Singapore's Best Hawker Stalls
When Michelin Guide Singapore debuted in 2016, two hawker stalls - Hawker Chan and Hill Street Tai Hwa Pork Noodle - featured on its one-star list. Five years later, one of them - Hawker Chan - has dropped off the one-star list, leaving just one entry to carry the weight of Singapore’s glory, ironically months after its hawker culture was inscribed on the UNESCO Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity last December.
Thankfully, most Singaporeans do not refer to the Michelin Guide, or for that matter the Bib Gourmand list, for reference on where to find great hawker food. So here’s a guide to my top eight hawker stalls.
Outram Park Fried Kway Teow Mee
The city’s most famous char kway teow stall at Hong Lim Food Centre is also infamous for its ridiculous queue that starts as early as 7.30am. They all come for the expertly wok-tossed kway teow (flat rice noodles) and yellow noodles enrobed in a dark sweet sauce fried with eggs, beansprouts, sliced fish cake and, most importantly, cockles and glistening cubes of pork lard. If you come early enough, the hawker may even be willing to entertain your request to swap the kway teow and yellow noodles for bee hoon (rice vermicelli).
Original Ah Hoe Mee Pok
Singaporeans are obsessed with their bak chor mee (minced pork noodles) and abundant options abound, ranging from vinegar-spiked dry minced pork noodles, to the more soupy variety. When it comes to dry bak chor mee, Original Ah Hoe Mee Pok at West Coast Drive serves what I consider to be the tastiest (and surely the most generous) soup on the side. For each order of dry mee pok (flat egg noodles), you get an additional bowl of supremely light and savoury broth with two pieces of par-boiled fish skin dumplings, a tiger prawn, pork slices, minced pork and lashings of Napa cabbage. While the mee pok is singularly excellent, the broth is unrivalled in flavour and generosity.
89 Carrot Cake
We refer to radishes as white carrots in Mandarin. In Singapore, carrot cake is in fact a radish ‘cake’ (radish and flour steamed into a soft cake) that is cut up into cubes and wok-fried with garlic, chai po (preserved radish), oil, more oil and a tonne of eggs. There are two carrot cake options in Singapore, white or black (with dark sweet sauce), and 89 Carrot Cake serves one of the city’s meanest black carrot cake by far, an ugly-delicious plate that the hunched-back proprietor Mr Zhang has perfected over five decades of daily repetition. Zhang opens his stall at the break of dawn and sells out before lunch time.
Swee Guan Hokkien Mee
Hokkien mee may be a dime and a dozen in Singapore but once you’ve tasted the charcoal fire-fuelled plates by Swee Guan Hokkien Mee, you’ll be hooked to the taste of wok-hei (breath of the wok). Yellow noodles and thin bee hoon are expertly fried in a wok with eggs that have been charred a la minute, then tossed with prawns and squid rings in a briny seafood stock graced with lashings of pork lard. Every bite from the messy heap brings with it oceanic savouriness, a lick of char and a depth of lardy flavour. Situated in Geylang Lorong 29, the proprietors of the 42-year-old institution are known to be famously grumpy, but judging by the constant stream of fans, no one seems to be bothered.
Sungei Road Laksa
A Peranakan dish, laksa is actually thick rice vermicelli served with fish cake slices, plump cockles and beansprouts in a spice-packed broth enriched with coconut milk and finished with a sprinkle of laksa leaves. One of Singapore’s most iconic laksa stalls, Sungei Road Laksa started as a pushcart street food vendor at the now-defunct Thieves Market in the 1950s. Now run by second-generation owners, it is - arguably - the only stall in Singapore that still cooks its laksa broth over hot coals as it has been done over the past 60 over years.
Selera Rasa Nasi Lemak
A rumoured favourite of the Sultan of Brunei, Selera Rasa Nasi Lemak is not your garden variety nasi lemak stall. The Malay dish of pandan leaf and coconut milk-scented rice with condiments served here features fluffy long-grained basmati rice instead of jasmine rice. You may have your nasi lemak with basic condiments - a fried egg, cucumber slices, fried anchovies with peanuts and sweet sambal chilli - via the ‘Flash Meal’ or all jazzed up with proteins, in which case we highly recommend The ‘Royal Flush’ meal, which also comes with a fried chicken wing, banana leaf-wrapped otah and begedil (fried potato patty). Be prepared to queue for an hour at lunch.
Mr & Mrs Mohgan’s Super Crispy Roti Prata
Also referred to as the Indian croissant, roti prata is a South Indian flatbread prepped with flour and ghee and flipped over an oily griddle. Served with a choice of fish or mutton curry, it is crispy and buttery when eaten fresh. The now-famous, 15-year-old Mr and Mrs Mohgan's Super Crispy Roti Prata at Joo Chiat Road serves, arguably, the city’s crispiest prata and for good reason - the 52-year-old Mr Mohgan knows that practice makes perfect, he has been starting flipping prata since he was a teenager while helping his mother. Tempting as it is to order the egg prata, the plain prata is a better place to start and don’t forget to ask for the sambal dip. Warning: waiting time exceeds an hour on weekends.
Ah Tai Hainanese Chicken Rice
Ah Tai Hainanese Chicken Rice is an atypical recommendation for Singapore’s national dish - chicken rice - but it’s on this hot list because the proprietor, Ah Tai himself, was head cook of the city’s most renowned chicken rice brand for 20 years before he debuted several steps away from his former employer. His chicken rice execution is expectedly on-point with suitably tender poached chicken and flavourful but not-too-oily chicken rice. The best thing is: you don’t have to jostle with the crowd.