Ready to take on the largest hawker centre in Singapore? Chinatown Complex Food Centre is a spectacular showcase that will test all your senses! With hundreds of stalls serving up authentic cuisine from around Southeast Asia, you’ll have no problem finding something to eat. Just prepare for a truly local experience at the busiest Chinatown Hawker Centre!
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How to Get to Chinatown Complex Food Centre
Like many of the most popular things to do in Singapore, Chinatown Complex is easy to get to. The city is very walkable so we usually find our way here on foot. However, you can also take the subway to the Chinatown MRT Station.
Singapore is known for its high-speed train system so nowhere is really far away. From the MRT stop, it’s just a 5-minute walk up New Bridge Rd. Be sure to check out the article below on Chinatown before your first visit!
→ Is Chinatown in Singapore Worth Visiting? 7 Things to Know First
History of the Chinatown Hawker Centre
The story behind the Chinatown Complex Food Centre is integral to the city’s identity and Hawker culture as a whole. The early 1980’s the government decided to address the issue of thousands of street hawker stands around the city. Putting them in a central place would allow for more sanitary conditions and modern regulations.
So with that, the Chinatown Complex was born! In 1983, it first opened and paved the way for more of its kind. Not only did this put the food stalls into a more convenient area, but it allowed the government to clean up the neighborhood.
Don’t worry though! Just because the Chinatown Hawker Centre was established doesn’t mean the food lost its authenticity. If anything, 40 years later, it just makes it easier to access all these amazing meals! You can check out more of our favorite Hawker Centres around Singapore in the post below.
→ 8 Delicious Hawker Centres in Singapore You Absolutely Can’t Miss
The 3 Floors of Chinatown Complex
There are 3 main floors of the Chinatown Food Centre Complex. Yet, only one of them is part of the actual food court! When you first arrive it might be confusing depending on the time of day you are visiting and what door your enter from.
If you are early and looking for breakfast then don’t be surprised to see many of the shops on the second floor shut down and gated. It honestly can look like the building is empty if you get twisted around at an off time. However, you just have to understand the different floors of the massive building.
Basement of the Chinatown Hawker Centre
The bottom floor is actually a large wet market where locals do their shopping. Here you’ll see fruits, vegetables, spices, meat, and fresh fish. It can be fun to walk through and take in the sights and smells, but it’s not a must-see on your visit to this Hawker Centre in Chinatown.
If you have been traveling through Southeast Asia for a while then you’ve probably already experienced a wet market or two. However, if it’s your first time then it will be fun to explore!
Chinatown Complex Ground Floor
Ok, we’re almost to the delicious street food you’re craving! When you first walk in the front entrance of the Chinatown Complex you’ll be in the shopping area. This is a place to get trinkets and souvenirs, or even fun clothing to take home with you.
There are also ATM’s on the ground floor which is key to note! The majority of the food stalls we are going to tell you about next only take cash. So be sure to make a stop here before heading upstairs.
Second Floor of the Chinatown Food Complex
We made it! All the action of Chinatown Complex Food Centre takes place on the second floor. As soon as the escalator reaches the food court you’ll be astonished by all the options. Over 260 stalls are at your fingertips, with culinary specialties from your wildest dreams.
It can be overwhelming at first with so many things to eat, and hundreds of locals bustling around you. We recommend taking your time to first walk through the Chinatown Hawker Centre and not pop on the first stall you see.
Exploring the Chinatown Complex Food Centre
Unlike other Hawker Centres in Singapore which are lined up in a grid, the Chinatown Complex is it’s own mini-maze. There are rows of different food stalls stretching out over the entire floor to discover. Honestly, once we thought we had seen all the stalls we would turn a corner and find a completely different section!
Try not to be completely overwhelmed by all the options. There is literally something for everyone at the Chinatown Food Complex. One thing we recommend is to look at the tables instead of the stands.
While the signs and menus can be hard to decipher (and even in different languages), you can see clearly what people are eating! For instance, we saw these women enjoying amazing chili fried dumplings then found the corresponding stall behind them.
If you’re traveling with a group it’s quite easy to get lost in the massive Chinatown Complex Food Centre. You may want to grab your table first so everyone knows where to meet back up.
Also, make sure to clean up after yourself and return your trays to proper area. Singapore has plenty of fines and penalties in place to keep the city clean!
What to Eat at the Chinatown Complex
As we mentioned, the options are endless at the Chinatown Food Complex. Every time we go here we find something new and exciting! Singapore itself is a melting pot of cultures, and that truly comes out at the Hawker Centres.
Due to its location, you will see plenty of Chinese food inside this popular building. However, in true Singaporean fashion, there is Indian, Malaysian, Indonesian, Korean, and even Japanese cuisine all around you!
Be sure to take advantage of the chili sauce, fish paste, and other toppings which are outside the stalls. Below are some signature dishes to taste at the Chinatown Hawker Centre and must-try food stalls.
- Steamed Fish Head Soup
- Claypot Rice
- Duck Noodle & Rice
- Char Kway Teow
- Gula Melaka
- Char Siew
- Chee Cheong Fun Rice Rolls
- Yong Tau Foo
- Chwee Kueh
Popular Chinatown Hawker Centre Stands
- Xiu Ji Ikan Bilis Yong Tau Fu
- Fatty Ox Hk Kitchen
- Lian He Ben Ji Claypot Rice
- Liao Fan Hong Kong Soya Sauce Chicken & Rice
- Terry Katong Laksa
- Shi Xiang Satay
- Aziz Jaffar Muslim Food
Liao Fan Hawker Chan
You can’t talk about the biggest hawker centre in Singapore without mentioning its most famous hawker stall! Liao Fan Hawker Chan has been serving up its chicken and rice recipe since 2009, and was the first hawker stall to be awarded the Michelin Star.
If you visit the Chinatown Complex during the afternoon for this delicious roast meat then expect long queues. Our favorite move is to grab fresh juice at one of the nearby hawker stalls to sip on while we wait in line.
With its success at Chinatown Complex Food Centre, the Michelin-starred chef has now opened more than 30 restaurants world wide! Yet, you can still experience the original stall at Singapore’s Chinatown Hawker Centre.
→ Liao Fan Hawker Chan: How to Eat at the Original Singapore Stall
Why Chinatown Complex is a Must-Visit
While there are dozens of amazing Hawker Centres all around Singapore, there’s something about the Chinatown Complex Food Centre that keeps us coming back.
Lau Pa Sat is a great place to stop into if you’re passing through the financial district or up for some late night satay. Yet, you won’t get the same fun and chaotic experience you do at Chinatown Complex!
There’s nothing that compares to this place in the city, and all the exotic street food will absolutely blow your mind. You can also try another amazing Hawker Centre in Chinatown at the nearby Maxwell Food Centre.
Have any questions about this article or want to share memories from your own trip to the Chinatown Complex? Let us know in the comments below.
Brigitte & Jake
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Where to Stay Around the Singapore Hawker Centres
Luxury – Marina Bay Sands – We stayed at the Marina Bay Sands for Jake’s 30th birthday and it blew away our expectations. Aside from the luxury amenities, swimming in the rooftop infinity pool will be the highlight of your visit!
Iconic – Raffles Hotel – As one of the most historic hotels Southeast Asia, staying at the Raffles Hotel will be an experience like no other. Enjoy a Singapore Sling and take in the amazing architecture of this landmark built in 1887.
Fun Vacation – Parkroyal on Pickering– It doesn’t get much more green and lush then Parkroyal on Pickering! This fun vacation spot is literally one of the greenest hotels in the world. Plant life covers the entire property to make for a unique stay in Singapore.
Boutique – KēSa House – Located in Chinatown, this fantastic hotel was built in 1920’s. Enjoy the incredible setting in the heart of the city in a traditional building on Keong Saik Road.
Hostel – Hipstercity hostel – Fun hostel in downtown Singapore with both private and dorm rooms. Great place to meet other travelers to explore the city with.
Singapore Travel Planning
Flights: We always find deals using Skyscanner and Kayak. That’s how we got flights from Athens to Singapore for $230 USD, and Singapore to Thailand for less than $50!
Accommodation: Compare competitive sites for hotels such as Booking.com and Agoda. Also, Hostelworld should be your go-to source if you’re traveling on a budget.
Tours: Check out Get Your Guide for activities all over Singapore. You can book everything from a Singapore Highlights Bike Tour to a Gardens by the Bay E-Ticket, and even a private food tour with 10 tastings!
Travel Insurance: Never travel abroad without being covered. We’ve been using SafetyWing for the last few years on the road and they are there when we need them.
Packing Lists: Here’s all the inspiration you need with our Amazon packing lists! Including electronics and camera gear, must-have medical items, and long flight essentials!
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