Hawker Centers in Singapore

In Singapore, people talk about dining at hawker centers, the name for outdoor eating places occupied by many individual stall-holders who each specialize in a particular style of food. Dishes prepared amid flames and the crash of pots, pans and woks, are mainly local Malay, Chinese and Indian. However, there are branches of each category of cuisine, such as Teochew, Cantonese and Hokkien, reflecting the rich cultural mix of Chinese influence in Singapore.

There are Indonesian and Thai stalls and also Nonya dishes developed by early Chinese settlers from Malay food, and even vegetarian dishes to suit Hindus and Buddhists and the odd Western hamburger stand.

A contradiction in terminology, hawker centers were set up years ago to replace the many hawkers who plied their trade from barrows and bicycles on the street.

There are hundreds of hawker centers in Singapore, but two of the handiest for tourists are on the banks of the Singapore River, one behind the Standard and Chartered Bank and the other at Empress Place. It is worth a visit just to see the colorful bustle as real fast food chefs’ whip up an amazing array of delicious, inexpensive dishes in minutes.

Other types of food can be found at other various hawker stands:
Southern Indian vegetarian food served on a freshly washed piece of banana leaf, another new taste sensation for many visitors.

Shanghai food ranges in style somewhere between Cantonese and Pekingese. Noted for its strong yet subtle flavors it is often a good cuisine to start off with when you’re mainly familiar with Cantonese food. Famous Shanghai specialties include “Buddha Jumps over the Wall” and “Beggar’s Chicken”.

Hunanese cuisine is a style of cooking that comes from the home province of the late Mao Tse-tung. Hunan, a landlocked area known for its glutinous rice and air-cured meats is best known for the very popular Hunan dish of thinly sliced air-cured ham bathed in a honey sauce, served with steamed Hunan bread.

Teochew cooking is famous for its mang “muay” porridges. This is a light clear broth, which you can enjoy with side dishes of crayfish, lobster, salted eggs and vegetables. The most popular porridges are abalone, prawn and fish head.

Hokkien food. A traditional favorite is “Hokkien mee” (noodles), a delicious mixture of thick yellow noodles and rice vermicelli (bee hoon) cooked with prawns, squid and beansprouts spiked with a squeeze of lime and fresh red chilies.

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