A Trip to the Market Street Hawker Center in Singapore

It’s noon, we are starving and we have 45 minutes before we need to be back for an appointment. We noticed a sign for the Market Street Food Center (at the junction of Market Street and Malacca Street). We walk up the stairs, through the car park to a door that says food court. Once through the door, we suddenly experience a wave of smells and warmth and people. There are tons of table and food stalls. Some stalls have long lines. Some stalls have even longer lines. We have arrived.

But First an introduction to Hawker Center Etiquette.

In Hawker Centers, there are tables for eating either in the middle of the stalls or around the stalls. It is open seating and they fill up fast. One of the first things you do when you arrive is to find a seat. This can look easy. It’s not. When you look around, you’ll see what looks like an empty table BUT there will be tissue packets or business cards on the table. That means those seats are taken. This is called CHOPE. If there are seats left, you are welcome to put your own tissue packet down to reserve your seat. Oh, and, there are no napkins. That’s why everyone brings tissues–to CHOPE and to use.

City Center Hawker Center

City Center is located downtown and is very crowded during lunch time. It serves office workers and executives. Our first task was to find a seat for three people–no easy matter. We were finally successful and then turned to deciding what to eat among the dozens of stalls. One trick of the trade–if you have time–find the stall with the longest queue. That is the most popular stall of the moment and is likely to yield a delightful experience. In this case the Curry Rice Stall had the longest line. We were in a hurry, so were not able to sample that dish. Curry Rice is very popular right now and we saw the longest queues for those stalls at a number of hawker centers.

We ordered from the Tiong Bahru Roaster Pig Specialist. We had four dishes: roasted duck with noodles, roast pork with rice, roast pork wonton noodles and a side order of Chinese broccoli. All for $13.50. Did I forget to tell you that the food in hawker centers is cheap? Each of the dishes came with soup. And, there are fruit and drink stalls that sell sugar cane and fresh squeezed fruit juices to go with your meal. The food was tasty–the duck was well cooked, though covered in a brown, oyster sauce which was okay. The roast pork was just the right amount if sweetness and “chardness.” The veggieswas drowned in sauce which was a little salty. Even with that, it was a satisfying meal and we were on our way in time for our next stop.

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