Join 50 Best and chef Jason Tan of Corner House on a gastronomic tour of Singapore’s best hawker stalls

Giulia Sgarbi - 07/06/2019

As The World’s 50 Best Restaurants prepares to descend on Singapore with its programme of gastronomic events from June 22-26, native Singaporean chef Jason Tan of Corner House spills the beans on the essential hawker stalls you must sample on your next visit to the city-state

Home to many of Asia’s best restaurants, Singapore is also the birthplace of a unique style of street food, served at shops known as hawker stalls. “A hawker stall is a super-small restaurant that perfects just one or two dishes,” explains Jason Tan, the chef and co-owner of Corner House in Singapore. “They used to be carts that were pushed around and served food road-side. In recent years, the government has actively invested in hawker stalls and created spaces for them, now known as hawker centres, where you might find 50 to 100 different stalls.”

As the best places to taste many of Singapore’s original dishes, hawker stalls are a must-visit stop on any foodie’s exploration of the Lion City. “When I first started to work as a chef, I didn't like hawker food because I thought it was just very typical and simple,” says Tan. “But in recent years, I started to travel a lot more and I realised that the so-called local food that we have in Singapore is actually unique. I strongly recommend that people try at least a few hawker stalls when they are in Singapore, because it is something you can't get anywhere else.” The fact that it’s all reasonably priced is another big draw.

A recent study by Singapore’s government counted over 100 hawker stall centres in the city-state, some of which house over 200 vendors. With such variety, it can be difficult to know where to go to taste Singapore’s best street dishes. Find your way around the city’s best hawker stalls with the aid of these tips by Chef Tan.

1. Ya Kun Kaya Toast


18 China St, #01-01, Singapore 049560

“This place makes my favourite breakfast,” says Tan. “It started out as only a stall, but it has now developed into a chain. The shop on 18 China Street is the flagship. Order the Kaya toast, made with a special coconut and banana jam and cooked with frozen butter that makes the toast deliciously crunchy. Try also the soft-boiled eggs – make sure you break them and mix them with soy sauce and white pepper.”

Price: S$5-6 for Kaya toast and coffee

2. Toa Payoh Rojak


51 Old Airport Rd, #01-108, Singapore 390019

“In Malaysia, rojak is the mix of many different things. The dish is a unique mix of Chinese dough fritters, cucumber, fermented egg and cabbage, all cooked in a shrimp paste sauce. In Malaysia they do it with fruits, but this Singaporean version is savoury. The ingredients are finally covered in ground peanuts before they are served. This stall is particularly good because they make the freshly ground peanuts themselves and also prepare the fritters and shrimp paste at the stall, meaning that everything is super fresh.”

Price: S$4

3. Tan’s Tu Tu Coconut Cakes 


22B Havelock Road #01-25, 160022 Singapore

“Everyone always goes to savoury hawker stalls, but there are great hawkers that do sweet food too. This stall has been here since the 1930s and it is still owned by the same family. The lady who manages it has been doing this job for 50 years. They make steamed coconut flour cakes with a filling made of either coconut or peanut. They buy the coconut and cook it themselves on low fire with palm sugar, and they also roast their own peanuts. This was my favourite food when I was young, and it has become one of my favourite childhood memories. The hawker centre where it’s found – Havelock Hawker Centre – is a hidden gem in Singapore; most people have been here for 40 to 50 years perfecting just one dish.”

Price: five cakes for S$3.50

4. Nam Sing Hokkien Mee


51 Old Airport Rd, #01-32, Singapore 390051

“This stall specialises in a unique fried noodles dish called hokkien mee. Thin rice vermicelli, called beehoon, are fried on the wok. On the side, they cook scrambled eggs with fat trimmings. The noodles are braised with prawn stock, prawn, squid and bean sprout, then mixed with the scrambled eggs, and finally everything is put together on the plate. The dish tastes even better if you let it rest for five to ten minutes, so the noodles absorb the stock. For this reason, many locals like to take it away and eat it at home. Enjoy with some chilli and lime.”

Price: S$5

5. 18 Zion Road Fried Kway Teow


70 Zion Rd, #01-17 Zion Riverside Food Centre, Singapore 247792

“There is a shop making a version of this rice noodles dish at every hawker stall centre, but this is my favourite. It uses a mix of flat rice noodles and yellow egg noodles, which are fried with fish cakes, cockles, preserved meat, bean sprouts, egg and vegetables, and tossed in dark soy sauce. It gets a wonderful charcoal aftertaste from the wok it is cooked in and a hint of smoke from the soy sauce that often burns on the bottom of the pan.”

Price: S$4

6. Kampong Chicken Eating House


247 Outram Rd, Singapore 169047

“This is my favourite chicken rice in Singapore. Kampong means free range, so the chicken here is especially flavoursome. The skin is yellow rather than white because the shop uses a special breed of chicken. First, the meat is poached with shallots and leaves for about 40 minutes, then it is put in an ice bath, so the skin becomes crunchy. It is served with a cloudy yellow soup made from the chicken bones, which is very flavoursome. I recommend eating the chicken with dark soy sauce, chilli sauce and ginger sauce, and to order a side of chicken feet. If you don’t know what to eat, chicken rice is always perfect.”

Price: S$4.70 (single portion), chicken feet S$3

7. Nyonya Chendol


51 Upper Bukit Timah Rd, #02-123, Singapore 588215

Nyonya indicates the mix of Chinese and Malay influences. This sweet dish consists of shaved ice served with a variety of toppings, for example red beans or sweetcorn, and it is called chendol. It is covered in coconut milk and sugar cane juice – we call sugar cane juice ‘the salted caramel of the east’, as it has that delicious sweet-savoury flavour. This is a perfect refreshing dish in the Singapore heat.”

Price: S$2

8. 328 Katong Laksa


51 E Coast Rd, Singapore 428770

Laksa is the name for a coconut curry usually served with laksa leaves on top. The soup’s base is made from dried mushrooms and it usually features prawns, fish cakes, deep-fried bean curd and bean sprouts. The broth is made with a mixture of spices and coconut milk, and it is usually very spicy. They add to the soup a special kind of rice noodles that are round-shaped, but they cut them so that you can eat them with a spoon – this is a dish that is traditionally eaten only with a spoon.”

Price: S$7.50

9. Famous Old Airport Fried Oyster


51 Old Airport Rd, #01-54, Singapore 390051

“This place makes Singapore’s famous fried oyster omelette. The eggs are mixed with a rice flour mixture and fried, which makes the omelette look like a pancake. Finally, they add the oysters and serve the dish with spring onion and coriander. My parents would buy this dish for the whole family when I was a kid. I do an interpretation of this dish at my restaurant Corner House, as a crispy omelette with oyster, oyster leaves and coriander, topped with caviar.”

Price: S$6


The 2019 edition of The World’s 50 Best Restaurants list and awards will be announced at Singapore’s Marina Bay Sands on Tuesday 25th June. To stay up to date with the latest news and to watch the livestream, follow us on InstagramFacebookTwitter and YouTube.