The hawker culture in Singapore originated from the early migrant population selling quick, affordable meals on street pavements, and push carts around the neighborhood. By the early 1970’s the government resettled street hawkers into coffee shops, which evolved into air-conditioned food courts, and markets, where locals gather at breakfast, lunch, dinner and supper to tuck into plates of Laksa, Chicken Rice, Char Kway Teow, Roti Prata, Nice Lemak, as well as pastry snacks, juices and flavored drinks.

Hawker centers or food courts have become an indispensable pillar of the local way of life. An epitome of rich cultural and culinary heritage, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) added Singapore’s hawker culture to its Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.

Fast-forward to today, the tradition of communal dining in these food courts have evolved further to offer a mix of old and new cuisine. Movies like Crazy Rich Asians, are igniting the food scene with ‘hawker-preneurship’ among young chefs, who are fusing modern trends with local recipes. Some industry chefs have even hung up their aprons at their former award-winning restaurants to open food stalls, dishing out restaurant-grade food at affordable prices. If you’re up and about, check out some of these new stalls in your neighborhood.

All Heart & Meat

If the Wooloomooloo Steakhouse at the Swissotel Hotel is a little out of your budget, you can get a taste of quality grilled meat at Meat 4 Meat. Helmed by former Wooloomooloo chef, Jimmy Teo, the stall at Katong serves a juicy, tender 100% Aussie Ribeye, buttered and grilled with a fragrance of rosemary and thyme. Other best-selling must-tries include the Jimmy’s Carbonara, which comes with a pick of  fettuccine or cheese ravioli, and the Buttered Chicken Chop, topped with in-house-made capsicum pesto sauce and a side of herb roasted potatoes, carrots, and broccoli. Exciting treats at hawker-friendly prices!

Michelin Star Attraction

Trained at SHATEC, Singapore’s leading hospitality and culinary institute, Chefs Gwern Khoo and Ben Tham have worked and seen the likes of renowned restaurants, Waku Ghin, St Pierre and Jaan par Andre, before opening their own eatery, A Noodle Story, at the Amoy Street Food Centre. The Michelin Bib Gourmand-listed stall specializes in Japanese ramen, innovatively fusing the dish with local favorites like prawns, roast meat and dumplings. The Singapore-Style Ramen is simply a must try!

Locally-inspired noodles from the award-winning A Noodle Story (Photo: A Noodle Story)

Affordable Grain Bowls

Eldad Tan used to work at the Shangri-La hotel and Grand Hyatt, prior to opening Volk at the Taman Jurong Food Centre. Volk sells Yakitori and grain bowls for under SGD 10.00. If you’re not one for greasy hawker fare, these inviting grain bowls offer a healthier option. Other Items on the menu include Mushroom Skewers Bowl, Sous Vide Salmon Bowl, Chicken Skewers Bowl, Pork Shoulder Skewers Bowl and much more. Perfect for health and fitness freaks.

Fulfilling grain bowls at Volk (Photo: Volk)