Hawker stalls are the main foodie attraction in Singapore. They were built for workers to come and eat a cheap, fast, tasty lunch.
The stalls are set up in hawker centers around the city, courtesy of the government. Pooling the stalls makes it easier to impose and monitor health standards.
Hawker centers are usually open throughout the day and evening.
My favorite thing to order was fresh juices. I loved getting fresh carrot and celery juices. So healthy and pure, with no added sugar. One drink typically only costs $2.50 Singaporean (less than $2 USD).
Best practice when you arrive at a hawker center is to take a lap around to see all the stalls and pick out what looks interesting.
I recommend going to the Tiong Bahru Market, in a neighborhood with lovely colonial-era architectural style. The market has a wet market (fresh fish and meat) on the ground floor and a hawker center upstairs. We ordered from several hawkers: an oyster omelette, duck, popiah (a local large, fresh spring roll), and Hainan chicken rice (the national dish of rice cooked in chicken broth and served with chicken slices).
Chinatown’s main hawker center was closed for renovation the week we were in Singapore, so we went to Maxwell Centre nearby. Our favorite from Maxwell was the oyster cake stall. It churns out oyster omelette patties, a creative take on the typical hawker dish of oyster omelette. The stall has a picture of Anthony Bourdain (R.I.P.), who sang its praises. He loved Southeast Asia, and embraced Singapore’s hawker culture.
Lau Pa Sat is a lauded hawker center in a historic building. We had excellent grilled scallops and some duck. Then, hubby ordered double-cooked pork and a tofu-and-bean-sprout dish from a Szechuan stall, and I was impressed by the classy presentation, in addition to the deliciousness of the dishes; the food was good enough to be in a fancy restaurant.
We returned to Chinatown for dinner one evening and ate at Old Chengdu on Pagoda St. I loved this meal. We ordered dry hot pot, a nouveau cuisine in China, and an eggplant dish. We ordered almost all veg for our dry hot pot, with just a smattering of meat. The flavors are addictive: a savory, salty mix doused in chili oil. The spice was on the high side, but short of numbing Szechuan heat; just right. I raved about the food as I was eating it. So much fun.