When planning to travel to Singapore I would bet that discovering its scrumptious food is high on your bucket list. And there’s hardly a better place to start navigating this food-crazed city’s yummiest dishes than at the Chinatown Complex Food Centre.
This eclectic food court is not just one of the biggest, but one of the best hawker centres in Singapore. Eating your way through this foodie heaven will put many of Singapore’s best dishes in front of your tastebuds, making it an absolute must while visiting the Lion City.
What to expect
As you’d imagine from its location in the heart of Singapore’s Chinatown, the Chinatown Complex Food Centre is chock-loaded with Chinese-inspired cuisine at every turn.
Whether you’re craving wonton noodles, char kway teow, or bak kut teh, you’ll find it here in spades—along with other Singaporean favourites like laksa, sambal stingray, chili crab, and satay.
This hawker centre is home to over 260 food stalls, placing it among the most extensive food courts in the city.
With all its nooks and crannies, the Chinatown Complex can be a little difficult to navigate on your first couple runs. Surely, this isn’t a negative, but all part of the fun that comes with digging into Singapore’s bustling food scene!
Besides the sheer number of food stalls here, the centre’s most notable advantage is its value.
Unlike restaurants—which, let’s be honest, can be a tad overpriced in Singapore—meals here, like most other hawker centres, are insanely affordable.
Oh—and did I mention?—extremely tasty and filling.
Even if you’re not on a tight travel budget, the quality of food you’ll get at some of the stalls is soooooo good that you can’t help but ditch the city’s more formal restaurants in exchange for some delicious hawker fare.
Where & what to eat
As I’ve often mentioned, it’s hard to go wrong at most of the hawker stalls around these parts.
Perhaps a palate more well-attuned to the subtleties of Singaporean flavours would disagree. But as a roving Canadian—whose country’s most-prized national dish is nothing more than greasy pub food—nothing I tried here was a complete bust.
Not sure where to let your tastebuds start exploring? Here are a few recommended stalls & what to try…
- Liao Fan Hong Kong Soya Sauce Chicken Rice & Noodle (#02-126): No list of where to eat at the Chinatown Complex Food Centre should start without this famous hawker stall. Also known as Hawker Chan, this venerable food vendor was among the first two hawker stalls in the world to score a coveted Michelin star. At just S$2, their moist & mouth-watering signature soya sauce chicken rice is the cheapest Michelin-starred meal on the planet!
- Xiu Ji Ikan Bilis Yong Tau Fu (#02-88): Brave the perpetual line-up at this popular stall to get a taste of their signature yong tau fu, served with a healthy portion of springy bee hoon and their own homemade fish paste.
- Terry Katong Laksa (#02-04): After a handful of visits to Singapore, laksa emerged as one of the ultimate Singaporean food pleasures. This is one of the best places to try laksa in Chinatown. The Katong-style laksa here is well-balanced, punctuated with delicate seafood flavours & spice without an the overwhelming dash of coconut flavours you might find elsewhere.
- Lao Ren Jia Roasted (#02-03): Arriving in Singapore late at night with a craving for wonton noodles led me to this stall in a quieter corner of the complex. Served on a bed of perfectly-cooked noodles, their char siew both affordable and worthwhile. The roasted duck rice here is also worth a try.
- Heng Ji Chicken Rice (#02-131): While Tian Tian Hainanese Chicken Rice in Maxwell Food Centre might be more famous due to its celebrity-chef thumbs-ups, Heng Ji is the place to tackle your chicken rice cravings in Chinatown. Braving the perpetual queue of locals puts slabs of juicy bone-in chicken, served with the family’s secret dark-soy-based sauce with aromatic oil, onto your plate.
- Jia Ji Mei Shi (#02-166): Serving a handful of breakfast items late into the night, Jia Ji Mei Shi is always a great stop for a snack. While many of the menu items are fairly standard fare, their bee hoon and yam cake with chee cheong fun stand out.
- Shi Xiang Satay (#02-79): If you’re not able to catch Satay Street at Lau Pa Sat or walk along nearby Chinatown Food Street, this is one of the better options. Shi Xiang Satay has been on the Singapore food scene since 1955, starting on the streets of Chinatown before moving into the complex. The chicken & pork satay here is marinated for 24 hours and barbecued to perfection to retain the natural juiciness without over-charring. In Hainanese-style, the peanut dipping sauce is topped with pineapple puree for an extra dash of sweetness and tropical tang.
- Zhao Ji Clay Pot Rice (#02-53): For claypot rice, Zhao Ji is a favourite in the area. Their signature claypot rice dish combines tender chicken, salted fish, and lup cheong (Cantonese sausage) with moist rice drizzled with dark-soy oil fusion.
- Zhong Guo La Mian Xiao Long Bao (#02-135): This Michelin-recommended stall is one of the top places to eat xiao long bao (Shanghai-style steamed dumplings) in Chinatown Singapore. Besides the succulent hand-crafted xiaolongbao, Zhong Guo La Mian serves up mean hand-pulled noodles in varying varieties.
For most travellers, the MRT is the easiest way to navigate here. Take the North East Line to Chinatown MRT Station. Leave the station through Exit B. The hawker centre is just a 1-minute walk from here.
Where to stay
As Chinatown is one of the most recommended areas when figuring out where to stay in Singapore, there are plenty of great accommodations nearby to lay down as you tackle your most serious Singaporean food cravings. Here are a few of the best hotels in Chinatown…
- Bliss Hotel: One of the top hotel picks in Chinatown for travellers on a budget, this property offers large rooms with modern decor and Oriental touches. Extras like a rooftop bar and free smartphone rentals add to the value.
- The Scarlet Singapore: Occupying a heritage building on a side-street, this boutique hotel features contemporarily decorated rooms along with some great amenities including a rooftop bar and outdoor hot tub for your chillin’ pleasure.
- Ann Siang House: Set in an old Chinese merchant house between Chinatown and Telok Ayer, this boutique hotel charms guests with spacious rooms and well-equipped modern studio apartments.