By Emma Hillman
Singapore’s Hawker Centres are an intrinsic part of the island’s gastronomic heritage, but as food courts where diners traditionally gather for to enjoy Singapore’s finest fare, they have been particularly hard hit in recent months.
Recognizing their significance on the foodie scene, social media influencers and photographers have got behind the humble food stalls housed in local Hawkers to keep them alive, with the likes of delivery apps, such as Deliveroo and Foodpanda, offering services to get your favorite ‘chicken rice’ dish to your door.
However, while Hawker Centres offer a bamboozlingly huge array of menu choices, our hesitance at ordering online, even for the most seasoned of expat, seems to be driven by one caveat: What is it we’re ordering? Names of dishes, most of all in a foreign language, can put diners out of their comfort zone, meaning they miss out on some of Singapore’s showcase dishes. So, with that in mind, here is a breakdown of ‘what’s what’ at your local Hawker. Get online, and get ordering!
BAK CHOR MEE
“Minced meat noodles,” a dish of noodles, minced and sliced pork, stewed mushrooms, meatballs.
BAK KUT TEH
Pork rib soup, it comes in peppery and herbal varieties.
Seasoned meats that are skewered and grilled, usually served with a peanut sauce.
Fresh skate cooked with chili paste and herbs.
A versatile mixed rice dish, with many meat and vegetarian varieties from the Indian subcontinent.
Sauteed radish, egg, soy sauce, prawns and oysters, with a dark version that uses molasses.
CHAR KWAY TEOW
Stir-fried noodles packed with ingredients. There are versions without pork fat, vegetarian versions, and gourmet versions.
Moist slices of poached chicken with seasoned rice, served with chili sauce and garnishes.
Braised or roasted, served with rice, a cousin to chicken rice.
A breakfast staple, toast with coconut spread, often with soft-boiled eggs and a kopi or teh.
A spicy Peranakan noodle soup that comes in many varieties, usually seafood.
Made with yellow egg noodles, which are also used in Hokkien mee, with a spicy, slightly sweet potato-based gravy, combining sweet and savoury flavours with a squeeze of lime juice.
A fragrant rice cooked with coconut milk and pandan leaf served with fried anchovies, peanuts, egg or other accompaniments.
Exactly what the oyster lover would expect, fried and served with chili sauce.
A fresh spring roll, vegetables rolled into a paper-thin rice crepe.
A traditional fruit and vegetable salad dish.
An omelet sandwich made with bread, minced mutton, crunchy onions, and a beaten egg.
SALTED EGG YOLK SAUCE
A current trend; creamy, lightly spiced sauce used to coat everything from prawns, tofu, chips and fish skins.
Mutton bone marrow soup.
THUNDER TEA RICE
A vegetarian’s delight; packed full of vegetables and herbs and accompanied with a green tea soup for those in need of a health-kick. Available at some but not all hawker centres.
Wanton noodles, dumplings, leafy vegetables, and barbecued pork (char siu), with spicy chili an option. Can be served in a hot broth or “dry” with a small bowl of soup on the side.