3 cool places in Singapore to try hawker food and eats from around the world

You can now have teh peng (iced milk tea) with tapas, while listening to indie tunes, at one of Singapore's reinterpreted food centres. These communal spaces feature individual vendors serving both local street food and foreign fare, along with a generous sprinkling of creativity.

3 cool places in Singapore to try hawker food and eats from around the world

  • At this gastro-park built from repurposed shipping containers, the fragrance of Hainanese chicken rice mingles with that of lechon (Filipino roast suckling pig).
  • This 24,000 sq ft food centre, which houses 35 vendors, has edge. Think street-art-adorned food trucks offering small bites, and cosy spaces dedicated to local specialities.
  • Particularly well received is Damian D' Silva Singapore Heritage Food. Singaporean chef Damian d'Silva serves his brand of local heritage dishes, including kai fan (poached chicken with rice), char siew (roast pork) and lup cheong (Chinese sausage). One of his most popular items is the Limpeh Slider, which comprises moreish beef rendang (spicy dry curry) in buttery puff pastry.
  • Wash this down with full-bodied oatmeal stout from Bottle Shop, which has a rotating menu of 70 to 80 beers and ciders from around the world.
  • Another cuisine that pairs well with craft beer is Spanish tapas. Portico Platos does it with a local twist - think jamon iberico (cured ham) and harlequin olives complemented with sea bass and frog legs.
  • Fresh spins on classic dishes can also be found at new-age hawker Wong Kee. Here, tomato-flavoured noodles with homemade chilli are paired with char siew and plump wontons (shrimp dumplings). Owner Kelly Wong's social media savvy shows in the presentation of her Instagram-worthy bowls.
  • The World is Flat by Tanuki Raw takes things to a whole other level. The stall's deep-dish pizza comes with unusual toppings, such as duck confit and cream brie. What a mouthful.
  • Over at Two Wings, try the crispy, deep-fried chicken wings coated in salted egg yolk - a hot trend in Singapore now.
  • To experience Timbre+ when it is filled with people and energy, visit during lunch or dinner. Easy-listening pop and rock anthems are piped through the speakers all day, while live bands take the stage in the evenings from Monday to Saturday.
  • Once a humble kopitiam (a local version of a food centre), Alibabar now looks more like a hipster hangout, complete with cement-and-red-brick walls and exposed light bulbs.
  • Tall bar stools and tables spill out onto the sidewalk from the restored heritage shophouse it occupies. Its position overlooking a busy junction on East Coast Road also makes it a great spot to people-watch.
  • Yong Huat has been around since before the centre's revamp in 2013.
  • Pair a plate of its smoky char kway teow (fried flat rice noodles) or Hokkien mee (noodles fried with prawn and squid) with an ice-cold Trappistes Rochefort craft beer from the bar.
  • Here, you can choose from more than 70 beer and cider labels. They also go well with Burger Bar's foie gras beef burgers.
  • If you prefer something non-alcoholic, sip soothing teh halia (ginger tea) brewed the traditional way at the kopitiam bar. It is delicious with a bowl of Thai wonton noodles from Rochor Thai.
  • Inspired by farmers' markets in the West, Pasarbella @ The Grandstand has the atmosphere of a bazaar. Here, wide aisles filled with homemade artisanal jams, sambal (chilli paste) and wine from small local and international labels are punctuated by eye-catching graffiti art. With its crates piled with fresh produce, the indoor market is a favourite weekend spot for families.
  • One of its most popular vendors, The Cheese Ark, stocks a well-curated selection of cheeses from producers around the world. This includes rare slabs like the Monte Veronese di Malga, which is made from the milk of cows that graze on the mountains of Italy. If you can't decide on the perfect wheel, savour a cheese platter over a glass of red from one of the other vendors in the market.
  • But Pasarbella is more than a bazaar. True to the food centres scattered around Singapore, there's a whole section with various food stalls. Don't miss the juicy roast pork from Keith Crackling Roast; it's served with homemade apple sauce and mustard. For dessert, dig into an avocado torte or pomegranate cake from Russian-style bakery Laman's Delight.

Timbre+

At this gastro-park built from repurposed shipping containers, the fragrance of Hainanese chicken rice mingles with that of lechon (Filipino roast suckling pig). This 24,000 sq ft food centre, which houses 35 vendors, has edge. Think street-art-adorned food trucks offering small bites, and cosy spaces dedicated to local specialities.

Particularly well received is Damian D' Silva Singapore Heritage Food. Singaporean chef Damian d'Silva serves his brand of local heritage dishes, including kai fan (poached chicken with rice), char siew (roast pork) and lup cheong (Chinese sausage). One of his most popular items is the Limpeh Slider, which comprises moreish beef rendang (spicy dry curry) in buttery puff pastry.

Wash this down with full-bodied oatmeal stout from Bottle Shop, which has a rotating menu of 70 to 80 beers and ciders from around the world. Another cuisine that pairs well with craft beer is Spanish tapas. Portico Platos does it with a local twist - think jamon iberico (cured ham) and harlequin olives complemented with sea bass and frog legs.

10 dishes to check out at Timbre+

  • I was a bit reluctant to part with $28 for the Iberico Jowl Cutlet here, but it turned out to be really good.

    The piece of pork is breaded and fried like a tonkatsu, but stands out because of the slightly springy and juicy meat that is streaked with fat. It comes with a sriracha mayo that adds just enough kick without being overbearing.

  • Chef Damian D'Silva, known for his Singapore heritage dishes at now-defunct restaurants such as Immigrants in Joo Chiat and Soul Kitchen in Purvis Street, runs one of the mini eateries selling food from a mix of cuisines.
  • I love his Lim Peh Slider ($8), a non-spicy beef rendang stuffed into a super crispy flaky pastry.
  • The Hakka Fried Pork ($8) is good too, with the tender and juicy belly meat deep-fried till crisp on the outside. There is also a distinct flavour of nam yu, or red fermented beancurd cubes.
  • D'Silva explains that this is an old hawker dish that disappeared from Singapore streets in the 1960s. It is rice in chicken broth that is topped with shredded poached chicken and pieces of char siew and lup cheong. You push all the meat down into the broth to soak for a couple of minutes to let the flavours blend before stirring everything together.
  • The Dancing Crab chef has created some items just for this outlet. The standout new dish is Crab Fried Rice ($10), which boasts good wok hei (wok heat) and is packed with sweet crabmeat and pieces of corn, carrot and raisins. This is restaurant-standard fare and worth the price.

    Add $2 for a Fizzy Lemonade, one of the carbonated lemonades that Dancing Crab is known for.

  • What is fun at this fried chicken wing joint are the Salted Egg Yolk chicken wings, with a thin coat of the yolk sauce on the wings. The flavour is not very rich, but that means the wings are not too heavy either. I like that they are juicy too.
  • A set meal comprising four pieces of chicken (basically two wings) with rice or fries and a soft drink costs $8.90. You can have six pieces of chicken for the same price, without the carbs and drink.

    The fries are decent, but do not stand out. So if you do not need a drink, go for just the wings.

  • To be honest, I had never heard of this wonton mee from Maxwell Market, but it is really good.
  • I tried the Spinach Wanton Noodles ($4), which come drenched in a delicious sauce. The wontons - two deep-fried and two boiled - are above average with plump fillings of pork and shrimp, and I like that the char siew is sliced thick.

    But I think it would be even better if there is a bit of fat in the pork.

  • I first tried young hawker Douglas Ng's fishball noodles when he was still at Golden Mile Food Centre and liked it.
  • But it is even better now, as the freshly made fishballs have a slightly more springy texture and still boast a distinct flavour of fish. The sliced fried fishcake, too, is unmistakably handmade.

    Mix in some good-quality egg noodles and a decent chilli sauce and you have a winning bowl of fishball noodles.

  • I wouldn't have noticed this stall if an ex-colleague I bumped into at the hawker centre had not pointed out that it sells a dry version of ban mian.
  • The ingredients are almost the same as soupy ban mian, which is what most other stalls around Singapore sell - freshly made flour noodles topped with minced pork, vegetables and an egg.

    The difference is that the soup is sieved and served separately. Then the old hawker adds a dash of soya-based sauce and chilli sauce to the noodles and tosses everything together, topping it with fried ikan bilis and fried shallots. The result is a bowl of minced meat noodles, with the crispy bits of ikan bilis quite a pleasure to bite into. The noodles are not a must-try, but the stall gets points for joining a new trend.

  • I was intrigued by the idea of a chicken curry rice bowl ($10) with grilled chicken, but it turned out to be a misnomer.

    What Kush calls a curry is actually more of a rendang gravy that is poured over a piece of grilled chicken.

    But no matter. The chicken is moist and smoky, while the gravy is fragrant with coconut milk and delicious.

    It is served in a rice bowl together with an onsen (soft-boiled) egg and fried sambal kangkong.

    This is a winning combination that captures the imagination and pleases the palate in a way that the other food trucks I tried fail to do.

  • Kush also sells skewers of chicken ($2), Angus beef ($4.50) and wagyu beef ($7), among others, that it describes as "charcoal licked". If that means the same appealing smokiness found in the chicken curry, it's worth going back for.

Fresh spins on classic dishes can also be found at new-age hawker Wong Kee. Here, tomato-flavoured noodles with homemade chilli are paired with char siew and plump wontons (shrimp dumplings). Owner Kelly Wong's social media savvy shows in the presentation of her Instagram-worthy bowls.

The World is Flat by Tanuki Raw takes things to a whole other level. The stall's deep-dish pizza comes with unusual toppings, such as duck confit and cream brie. What a mouthful. Over at Two Wings, try the crispy, deep-fried chicken wings coated in salted egg yolk - a hot trend in Singapore now.

To experience Timbre+ when it is filled with people and energy, visit during lunch or dinner. Easy-listening pop and rock anthems are piped through the speakers all day, while live bands take the stage in the evenings from Monday to Saturday.

www.timbreplus.sg

4 new-age foodcourts making waves in Singapore

  • Taking over the 13,000 sq ft space vacated by Hainanese-Western chain Han's at Great Eastern Centre is Five Square.
  • The multi-concept eatery houses a 300-seat bar with live band performances and sports screenings, as well as a wine cellar and a 50-seat whisky bar.
  • The rest of the sprawling 300-seat food hall features five stalls selling food ranging from Japanese donburi to Korean bulgogi to Spanish tapas.
  • Each stall also has a fully automated self-service ordering and payment kiosk and SMS system. Once the food is ready for collection, an SMS will be sent to the diner's phone.
  • Five Square is run by Five Bar Group, known for its chain of izakaya and bars selling cocktails at $5.
  • Gogibox: Order the Gogi Plate ($8.50), which includes your pick of fried rice, bulgogi and salad dressing. Bulgogi meat options include beef, pork galbi, spicy chicken and wine pork belly.

    For a lighter meal, try the Gogi Taco ($6.80) - a twist on the Mexican taco - or Gogi Dog ($6.80), a combination of American hot dog with bulgogi.

  • Grub Noodle Bar: Slurp up noodles at Grub Noodle Bar, which used to be in Rangoon Road. Beef noodles (choice of brisket or sirloin) are priced from $8.90, while pork noodles (from $7.90) feature regular or premium Kurobuta pork collar in a miso pork broth.
  • Teppei Syokudo: A familiar name in the Central Business District, the Japanese stall serves the famous 5Kaisendon ($16) as well as other favourites such as katsu don ($15.80) and chicken nanban bento ($15.80).
  • Cinqo Tapas: A spin-off from the popular Five Tapas Bar at Cuppage Terrace which serves locally inspired tapas, Cinqo offers an all-day selection of tapas such as Spanish meatballs ($6), bacon mushrooms ($6) and angus beef carpaccio ($10). For lunch, Cinqo serves two paellas (from $9.50) cooked fresh daily, including Asian-inspired flavours such as claypot rice paella, Hainanese chicken rice paella and Thai pineapple rice paella.
  • Omnivore: By the people behind The Soup Spoon chain, Omnivore offers hearty salads for herbivores ($6.80), grilled meat platters for carnivores ($16.80) and a combination of meat and vegetables for omnivores ($12.80). Meat choices include grilled pork cutlet, bratwurst sausages and grilled 100 per cent New Zealand grass-fed flank steak.
  • This fancy foodcourt, which is packed during lunch and dinner times, specialises in Western-style cuisine.
  • Stalls at the 4,500 sq ft space include Two Wings, a chicken wing shop that started in Bukit Merah 11/2 years ago, as well as French stall Garcons, which is helmed by chefs Enoch Teo and Immanuel Tee. Chef Teo used to run French eatery Le Petit Paradis, while chef Tee runs Immanuel French Kitchen in Bukit Merah.
  • About a week ago, outdoor seating was approved to seat an additional 80 diners. Inside, it can accommodate 156 diners.
  • Garcons: Hearty French fare without the hefty price tag.
  • Garcons: Dishes include 12-hour Belly of Pork ($16.90); duck leg confit ($16.90); black miso foie gras ($16.50); and tuna tataki salad ($12.50), which is a twist on the classic nicoise salad with seared yellow fin tuna marinated with ginger-shoyu vinaigrette.
  • Two Wings: For a quick snack or bar bites, get the chicken wings (from $8.50 for four). Set meal options (with a choice of two sides) include whole spring chicken ($15.90), chicken cutlet ($8.90) and chicken burrito ($11.90). Other items include spam fries ($9.90) and mozzarella cheese sticks ($9.90).
  • Wild Wild Catch: Seafood lovers can head to this stall for dishes such as mussels in white wine broth served with garlic bread ($15); salted egg prawn dips ($8); pan-seared mackerel ($15) with sauteed spinach and mushroom, lemon butter sauce and steamed rice or mashed potato; and scallop garlic rice ($11).
  • El Jefe: Get restaurant-quality cuisine at El Jefe, which is run by two chefs formerly from Sky on 57. The menu features dishes such as braised beef cheek with root vegetables and mash potato ($13.90); wagyu steak burger with bacon, cheese and onion compote and fries ($12.90); and grilled baby lamb rack with ratatouille and garden greens ($21.90).
  • La Stalla: Handmade thin-crust 10-inch pizzas are the highlight at this Italian stall. Options include pepperoni ($15); mixed ham ($13) with black pepper and mortadella ham; margherita ($12); and arrabiatta ($18) with prawns and calamari.

    Other dishes include smoked duck salad ($14), homemade gnocchi ($12.50) with green pea sauce; mac and cheese ($10) with chicken breast; and linguine pomodoro ($9) with smoked salmon in tomato sauce.

  • Kin Khao: The only Asian stall in Essen, Kin Khao specialises in Thai cuisine. Menu highlights include tom yum seafood/prawn soup ($8.90), steamed fish fillet with lime and chilli ($10.90) and green curry chicken/beef with Thai brinjal ($8.90).

    Desserts include red rubies in young coconut with jackfruit ice cream ($6.50) and black and white glutinous rice with mango and ice cream ($7.50). The stall is awaiting halal certification. (Photo: Burpple)

  • BreadTalk Group, known for its Food Republic chain of foodcourts, has opened this 12,000 sq ft multi-concept eatery.
  • Diners have to wait to be seated, order food via an iPad and pay at the counter. Waiters serve you the food.
  • This upmarket foodcourt seats 420 diners and features stalls from Malaysia and Hong Kong on top of home-grown brands, selling Asian cuisine such as dim sum, char kway teow and bak kut teh.
  • Ah Koong Restaurant: This Johor Baru-based establishment is known for its handmade ikan parang (wolf herring) fish balls and fish cakes. The fish paste is also used for its yong tau foo. Prices start at $7.90 for its signature fishball noodles.
  • Ah Yat Seafood Restaurant: This Hong Kong brand features popular fare such as roast meats, dim sum, congee, noodles and live seafood. Headliners include Ah Yat Noodles with abalone ($18) and Ah Yat Baked Rice with abalone ($18).
  • Balestier Bak Kut Teh: Do not miss the trademark peppery and robust broth with meaty pork ribs from this stall. The premium soup (right) is priced at $9.50 and set meals are available at $10.90.
  • Delhi 6: North-western Indian cuisine here includes multani barrah kebab ($20), which is cinnamon-marinated Australian mutton cutlets; chandi murg tikka ($13), which is chicken in a garlic and cashew nut cream sauce; and paneer ke sholey roll ($11.90), a wrap with vegetables and cubes of Calcutta cottage cheese.
  • Huat Huat BBQ: Complement your meal with a side of chicken wings ($12 for six, $21 for a dozen) from Huat Huat BBQ. They are marinated in Chinese rose wine and come served with an addictive chilli sauce.

    Other items on the menu include kueh pie tee ($6), rojak ($8) and popiah ($3.80).

  • By day, the 12 stalls in this Tuas eating house serve the usual hawker fare to lunch crowds, ranging from herbal soup to chicken rice.
  • By night, the place transforms into a bistro-like zichar restaurant and bar, complete with full service and waiters.
  • The three-month-old eatery is the third Third Place to open in an industrial setting. The first one opened in November last year at eco-business park CleanTech in Jalan Bahar while the second opened at medical manufacturing facility MedTech in Taman Jurong in May.
  • The outlets are owned by Select Group, which is known for its catering business and foodcourts.
  • The group's marketing director, Mr Eugene Lim, 42, says he wants to provide a more sophisticated dining option to workers in industrial areas, who often have to rely on just a canteen.
  • He adds that the eatery is also popular with residents in the neighbourhood, who would often call ahead to place their orders and pick the food up on the way home.
  • While Third Place started with a tapas menu, that has been shelved to focus solely on the zichar offerings due to customer demand.
  • Highlights include its signature salted egg cheese crab (seasonal price), Nonya-style steamed red garoupa (seasonal price), beancurd with honshimeiji mushrooms (from $12) and Five Blessings Platter ($80, good for 10 people), which includes prawn and salted egg wrapped with popiah skin strips; jellyfish with sweet and spicy sauce; and mango prawn roll.
  • From Oct 26 to Nov 7 (after 5pm), diners can pick two flavours for each crab order and receive complimentary mantou. With this promotion, get three Tiger drafts for $12. Packed meals from some of the stalls can also be arranged. Go to the website for the full menu and details on delivery and charges.

Alibabar

Once a humble kopitiam (a local version of a food centre), Alibabar now looks more like a hipster hangout, complete with cement-and-red-brick walls and exposed light bulbs. Tall bar stools and tables spill out onto the sidewalk from the restored heritage shophouse it occupies. Its position overlooking a busy junction on East Coast Road also makes it a great spot to people-watch.

Yong Huat has been around since before the centre's revamp in 2013. Pair a plate of its smoky char kway teow (fried flat rice noodles) or Hokkien mee (noodles fried with prawn and squid) with an ice-cold Trappistes Rochefort craft beer from the bar. Here, you can choose from more than 70 beer and cider labels. They also go well with Burger Bar's foie gras beef burgers.

If you prefer something non-alcoholic, sip soothing teh halia (ginger tea) brewed the traditional way at the kopitiam bar. It is delicious with a bowl of Thai wonton noodles from Rochor Thai.

www.alibabar.com.sg

More eateries transform into bars at night to attract after-work crowd

  • The bar, Copper on Stanley, houses about 120 sake labels such as Amabuki Ringo (apple yeast sake) and Shichi Hon Yari Tamasakae (from $7 a glass).
  • Customers can sample them from a dispensary machine before buying. There are also cocktails ($22), such as a sake-based one with pomegranate and elderflower liqueur. Pair the tipples with small plates such as Asari clams in sake broth and cheeses.
  • Opening in December 2015 is the cafe Crack & Press, serving bistro fare such as braised oxtail sandwiches, prawn tempura Po'boy baguette and Eggs Benedict with ingredients such as nori and shisho. The average bill will be about $15 a person.
  • Where: 3 Stanley Street

    Open: Crack & Press, 7.30am to 3pm on weekdays, closed on weekends; Copper on Stanley, 5pm to midnight, Monday to Saturday, closed on Sunday

  • Mix and match from about 50 items of yong tau fu, including more "creative" offerings such as Shanghainese pork dumplings and deep-fried seaweed.
  • Everything is doused in braised brown mushroom sauce. Prices start from $5+ for six ingredients.
  • From 5pm, dig into about 30 Spanish tapas with Asian ingredients by chef Warren Poh, 30.
  • Highlights include Iberico pork with cucumber salad and sesame ($23++) and grain-fed US beef ($25++), which is grilled in a charcoal oven.
  • Crab risotto.
  • Grain-fed US beef.
  • Key lime pie.
  • Choose from more than 50 tipples including the Young Tau Foo cocktail, a concoction of pressed beancurd and vodka ($18++).
  • Where: 127 Telok Ayer Street

    Open: 10am to 3pm, 5pm to midnight, Monday to Saturday, closed on Sunday

  • The 500-seat space is a foodcourt during lunchtime, serving hawker food such as chicken rice, herbal soup and economy rice.
  • At 5pm, it becomes a full-service zichar restaurant, with an extensive menu boasting creative flavours.
  • Popular dishes by chef James Tan include crabs fried with salted egg and cheese sauce (seasonal pricing), stir-fried prawn balls in zesty orange sauce and macadamia nuts (from $18) and beancurd with honshimeji mushrooms ($12).
  • Chilli crab.
  • Beancurd with honshimeji mushrooms.
  • The bar opens for lunch and dinner, offering seven types of beer (from $5 for 330ml of Tiger Draft beer).
  • Where: 18 Tuas Avenue 7

    Open: 6am to 8pm, Monday to Saturday, closed on Sunday

Pasarbella

Inspired by farmers' markets in the West, Pasarbella @ The Grandstand has the atmosphere of a bazaar. Here, wide aisles filled with homemade artisanal jams, sambal (chilli paste) and wine from small local and international labels are punctuated by eye-catching graffiti art. With its crates piled with fresh produce, the indoor market is a favourite weekend spot for families.

One of its most popular vendors, The Cheese Ark, stocks a well-curated selection of cheeses from producers around the world. This includes rare slabs like the Monte Veronese di Malga, which is made from the milk of cows that graze on the mountains of Italy. If you can't decide on the perfect wheel, savour a cheese platter over a glass of red from one of the other vendors in the market.

But Pasarbella is more than a bazaar. True to the food centres scattered around Singapore, there's a whole section with various food stalls. Don't miss the juicy roast pork from Keith Crackling Roast; it's served with homemade apple sauce and mustard. For dessert, dig into an avocado torte or pomegranate cake from Russian-style bakery Laman's Delight.


This article was first published in Singapore Airlines’ travel magazine, SilverKris. Go to silverkris.com for more travel stories.