June 21, 2024

Hawker Centers (or Cooked Food Centers)

Yesterday, Ray had the opportunity of talking to a good friend from Ohio, Gil Reis. One of the subjects that made it into our conversation was about food and Ray mentioned Hawker Centers. These are all over Singapore and needed more explanation than he could do justice to on the phone. Thus…

Hawker Centers were created in the 1950s and 1960s by the Singapore government to replace the street hawkers who were often selling unsafe food. These centers, or food courts, are now licensed with health and cleanliness standards set by the government.

Compared to most restaurants in Singapore, the food is cheap. A filling meal can be had for between S$3 and S$8 (or US$2.30 to US$7.60). Of course you have to add your beverage of choice which in our case is often a Tiger beer at S$13 for 2 large bottles (the same size beer at regular restaurants costs S$13 for a single bottle). How these centers can do this is unknown. If you take away the Tiger beer cost we don’t believe we could eat at home for this little unless it’s PB&J.

Last night we went to a center on Kim Tian Road behind our condo. We had stopped here for a beer after a long hike, several weeks ago, but had never eaten here and decided to try meals we never had previously. Pat had Murtabak with Sardines and Ray tried Nasi Goreng with Ikanbillis. We were not disappointed – both were good and filling. (Sometimes I think they give us too much – almost American in quantity.)

This particular food center is small compared to some of the big ones we have eaten at. For instance, the Maxwell Food Center in Chinatown dwarfs this local one. 131 Kin Tian has only 5-6 stalls, while Maxwell has over 100 stalls.

Maxwell Food Center
Maxwell Food Center

The stalls at these food centers sell either food or drinks and work in partnership with each other with clearing tables and delivering orders. One of us will order food while the other heads out to get the drinks.

Besides the huge eating choices, the hawker centers are very entertaining and great for people watching. Most of the eaters are locals so it’s always interesting to see what they eat. We have on occasion asked about dishes and people are very willing to explain and sometimes share with us.

Want to know more…