OWL Magazine Korea

Exploring Singapore’s Unique Culinary Experience: Hawker Centres

In Singapore, there is a unique outdoor food court known as “Hawker Centre.” While similar to the concept of “food court” in South Korea, there are some differences.

In South Korea, food courts are typically found inside department stores or malls. In Singapore, these malls have their own separate “food courts,” and there are places that operate similar to outdoor food courts, which are called “Hawker Centres.” Compared to South Korea, one might think of them as a cross between a food market and an alley of eateries.

The name “Hawker Centre” comes from the English word “hawker,” which means a street vendor. It evolved from the gathering of itinerant street vendors to form markets, similar to how outdoor “street-side restaurants” have developed into Hawker Centres in Singapore.

Eating outdoors might give a slightly chaotic impression, but Singapore’s Hawker Centres are surprisingly well-maintained. While the cleanliness might not be as good as indoor dining, it’s still quite decent for outdoor dining standards.

Advantages of Hawker Centres include a wide variety of delicious foods, although the presentation may be less formal. Additionally, dining outdoors tends to be more affordable.

Hawker Centres typically have stalls lined up on both sides or in the middle, with seats scattered throughout. These seats at Hawker Centres follow the concept of shared tables. Rather than being exclusive to one shop, customers can choose a seat at a shared table and order food from various stalls, allowing them to taste a variety of dishes all at once.

As an aside, when locals in Singapore reserve a seat at these places, they often leave items like tissue packets on the table. In Singlish, the local English dialect, this practice is referred to as “Chop the table.” “Chop” in this context means reserving a seat, rather than the usual English meaning of “to cut.”

Ordering food at a Hawker Centre is simple. After finding a seat at a shared table, you can inform the stall of your table number when placing your order. Additionally, they often find the customer and bring the food to them without the need for specifying a table number.

Here are four prominent Hawker Centres in Singapore, and you can check their locations on the attached Google Map:

  1. Maxwell Food Centre
  2. Lau Pa Sat
  3. Makansutra Glutton’s Bay
  4. Newton Food Centre

To sum up, we’ve taken a look at Singapore’s unique food scene, the “Hawker Centre.” These places preserve Singapore’s distinct culinary culture, offering a wide range of delicious dishes at affordable prices.