A right of passage when moving to Singapore is going to a hawker centre. We suggest you go for dinner the first time, as they can be quite hot and rather unventilated but it is well worth it! If you are a newly arrived expat in Singapore it can be confusing trying to figure out what all the dishes are, so we have comprised a list of the more common and less exotic choices. There are of course the obvious ones, like Chicken Rice or Satay (beef, chicken or lamb) but this list will give you more of a choice when you are wandering from stall to stall.
It is important to remember that upon entering you must procure a seat, so make sure you have a couple of packs of tissues to reserve a table. This “reservation” method is known as “chope” (pronounced ch-oh-p). It will save you from wondering through the tables with steaming curry slopping all over your tray until you can find a place to sit.
Laksa: This coconut milk curry is most commonly made with seafood but some people use chicken. It is served with noodles and a good heaping of Sambal Chili paste. It might not be your first choice in 30 degree weather, but if you dress appropriately, it will be one of the best curries you’ve ever tasted. It is definitely NOT child friendly.
Roti Prata: Ahh, the versatile Prata… you can have it for breakfast, lunch or dinner. It is Indian flat bread that is more like a pancake. It varies from hawker to hawker on the density and is served with anything from sugar to curry. It’s a BIG hit with the kiddies (sans the curry).
Carrot Cake: No it doesn’t come with cream cheese icing or Burkinstocks. This is a delicious, fried white carrot (daikon), rice flour, egg mixture. You can either have white (plain) or black (with soy sauce, much tastier). It is definitely a good dish for the less intrepid eater and goes nicely on the side of a few skewers of Satay. The kids will even like it!
Char Kway Teow: This dish is probably the most adventurous of our suggestions, though that depends on where you eat it. This stir-fry of noodles traditionally is served with cockle clams, shrimp and Chinese sausage (don’t ask). Some hawkers have toned it down and serve it with just shrimp or supplementing chicken thighs for the sausage. So the best way to know is to ask! It is a delicious dish and authentically Singaporean.
Don’t forget to “chope”!