the hawker food culture of singapore

August 25, 2014

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We ate so much in Singapore! There are hawker centers all over the city, which are outdoor food courts of sorts, and they are filled with a wide array of food. Singapore’s cuisine is very diverse, a good mirror of the people and culture in Singapore. There’s a lot of Malay, Chinese, Indian influences (and plenty more cultural influences) in the cuisine and out of all the food we tried, there was just one dish we couldn’t go past one bite.

Each day in Singapore was basically a food tour of the various hawker centers. For one of our lunches there, we even hit up two different hawker centers! Of course, we did other tourist things (see here and here), but the highlight of it all was the food (and the people we became friends with). We went to hawker center after hawker center, and even within one hawker center, we would try a few dishes from one aisle, then move over and try more from the next aisle. I’m thankful that the ladies at Bloesem gave us good tips, and my friend Abby took us to all the best places to experience all the delicious dishes Singapore has to offer.

We learned about “chopping” that would happen at the food centers. “Chopping” is when people would leave a tissue (or a pack of tissue), and I’ve even seen someone leave their work badge, on the table to signify that the seat was taken, and people would respect that. It looked like this… you would enter the food center, find an open table or spot, place your tissue, then walk away to go order your food, and once you have your food, you come back to your tissue and sit down. Everyone knew that seat was spoken for and it was respected. By day 2 of our time at the food centers, we were participating in the seat “chopping” too.

Another thing we learned are meals are more of a community thing among friends. We’re used to each ordering our own dish, and eating our own dish, and maybe sharing a bite or two with each other if we ask. In Singapore, if you’re there with a group of friends, it’s more common to put the food in the middle and just share everything, no asking necessary. It’s not a “this is mine that is yours” kind of deal, but we all share the dishes together. Again, by day 2, we were totally participating in community meals with our friend Abby.

I have so much more to share about the food there, so there will be an entire post (and it will be really long!) dedicated to all the foods we ate there. Seriously, ever since Singapore, I’ve had a deeper appreciation and love for Asian food.


14 comments on “the hawker food culture of singapore”

  • Caroline says:

    Hey Ruby,
    It’s Caroline here (@joyfullyc on instagram)
    I’m just curious, what one dish was it that you didnt like. 😛
    I know your fave is probably laksa.


  • doxgukka says:

    that is exactly how kyle and i like to eat when we go out to Asian restaurants – we will just order a bunch of diff dishes and share. and we do it when we go out with the other people too 🙂 you end up trying dishes you didnt think you would like, and you avoid food envy hehehe

  • Kaori says:

    I’m going to Singapore in October so I will really be looking forward to that list! Hawker centers sound amazing!

    PS: Did it look like vegetarian dishes would be hard to find at a Hawker center?

  • Emma says:

    Hi Ruby– I will be spending a week in Singapore in October for work and I KNOW I’ll look to your blog for tips, especially regarding the food, before I go. I’m traveling alone so I’ll need to find ways to step out & explore.
    Thanks for the posts!

  • Simone says:

    The chopping thing is cool! I want to go back there just to see it in action….and it eat the food again! You are right- its the best part!

  • Torres says:

    LOL ‘Chopping’ is cutting up stuff.

    ‘Choping’ not ‘Chopping’ 🙂

    • Rubyellen says:

      Really, seat “chopping” is spelled with a only one P? Most websites discussing it and the occurrence of it in Singapore, spell it with double p, or chope-ing.

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