Singapore’s Hawker food culture: a culinary melting pot
Written by Sophia Wan
On 22 May 2024

Hawker centres are an essential part of Singapore’s vibrant food culture, offering a diverse culinary experience that reflects the nation’s multicultural heritage. These open-air food courts are home to a diverse array of stalls which each specialise in a specific type of cuisine, providing locals and travellers alike with an authentic taste of Singapore.

The history of Hawker centres can be traced back to the 1950s and 1960s when the Singaporean government started moving street food vendors into designated areas to improve hygiene and organisation. Over time they became popular gathering places for people from diverse backgrounds, promoting a sense of community and shared dining experiences.

Hawker centre food cultures are a melting pot of Chinese, Malay, Indian and other Southeast Asian influences. Each stall typically specialises in a specific type of cuisine from Hainanese chicken rice, char kway teow and laksa to roti prata, nasi lemak and satay. These dishes reflect the rich flavours and spices of Singapore’s multicultural society.

Hainanese chicken rice

A major appeal of hawker centres is the affordability and accessibility of the cuisine they offer. Unlike high-end restaurants, hawker centres offer budget-friendly options without compromising on taste and quality. Visitors can sample a wide variety of dishes without overspending, making it an ideal culinary destination for travellers on a budget.

In addition to the delicious food, hawker centres provide an exciting cultural experience. The bustling nature of locals and tourists coming together creates a vibrant and lively atmosphere.

Singapore’s Hawker Centers

Hawker centers also reflect the spirit of makan (which means “eating” in Malay), which is deeply rooted in Singaporean culture. Sharing meals with friends and family is a treasured tradition, and hawker centres provide communal spaces where people can bond over their mutual love of good food.

In recent years, Singapore’s hawker culture has gained global recognition. In 2020, Singapore’s hawker centres were inscribed as part of UNESCO’s Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity, recognising their significance as a unique culinary heritage.

Visiting a hawker centre is not just about satisfying your taste buds. It is an opportunity to delve into the history, food and culture of Singapore.

Seng Poh Road, Tiong Bahru Kampong Carrot Cake, Singapore

Check out our related stories

French fries, the fascinating history behind the global obsession

French fries, the fascinating history behind the global obsession

French fries, often simply referred to as 'fries', are a beloved snack and side dish enjoyed worldwide. Despite their name, the origin ...

Cedar Plank Salmon, a culinary delight in the northwest Pacific

Cedar Plank Salmon, a culinary delight in the northwest Pacific

Cedar plank salmon is a popular cooking method and dish in the Pacific Northwest region, especially in areas like Washington and Oregon

Damper bread, a bite of Australian history

Damper bread, a bite of Australian history

Australia's food industry is known for its inventive cuisine and colourful flavours, yet hidden among these gourmet treats is a simple ...

New Orleans Po’ Boy, from humble beginnings to culinary masterpiece

New Orleans Po’ Boy, from humble beginnings to culinary masterpiece

As you walk through the lively streets of New Orleans, the smell of freshly baked French bread and sizzling meats fills the air, inviting you to try one of the city's most iconic dishes - the mighty Po' Boy.

Bak Kut Teh, the culinary treasure steeped in Malaysian heritage

Bak Kut Teh, the culinary treasure steeped in Malaysian heritage

Bak Kut Teh, a tasty pork rib soup, is at the center of Malaysia's lively food culture.

Discover the humble delights of Hong Kong’s Cart Noodle

Discover the humble delights of Hong Kong’s Cart Noodle

The Cart Noodle is a quintessential Hong Kong street food that has become a beloved part of the city's vibrant culinary culture.

Vietnam’s rich coffee history and culture

May 23, 2024

Hanoi, Vietnam In the lively streets of Vietnam in Southeast Asia, the scent of freshly brewed coffee fills the air, attracting visitors to dive into the country's vibrant coffee culture. From the northern highlands to the southern delta, Vietnamese coffee has become...

GET ON BOARD WITH OUR NEWSLETTER

For our cultural travellers looking for a deeper and detailed insight, this is for you.

Join our mailing list to receive our first newsletter edition filled with exclusive features. From local events in Corsica, to Hong Kong best hiking spots.

Welcome on board the Global Odyssey flight