ask where to get a particular dish.

What to order: Go for the Ah Tee Ko Ko Mee (#02-131), Hoo Kee Rice Dumplings (#01-18), Amoy Street Fried Kway Teow (#01-01), and Big Bowls Project (#02-90).

Tiong Bahru Market

The hip enclave of Tiong Bahru has more than just cool cafes and third-wave coffee shops to offer, it’s also home to the art deco style, two-story Tiong Bahru Market. On busy weekend mornings, the number of heritage hawker stalls and Michelin Guide Bib Gourmand awardees draw in regulars—some of them even drive across the island just to stand in the queue.

What to order: The springy steamed chwee kueh (#02-05), bowls of tummy-warming braised pork belly lor mee (#02-80) or wanton noodles with beautifully marbled barbecue pork (#02-30), and plates of freshly-fried char kway teow (#02-11).

Tekka Market Food Centre

This always-busy food center is well-known as the place to go for affordable Indian-Muslim and South Indian food. Located at the start of the vibrant Little India enclave, it houses a wet market, food center, and retail shops in a single complex. With over 100 hawker stalls, the first level (facing Bukit Timah Road) has a concentration of famous stalls serving fragrant biryani, crispy thosai, and spiced meat-stuffed murtabak.

What to order: Look out for Allauddin’s Briyani (#01-232) known for its delectable fall-apart mutton briyani, Sri Tiffin Stall (#01-224) and its crispy masala dosa with lentils and chunky potatoes, scrumptious braised duck rice at Heng Gi Goose and Duck Rice (#01-335), and Lim Chendol (#01-315) for traditional desserts like pulut hitam, ice kacang and chendol.

Maxwell Road Food Centre

Chinatown has no shortage of hawker centers but this single-story structure is popular for its late-night opening hours and proximity to buzzy Club Street as a place to fuel up before/after drinks. Die-hard fans of this former wet market spot will swear there’s no bad meal to be had here, and they’re not wrong.

What to order: Fu Shun Roasted Meat Specialist (#01-71), China Street Fritters (#01-64), Maxwell Fuzhou Oyster Cakes (#01-05), and Jin Hua Fish Soup (#01-77). Don’t leave without having a plate of chicken rice, whether you’re Team Tian Tian (#01-10/11) or Team Ah Tai (#01-07), that mouthful of flavorful poached chicken will be one you remember.

Adam Road Hawker Centre

Located opposite the Singapore Botanical Gardens (Bukit Timah Gate), this sleepy 40-stall hawker center is frequented by nearby residents who know, and swear by, its Halal-certified eats. The most famous stall is arguably Selara Rasa Nasi Lemak (#01-02), thanks to its patronage by the Sultan of Brunei.

What to order: Try the richly-flavored mutton soup (Bahrakath Mutton Soup King) (#01-10), perfectly fried Cheng Ji Hokkien Mee (#01-24), and tummy-warming mee rebus from Warong Pak Sapari (#01-09).

Newton Food Centre

This hawker center made a starring cameo in Crazy Rich Asians cementing Singapore’s global standing as a hawker food paradise. Located close to Orchard Road (it’s one MRT stop from Orchard), it’s best to come here once the sun sets and there’s a fairy-light atmosphere. It’s almost impossible to have a bad meal with loads of fresh seafood (#01-53) and barbecue stalls to order from with Tiger Beer sold by the bucket (and served in ice-cold mugs).

What to order: Snack on everything from fried carrot cake (#01-28), oyster omelette (#01-73), fresh-grilled sticks of satay (#01-33), and braised duck noodles (#01-13). If you need something sweet to finish your feasting session, or just to cool down, order an ice dessert (#01-005) like ice kachang or cheng teng.  

Old Airport Road Food Centre

The island’s foodies have a list of their favorites at this iconic hawker center that’s been in operation since the 1970s. Situated close to the Kallang area and on the way to/from East Coast Park, several heritage hawkers have been expertly plying their trade there for over 40 years.

What to order: The queues for popular dishes like lor mee (Hokkien-style noodles in gravy) at #01-116, claypot rice (#01-132), fried kway teow (#01-138), and rojak (#01-108) may seem unrelenting but the wait will be worth it.

Lau Pa Sat

The only hawker center that’s also a heritage site—it’s situated on the site of Singapore’s first wet market—Lau Pa Sat is a favorite at lunchtime but also late into the night when the street of satay sellers fire up their grills to serve up smoked-kissed sticks of satay. These days, it’s also a spot to score cheap, hip eats thanks to foodpreneurs like GoPizza (#24), Cream and Cone (#TK3), and Smol (#TK1).

What to order: For more traditional hawker choices, this is one of the few places to get a hold of Thunder Tea Rice (#25), while Ban Mian Congee (#9) is perfect on rainy days.

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