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A note about local makan placesWherever you are in Singapore, there is a food centre, a coffeeshop, a tuck shop, a canteen or an eating place of other sort near you. These are places where locals eat and where you'll find the most delicious and inexpensive food. There are around 20,000 food establishments at last count, most of them belonging to the above categories.
At a hawker centre.
My family and I at the World Trade Centre
bus interchange food centre ... the
background shows a Muslim(Halal) food
stall with arabic writing on its signboard.
An open air food centre is hard to come
Opening hours: mostly from early morning
Food Centre/Hawker Centre
A so called "food center" or a "hawker center", is a collection of at least 20 food stalls at the same location, serving a variety of dishes from drinks, rice to desserts, from vegetarian to halal. It is a very casual place to eat. Previously open air, they are now mostly housed together with neightbourhood wet markets. Noisy, often uncomfortably hot and messy, it is the quality of food that is drawing the local crowd!
If you're a first time visitor, Newton Food Centre right next to Newton MRT station is a great place to start exploring. Opens till well after midnight, this open air place is packed with tourists so occasional over charging do occur(many of the hawkers do accept credit cards, and they speak Japanese too ... a bad sign!), but with the authority imposing strict panelty on offenders, I believe the practice is under control. But still, do check the price before ordering just to be sure.
If you're looking for somthing more authentic, try Chinatown Complex Food Centre alongside Smith Street. Take a look at the wet market while you're there. Zhu Jiao Food Centre(and Market) in little India along Serangoon Road is another very interesting place to check out for intersting food and Asian spices and produce.
A food court
air conditioned, comfortable, trendy and also
more expensive ... it lacks the charm of the
tropics the adventurous tourist is looking for.
Opening hours: from around 10am to 9:30pm.
A food court is a million-dollar, air-conditioned, cleaner-on-duty, at-least-twice-the-hawker-center-price version. Traditionally you find only local food, but nowadays you're likely to encounter dishes ranging from Japanese to Mexican. Many stalls are franchised operations, a worrying trend resulting in the compromise of quality and authenticity.
A food court is a major draw for shoppers and there is one in every(well, nearly!) shopping centre. So I'm sure you'll walk into one sooner or later.
A traditional coffeeshop
Coffeeshop like this is hard to find these days.
you might come across one in some of the
Opening hours: early morning till late in the
Days of manually roasted coffee beans are gone but the Javanese coffee still tastes great. A coffeeshop is a great neighbourhood place to read your morning papers, fill your stomach and exchange gossips. It serves the early morning crowd as well as satisfying your taste buds late in the evening.
Canteen and such
Apart from food centers, there are numerous canteens which are much smaller in scale but nevertheless great places to eat. Whether you're visiting a factory, an office, a hospital or a school, the canteen is where you should never miss!
If you had a chance(strangers may not be allowed without permission, be neat and courteous helps!), just walk into any school you may come across and head straight to the canteen, you'll be surprised at the variety of food served. Apart from the usual rice and noodle stalls, there is usually a muslim Halal food stall and sometimes an Indian food stall, and if you're lucky, even a dessert stall! Our school kids are probably the most privileged in the World! But don't expect to find Colas and candies, for they are banned for obvious reason. (You see ... a big percentage of school kids is overweight these days! Blame it on burgers if you like.)
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