In 2016, Chinatown Complex was put on the global map when one of its cooked food stalls, Liao Fan Hong Kong Soya Sauce Chicken Rice & Noodle, now known as Hawker Chan, was awarded a MICHELIN star in the inaugural MICHELIN Guide Singapore. But this famous hawker stall is just one of more than 200 food stalls beloved by Singaporeans of all walks of life housed within the multi-storeyed complex. Built in 1983 and renovated in 2019, this is the biggest hawker centre in Singapore, with over 700 stalls selling everything from fresh produce in the market, clothes and sundry goods on the first floor, to rows upon rows of cooked food hawkers on the second floor.
Here’s our guide to navigating the labyrinth of food at Chinatown Complex.
While these days you could get a taste of Hawker Chan’s famous soy sauce chicken noodles at any of his new air-conditioned outlets around the island (or even overseas in Taiwan, Thailand, Australia and even as far as Almaty in Kazakhstan), there’s no experience quite like going to the original stall in Chinatown Complex where the diminutive hawker first hit global headlines by becoming the world’s first MICHELIN-starred street food stall. Here, those willing to brave the queue can tuck into a plate of soya sauce chicken rice for just $2.80 or the soya sauce chicken noodles for $3.30.
Established in 1979, this humble stall is now helmed by second-generation owners who still maintain the strict tradition of cooking each pot of rice from scratch over charcoal fire. The claypot rice comes studded with fragrant ingredients like duck liver sausages, lup cheong, waxed meat, chunks of chicken and salted fish. Remember to scrape right to the bottom of the pot for the crispy charred bits of rice. Service here is brisk and the wait can stretch any time from 20 to 45 minutes. But with prices starting at $5 for a small pot to $20 for a large, they're on the lower end of the market rate.
Founded in the 1940s, there are now several other outlets of this famous popiah stall in Singapore but it’s worth a visit to the flagship in Chinatown Complex Food Centre where the generously stuffed rolls are made fresh every day—including the delicate, paper thin skin which requires some deft skills on a hot plate to make. Each wrap ($1.60) is filled with ingredients including sweet, savoury shredded mang kuang (turnip), eggs, shrimp, carrot and peanuts bound together with sweet sauce and chilli sauce.
168 CMY Satay is known for its cook-to-order satay and serves three types of meat — chicken, mutton and pork. In a unique take on the usual accompaniment, pineapple pulp is used in the sauce, adding another dimension of bright sweetness. The meat-to-fat ratio of the satay at this stall is slightly higher, so it is not too fatty and you can really taste the flavour of the meat without greasiness from the fat.
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Tucked away on the corner of the second floor, Fatty Ox is pleasantly away from the bustle of the main market. The hawker stall is most well-known for its beef brisket noodles ($4) and our inspectors enjoyed the authentic Hong Kong-style Cantonese noodles here ($3-$5), topped with pork trotter or barbecued meats like roast duck or chicken, as well as char siew.