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Hawker Reviews

Hawker Reviews

The Hawker Centre is the life blood of Singapore

The Hawker Centre is the heart of Singapore and is a popular tourist destination, where locals and tourists alike can sample the local cuisine. Hawker centres have been serving up traditional Singaporean dishes ever since they first resettled street hawkers back in the late 1960’s. The hawker centre is a popular spot for food lovers to come and enjoy the fresh air and delicious food.

If you’re looking for a must-try hawker centre in Singapore, there are definitely a few hawker centres that are definitely worth a visit but more on that later. There’s something for everyone, from Malaysian favourites like Nasi Lemak and even more familiar dishes such as the national dish of Singapore Chicken Rice and pork stalls serving up magnificent Char Siew Roast Pork. The hawker centre also has a wide variety of food stalls selling local delicacies, including sweet and savoury items such as Ice Kachang or a Bee Hoon Soup. So whether you’re after traditional Singaporean fare or something a little more unique, the hawker centre has something for you.

Now on with our Hawker Reviews….

Singapore Hawker Heritage

Singapore Hawker Heritage

For those who are unfamiliar, hawker centres in Singapore are essentially large food courts consisting of stalls around the perimeter that serve a variety of foods and beverages in addition to full meals, snacks, and drinks. You can typically choose from a variety of dishes inspired by the region’s cuisine as well as cuisines from other parts of the world, such as Chinese, Malay, Indian, Indonesian and Western cuisine.

They were constructed to offer a more hygienic alternative to mobile hawker carts, and they house a large number of vendors selling a wide range of low-cost meals. At the restaurants, diners are usually given their own table and chairs and unique plates and cutlery just for that stall with communal table-clearing and dishwashing.

Centres like this one are often managed by a governing body. The management of the facilities and the leasing of stores to vendors who seek to sell their items fall within the purview of this body. This has been evident of late with a major focus island-wide at food hygiene and the government has been upgrading many hawkers.

Aligned to this initiative you may have seen the little placards in all hawkers. The A, B, C, D and wondered what they are for? Well, it is related to the food hygiene exams you have to pass in Singapore before you can prepare and serve food. No different to your school exams, A is a top-grade pass-mark. I have done a version of this exam myself and had a mandatory 100% pass-mark, I guess that means and ChillaxBBQ is officially A-Grade.

As of December 2020, the hawker culture in Singapore has been formally recognized by Unesco as part of the world’s cultural heritage. This proposal was accepted by a 24-member international committee in virtual procedures. After nearly three years of labour by the National Heritage Board, the National Environment Agency, and the Federation of Merchants’ Associations, the entire procedure took just three minutes to complete.

Having hawker culture on the list commits Singapore to protecting and promoting it. The country will have to submit a report every six years to Unesco, showing the efforts made to safeguard and transmit hawker culture to future generations. Let’s hope that gets honoured.

At most centres these days you can even have ‘table-service’ for drinks, keeping that supply of a most important bed-fellow to hawker food flowing. That would be the long-neck beers. Icey-cold and super cheap. There is no better accompaniment.

We have made many friends who own stalls, and some are recognised in Singapore as fathers of hawker food. Such as KF Seetoh, the founder of Makansutra, a company dedicated to the celebration of Asian food, culture, and lifestyles. We had great fortune to meet Seetoh at Street Food Congress with his great mate, now sadly missed, Mr Anthony Bourdain. Seetoh has taken the promotion of Singaporean hawker food to incredible heights, and recently opened in New York.

These establishments include the halal burger joint Ashes Burnnit, the famous White beehoon chain located in Sembawang, and the trendy coffee stall Kopifellas.

Also included on the list are the Hainanese Western stall Smokin’ Joe, the Hokkien-style prawn noodle soup purveyors Prawnaholic, the Malay and Indonesian cafe Padi@Bussorah, the Indian stall Mamak’s Corner, and Mr Fried Rice. The iconic Dragon Phoenix, which is famous for its chilli crab and for inventing the yam ring, is also included on the list of 11 stalls to date.

No wonder he gets coined as; “Food Guide Maven” (New York Times), “ Singapore’s de facto Street Food Guru”  and “Guru of Grub”(CNN).

At IS LIFE A RECIPE we pride ourselves on being two Angmo’s that have a passion for local food and our local hawkers. Well, we have lived here for a combined 35 years now on writing this. We don’t just focus on the top-end of town restaurants for our food blogs and reviews. We try to help promote our local Singaporean fare, especially recently through Covid, which were tough times for a lot in the hawker industry.

In our humble opinion hawker food is the best food in Singapore.

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