Anthony Bourdain loves Singaporean food so much that he’s bringing the concept to New York.
“I see Singapore’s hawker centers as a more delicious, more healthful — yet still fast — alternative to major chain fast food,” Bourdain tells The Post.
Indeed, his hotly anticipated Pier 57 food hall promises to service up authentic street vendor fare direct from the island nation — including Hainanese chicken rice, Kuching laksa, and char kway teow — in 2019.
Why wait, though? If you’re willing to make the trip, Singapore’s own drool-worthy and insanely cheap hawker centers and food courts ($1-$4 for most dishes) are slinging an even more diverse, exciting array of fare. Their offerings are both traditional and newfangled, as the old guard retires and a wave of millennial and Gen Z hawkers (and even some older vendors who sought a career change) set up shop.
To boot, 2016’s inaugural Singapore Michelin Guide awarded two older-generation hawker stalls — Hong Kong Soya Sauce Chicken Rice & Noodle and Street Tai Hwa Pork Noodle — with one-star ratings, and 17 more with Bib Gourmands, making them the world’s most affordable Michelin eateries.
Here are eight amazing “next generation” stalls and their must-try offerings, from Singapore’s best fishballs and noodles to craft beer and French fare.
Frustrated that his Hakka grandmother makes her delectable yellowtail fishballs only twice a year, Douglas Ng, 25, learned the heirloom recipe. (The secret? No flour filler.) Crafting hundreds by hand every morning at 4 a.m., the young Bib Gourmand winner opened a location at Timbre+, a shipping container gastropark straight out of Brooklyn, in May. Order the perfectly al dente “dry” noodles with fishballs, chili-scallion fish cakes and spicy sambal paste.
Timbre+ and Essen Pinnacle Food Court
No surprise that Singaporean and Western cuisine meet Smorgasburg décor in trendy Timbre+ — and chef Jeremy Loh’s chicken wing spot is exemplary for its salted egg iteration, coated with yolk sauce, curry leaves and bird’s eye chili. Order the chili crab wings, which pair amalgamating zingy, spicy-sweet sauciness with perfectly crispy-moist fried chicken.
Trailblazers Gwern Khoo and Ben Tham helped turn Amoy Centre into one of Singapore’s most exciting hawker complexes. Four Bib Gourmand awardees are currently in residence, including the pair’s three-year-old success, A Noodle Story. Their “Singapore-style ramen” is slurpable Asian fusion in a bowl — springy noodles, sous-vide char-siu pork, Hong Kong-style wontons, runny onsen egg and prawns cocooned in julienned, fried potato. Order the ramen, which has won over even old-school customers. “I come here on Saturdays,” shares one 72-year-old regular. “The egg is so soft inside, also the crispy prawn is very special. It’s like wonton noodles, but with something new.”
Chinatown Complex Food Centre #02-075 and Newton Circus #01-71
Retiree-turned-microbrewer Patrick Lim opened his first hawker stall in 2014, serving up seven varieties of draught beer and cider. Australian apples are used for cider and German hops for pilsner; the refreshing wheat beer snagged a 2016 Asian Beer Medal. Order the rich, caramel malty dunkel, and a glass of sweet cider, akin to a chilled, liquid baked apple.
Amoy Street Food Centre #02-78
Kopi and teh (coffee and tea) stalls are a dime a dozen here. Yet third-generation, 32-year-old hawker Jack Sai — formerly a news writer at CNBC Asia — puts a modern spin on his family’s 80-year-old business. Sai, with siblings Faye and Anna, serves up rich lattes made with evaporated milk, traditional sock-brewed beans (sourced from Indonesia and East Africa; dad helps with grinding), and unique flavors like black sesame, blueberry mocha and sea salt mint. Two new locations are in the works, including at downtown’s Raffles Place. Order Sai’s deliciously unorthodox versions of Singapore’s iconic coffee accompaniment, pressed kaya toast. Flavors have included key lime crème, matcha coconut and taro.
Essen Pinnacle Food Court
Having first met while working at the Michelin two-starred fine-dining venue Andre, chefs Immanuel Tee and Enoch Teo teamed up in 2015 to bring casual modern French cuisine to the hawker landscape (more specifically, a refreshingly air-conditioned food court).
Crispy pork belly pasta, black miso foie gras and creamy chicken baked rice rank among artery-clogging highlights. Three additional locations have sprung up recently, including at Timbre+.
Order the succulent, tender, 12-hour pork belly with balsamic reduction, which at $13 is pricey by hawker standards but still a total steal.
One Kueh at a Time
Berseh Food Center #02-61
In 2015, at age 48, Nick Soon quit a career in life insurance to peddle handmade teochew kueh.
Pronounced “kway,” these steamed, rice flour-skinned dumplings come in four varieties into which Soon and his still spunky 84-year-old mom put much love, care and scrumptious fillings.
Order the translucent-skinned, slightly smoky chive-and-egg koo chye kueh.
Old Airport Road Food Centre #01-122
Feeling that duck and chicken ruled Singapore’s roasted meat stalls, twentysomethings Kai Koh and Randall Gan decided some pork was in order.
They studied, apprenticed and mastered making succulent Kuala Lumpur-style, fire-roasted char siu fashioned from belly and flank cuts.
Although opened in August 2015, the stall’s sign reads “since 1970” — the founding year of their original recipe.
Order the addictive, honeyed char siu, with its caramelized, charred, red-toned exterior.
WHERE TO STAY
The 634-room JW Marriott Hotel Singapore South Beach, which opened last month, boasts edgy Philippe Starck design, stunning views, an incredible pool and mixologist libations at Court Martial Bar (from $360/night). The year-old, 42-room boutique Hotel Vagabond, walking distance from Little India, features Jacques Garcia’s “Parisian chic” interiors, an eye-popping contemporary art collection, free city car service and themed walking maps (from $165/night).