6 Things I Wish I Knew at a Hawker Center
During the short period of time I’ve spent in Singapore, I’ve learned a lot about Singapore’s iconic hawker centers. By no means am I calling myself an expert, but I think I’ve upgraded from being a newbie. I know enough just to get by. The layout of each center is fairly straight forward each food center is different and may contain a few to a lot of stalls with about 2-4 beverage stalls. I wanted to list 6 things I wish I knew before stepping foot inside a food center.
1. Always Carry a Pack of Tissues
Unlike eateries and restaurants in North America / Europe where they provide paper napkins when needed, these places do not. There maybe a person walking around selling tissue packets but its best to just pop in a 7-11 or any hyper market and pickup a pack for a decent price. I got a pack of 12 for only $1.50 SGD. Super cheap! This mighty item not only will help you dry off the sweat from your forehead but it can claim a spot for seating and hold down the fort. Locals know that if you leave a pack of tissues (unused – the cleaners will throw it out if its used looking) it means that someone is sitting there. Weird but a really interesting fact.
2. Do Follow the Crowd
3. Don’t Follow the Crowd
Lineups are always a good indication for good food but a big turn-off for me is an lineup filled with tourists holding up guidebooks and cameras (like me, without the books haha) Like what I’ve mentioned above, Singaporeans will queue up for something worthwhile but there are other places that would be equally as tasty for shorter amount of time.
4. Touting is Not Always Effective
Most food centers don’t allow touting (surprise, surprise!) It took me a while to understand what this meant when I saw the “fine” print – ok, that’s my only pun for this post. But there are food centers and eateries that do allow it. When they do, it just seems like they’re really trying to get some business. If the food is good, there will be a crowd and it will speak louder than they can tout.
5. During busy times, Someone Will Take Drink Orders
Yes, there are drink-maids (for lack of a better term) from the beverage stalls that go around the center taking any orders for drinks. It really beats holding a warped tray full of chicken rice and a bowl of hot soup broth with a drink and navigating your way through the crowd, back to your table reserved by your good ol’ tissue pack.
6. Leave your Plate of Food, It Will Be Left Alone
Yes. Fact. Singaporeans tend to leave things alone (as per tissue pack) since there are a lot of patrons eating alone and they need to be able to get other things like drinks without having to carry around their stuff
Hawker centers are super awesome and worth a visit: they’re good, cheap and something definitely you need to do if you want a local experience during your time in Singapore.