Top image: Zachary Tang / RICE File Photo
Ask any foodie in Singapore for a food recommendation and you’ll find yourself pointed to the nearest hawker centre.
The more popular names—Maxwell Food Centre, Lau Pa Sat, and Newton Food Centre—get plenty of love from locals and tourists alike (thank you, Crazy Rich Asians). But we’ve got some hidden gems that pepper our heartlands.
We ask Singaporeans to put aside their gatekeeping armour and share the hawkers they think deserve more love.
“New Hot & Spicy Nasi Lemak at 59 Marine Terrace is my personal favourite.
Every Saturday morning, my dad would buy this nasi lemak for us. I would always ask for extra chicken and extra sambal. It’s 30 cents extra but I swear it’s damn worth it. The nasi lemak reminds me of Saturday morning breakfasts with my family, something that doesn’t happen as often now since I started university.
It’s like a little-known gem in the neighbourhood, but I think it can compete with the best there is in Singapore. Truly an underrated classic.”
“Say Seng Famous Tau Kwa Pau at the basement of Dunman Food Centre is a hidden hawker gem.
This charming stall sells a super rare Teochew(?) dish in Singapore. It’s basically beancurd stuffed with assorted ingredients. I feel like our generation hasn’t tried this before, and it’s pretty damn good. Unfortunately, it’s kind of a dying dish.”
“Tong Fong Fatt Hainanese Boneless Chicken Rice at Maxwell Food Centre.
Their chicken rice is really good, with juicy meat. The hawker centre itself is full of tourists and locals since it’s near the Central Business District. But whenever I visit, there’s never a queue since there’s their competitor Tian Tian Hainanese Chicken Rice nearby.
That stall had a really long queue full of tourists and locals because it’s more famous. I felt a bit sad for the other chicken rice stalls because I personally think they’re equally good.”
“You must visit Al Kasim at Limbang Market.
People tend to go to Muslim food stalls for either the rojak or prata. But the other dishes tend to be less appreciated, though equally as delicious.
These stalls tend to get less traction than the Western or the Japanese stalls, at least around my place. People don’t buy the mixed vegetable dishes because it lacks meat, but it’s healthy and tasty.”
“CCK 253 Tasty Roti Prata is a gem.
I love roti prata, and I think this stall takes the cake. It’s served hot, and has the perfect balance of crispy and soft. People seem to go to other chain stores but this stall has the charm and ambience that are often overlooked.
The curry hits the sweet spot too. Yummy!”
—Yan Fei, 17
“Pancake King is my underrated favourite.
The funny thing is that the pancakes aren’t even their best menu item, it’s their brownie that particularly slaps. It’s so good to the point that it compelled me to leave my house one day, just to walk to the store to buy a singular brownie and nothing else.
But you can’t just go to any franchise—only specifically the one at the hawker centre next to Ang Mo Kio’s Courts. The stuff from their other outlets isn’t as good.”
“You’ll get a good, hearty meal at Khai Yeng Cheong Kee Mixed Vegetables at Shunfu Market.
First of all, it’s super cheap. I usually order two vegetable dishes, one egg dish, and one meat dish without rice. It’ll still only cost like $3.50. Definitely less than $4. Plus, it even comes with a bowl of clear soup as a side.
I would say that the store is pretty popular among the people who actually live in the vicinity but it’s definitely not as well-known to other Singaporeans. It might only have six reviews on Google but trust me on this. The portions are huge, it’s cost-effective, and it tastes good too.”
“More people should try the nam yue loh kai yik (Cantonese for blue beancurd braised chicken wing) at Charlie’s Peranakan at Golden Mile Food Centre or Loh Mei Specialist at People’s Park Food Centre.
I was trying to find hidden gems in Singapore since I was so sick of franchise food, so I watched this OGS video. It’s a recipe that not many know about, so it’s dying out too.”