Hawker centre

A hawker centre or cooked food centre are a variety of food courts originating from Singapore.[1][2][3][4] Housing many stalls that sell a variety of local and other Asian cuisines, they are typically found throughout the city-state, located near public housing estates or transport hubs (such as bus interchanges or train stations).

Hawker culture in Singapore
Hawker Center, Singapore.jpg
Hawker centre in Singapore
  • Social practices, rituals and festive events
  • Traditional craftsmanship
RegionAsia and the Pacific
Inscription history
Inscription2020 (15th session)
Unesco Cultural Heritage logo.svg
Hawker centre
Chinese name
Malay name
MalayPusat makanan yang dimasak
Tamil name
Tamilஹாக்கர் மையங்கள்
A hawker centre in the eastern region of Singapore

Hawker centres were set up by the Singapore government as a more sanitary option to street-side outdoor alfresco hawker dining places.[1] Instead of mobile food carts, permanent stalls in open air buildings are provided for the hawkers with either commonly shared or stall dedicated tables and chairs provided for patrons. This phenomenon is also helped by hawker licensing laws, and totally eliminated street hawkers in Singapore.


Hawker centres sprang up in urban areas following the rapid urbanisation in the 1950s and 1960s. In many cases, they were built partly to address the problem of unhygienic food preparation by unlicensed street hawkers.[5] More recently, they have become less ubiquitous due to growing affluence in the urban populations of Singapore. Such places were increasingly being replaced by food courts, which are indoor, air conditioned versions of hawker centres located in shopping malls and other commercial venues.

In the 1950s and 1960s, hawker centres were considered to be a venue for the less affluent. They had a reputation for unhygienic food, partly due to the frequent appearance of stray domestic pets and pests. Many hawker centres were poorly managed by their operators, often lacking running water and proper facilities for cleaning. Pressure from the government led to a vast improvement in hygiene standards. This includes the implementation of licensing requirements, where a sufficient standard of hygiene is required for the stall to operate, and rewarding exceptionally good hygiene.[6][7] A score of 85% or higher results in an A, and the lowest grade is a D, which ranges from 40 to 49% passing standards. These grades are required to be displayed on hawker stands. Upgrading or reconstruction of hawker centres was initiated in the late 1980s to early 1990s in Singapore.

In 1987, a point demerit system was introduced to account for stand's food and personal handing hygiene. Six demerit points yield a fine of S$550. Individual fines will be solicited for larger violations such as putting unclean materials in contact with the food. Failure to display an issued licence will result in a S$300 fine.[7]

The hawker centres in Singapore are owned by three government bodies, namely the National Environment Agency (NEA) under the parent Ministry of Sustainability and the Environment (MSE), Housing and Development Board (HDB) and JTC Corporation. All the centres owned by HDB and NEA, in turn, are regulated by NEA with the individual Town Councils managing the HDB owned centres. JTC owned centres are self-managed.[7] This allows the government to directly intervene when necessary.

Hawker centres include

In 2011, Singapore announced plans to develop 10 hawker centers, which equates to 600 stalls in the next decade. This will stabilise food prices and reduce rent of hawker stands over time.[7]

As of 2016, two Singaporean food stalls, both located in hawker centres, became the first street food vendors to be awarded a Michelin Star for excellence in eating. The two stalls are Hong Kong Soya Sauce Chicken Rice and Noodle and Hill Street Tai Hwa Pork Noodle.[8][9] As of 2019, More than 40 hawker stalls were awarded Michelin Star and Bib Gourmand in Singapore.

Due to gentrification, more hawker centres are getting a face lift to reach out to younger Singaporeans. These new, modern hawker centres are not only decked up in stylish furnishings, they also sell food commonly found in restaurants and cafes such as ramen and poke bowls.[10]

UNESCO Intangible Cultural HeritageEdit

In 2019, Singapore submitted its nomination to inscribe its hawker culture on the UNESCO Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.[11] Inscription was announced on 16 December 2020, when UNESCO described Singapore's hawker centre as "‘community dining rooms’ where people from diverse backgrounds gather and share the experience of dining over breakfast, lunch and dinner."[12] Subsequently, it was confirmed that all stalls located within hawker centers throughout the country will also receive a "UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage label" that they could place on their stall fronts.[13]

Hawkers' Development ProgrammeEdit

On 20 January 2020, the Singapore government via the NEA and the SkillsFuture Initiative set up the Hawkers' Development Programme (HDP) to equip aspiring and existing hawkers with the relevant skills and competencies to run their hawker businesses. The programme will provide training, where participants are educated on basic food safety and hygiene, culinary skills, as well as business management skills.[14][15]

They will also learn how to leverage social media and food delivery apps to further their customer outreach, one training aspect that existing hawkers can also tap to upgrade their business.[15]

COVID-19 pandemicEdit

On 26 March 2020, in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Singapore government released a second stimulus package. As part of the package, those who were eligible would be granted rental waivers of three months, with a minimum of S$500 per month.[16] On 3 April, the government announced that people could not eat at the hawker centres (or any other F&B outlets) as part of the "Circuit Breaker" in order to help reduce the community spread of the virus.[17] This policy was lifted on 1 June after cases had significantly decreased in the country.

Similar conceptsEdit

Hong KongEdit

Bowrington Food Centre, a famous hawker centre in Hong Kong's Wan Chai district

In Hong Kong, most cooked food centres are either located in market complexes of residential districts, or as a standalone structure (this being the case in most industrial areas), with only a few exceptions (e.g. Mong Kok Cooked Food Market is located in the lower levels of Cordis Hong Kong). Cooked food centres are managed by Food and Environmental Hygiene Department.

Most of the stalls from hawker centres are converted from former dai pai dong by strict regulations and management; the Hong Kong Government regards the provision of cooked food centres as a way to eliminate traditional dai pai dongs from local streets in the 1970s. During the industrial boom in the 1960s and 1970s, the government also built cooked food markets in industrial areas to serve the catering needs of the working class in major industrial centres such as Kwun Tong, Tsuen Wan and Fo Tan.

Stalls in cooked food centres usually provide local cuisine, with those selling exotic delicacies a minority.

Notable hawker centresEdit

The following lists some notable hawker centres influenced by or are located in Singapore:[citation needed]


Hong KongEdit

  • Bowrington Road Market
  • Chai Wan Kok Cooked Food Market
  • Cheung Chau Cooked Food Market
  • Cheung Sha Wan Cooked Food Market
  • Cheung Tat Road Cooked Food Market
  • Fo Tan Cooked Food Market (East & West)
  • Hung Cheung Cooked Food Market
  • Ka Ting Cooked Food Market
  • Kik Yeung Road Cooked Food Market
  • Kin Wing Cooked Food Market
  • Kin Yip Street Cooked Food Market
  • Kut Shing Street Cooked Food Market
  • Kwai San Street Cooked Food Market
  • Kwun Tong Ferry Concourse Cooked Food Market
  • Lockhart Road Market
  • Mong Kok Cooked Food Market
  • Mui Woo Cooked Food Market
  • Nam Long Shan Road Cooked Food Market
  • Queen Street Cooked Food Market
  • Sze Shan Street Cooked Food Market
  • Tai Tong Road Cooked Food Market
  • Tai Yuen Street Cooked Food Market
  • Tsing Yeung Cooked Food Market
  • Tsun Yip Cooked Food Market
  • Tung Yuen Street Cooked Food Market
  • Wo Yi Hop Road Cooked Food Market


  • ABC Brickworks Market and Food Centre
  • Adam Road Food Centre
  • Alexandra Road Hawker Centre
  • Amoy Street Food Centre
  • Ang Mo Kio Market and Food Centre[18]
  • Bedok Central
  • Boon Lay Place Food Village
  • Bukit Timah Market and Food Centre
  • Changi Village Food Centre
  • Chinatown Complex
  • Chomp Chomp Food Centre
  • Circuit Road Food Centre
  • Clementi Market and Food Centre
  • East Coast Park Lagoon Food Village
  • Eunos Crescent Market and Food Centre
  • Fengshan Market and Food Centre
  • Geylang Serai Market and Food Centre
  • Ghim Moh Market and Food Centre
  • Glutton's Bay
  • Golden Mile Food Centre
  • Golden Shoe Hawker Centre
  • Hong Lim Complex
  • Kovan Hougang Market Food Centre
  • Lau Pa Sat
  • Lavender Food Square
  • Maxwell Food Centre
  • Marine Parade Food Centre
  • Mei Ling Market and Food Centre
  • Newton Food Centre
  • Old Airport Road Food Centre
  • Queenstown Food Centre
  • Redhill Food Centre
  • People's Park Food Centre
  • Pek Kio Market and Food Centre
  • Serangoon Garden Market and Food Centre
  • Seah Im Food Centre
  • Sembawang Hill Food Centre
  • Shunfu Mart
  • Tampines Round Market
  • Taman Jurong Market and Food Centre
  • Teban Gardens Market and Food Centre
  • Tekka Centre
  • Tiong Bahru Market and Food Centre
  • West Coast Market and Food Centre
  • Whampoa Food Centre
  • Yuhua Village Market and Food Centre

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ a b "All Singapore under one roof". nationalgeographic.com. National Geographic. 2020. Retrieved 17 December 2020. A second home to many, Singapore’s hawker centers are a melting pot of cuisines where a number of subcultures have formed.
  2. ^ "Hawker Culture in Singapore". oursgheritage.gov.sg. Our SG Heritage. 2 November 2018. Retrieved 17 December 2020. Hawker centres are like Singapore in a nutshell! I love how I always have so many different types of food to choose from, and can eat comfortably in a no-frills environment. It feels just like home.
  3. ^ Kwok, John (3 April 2019). "How Singapore's hawker culture started". Today. Singapore. Retrieved 17 December 2020.
  4. ^ Eric Cheung (1 September 2020). "How Singapore's vibrant hawker culture – a 'foodie's delight' – unifies its multiracial society". scmp.com. South China Morning Post. Retrieved 17 December 2020. Hawker culture has long been an important part of Singaporean life. Singapore’s National Heritage Board says its origins can be traced back to the mid-1800s, when many new settlers sold affordable meals as a way to earn a living.
  5. ^ Tam, Andrew (1 February 2017). "Singapore Hawker Centers: Origins, Identity, Authenticity, and Distinction". Gastronomica: The Journal of Critical Food Studies. 17 (1): 44–55. doi:10.1525/gfc.2017.17.1.44. ISSN 1529-3262.
  6. ^ Trinidad, Elson (30 August 2013). "The Singapore Solution to L.A.'s Illegal Street Food Vending Problem". KCET. Retrieved 15 July 2019.
  7. ^ a b c d "Hawker Policy in Singapore" (PDF). Legislative Council Secretariat: 1–10.
  8. ^ "Singapore street food stalls get Michelin star". Archived from the original on 22 September 2016. Retrieved 14 September 2016.
  9. ^ "Singapore gets the world's first Michelin star for a food stall". The World from PRX. Retrieved 20 March 2021.
  10. ^ Liu, Kaiying (26 January 2018). "10 Hipster Hawker Centres And Kopitiams With Modern Decor And IG-Worthy Food – EatBook.sg". Archived from the original on 30 January 2018. Retrieved 30 January 2018.
  11. ^ "Singapore submits Unesco bid to recognise hawker culture". The Straits Times. 29 March 2019. Retrieved 22 April 2019.
  12. ^ "Nomination file No. 01568 — Hawker culture in Singapore, community dining and culinary practices in a multicultural urban context". UNESCO. Retrieved 17 December 2020.
  13. ^ "Hawker stalls islandwide to get Unesco intangible cultural heritage label". The Straits Times. 17 December 2020. Retrieved 23 December 2020.
  14. ^ Navene Elangovan (20 January 2020). "New programme to attract aspiring hawkers aims to plug gaps of previous initiatives". Today Online. Retrieved 25 November 2020.
  15. ^ a b "Hawkers' Development Programme". National Environment Agency of Singapore. 20 January 2020. Retrieved 25 November 2020.
  16. ^ hermesauto (26 March 2020). "Three-month rental waiver for hawkers and market stallholders amid Covid-19 pandemic". The Straits Times. Retrieved 27 March 2020.
  17. ^ hermesauto (3 April 2020). "Coronavirus: No more dining in at hawker centres, coffee shops, restaurants and other F&B outlets, says MTI". The Straits Times. Retrieved 3 April 2020.
  18. ^ "Hawker Centre Archives". foodgem.sg. Archived from the original on 7 October 2016. Retrieved 2 October 2016.