Eating your way through Singapore? Don’t miss out on the ever-popular Maxwell Food Centre, one of Singapore’s best hawker centres! Located on the edge of Chinatown, Maxwell Food Centre offers some of the city’s tastiest local dishes in a location that’s perfect for travellers seeking out some culinary brilliance in the heart of the city.
Among Singaporeans, Maxwell Food Centre has long been a fixture in the city’s food scene. It’s been open for business since 1986 and has gained a deserved reputation among locals and travellers alike as one of the best places to eat in Singapore.
As of late, the hawker centre has experienced a resurgence thanks to none other than everyone’s favourite travelling chef/foodie, the late Anthony Bourdain who deemed the signature dish at Tian Tian Hainanese Chicken Rice as “so fragrant & delicious that it can be eaten on its own.”
What to expect at Maxwell Food Centre
One of the things I love most about Maxwell Food Centre is the wide variety. Coming from the nearby (and also absolutely amazing!) Chinatown Complex Hawker Centre, you’ll notice a more extensive selection of ethnic foods here.
Unlike the mostly Chinese-inspired dishes in Chinatown, Maxwell Food Centre offers a larger palette of options from Singapore’s other two main ethnic groups, Indian and Malay. Thanks to its simple one-floor layout in rows, it’s also a bit easier to navigate than other hawker centres in the city.
If you’re visiting at peak lunch or dinner hours, don’t be surprised to find it difficult to secure a seat. It’s a testament both to the hawker centre’s popularity and the relatively limited number of tables in comparison to the number of food stalls.
Where & what to eat
As with any hawker centre, my normal advice is to walk through all of the stalls first to see what catches your eye. Of course, given the popularity of Maxwell Food Centre, there’s a mix of particularly popular (some my say downright famous) hawker stalls here serving up some of the tastiest dishes in Singapore.
Keep your eyes peeled for a few of these gems:
- Tian Tian Hainanese Chicken Rice (#01-10/11): By far the most famous food stall in the food court, Tian Tian Hainanese Chicken Rice was put on the map after two celebrity chefs—Gordon Ramsay and Anthony Bourdain—gave it a big thumbs up. As you’d expect, the signature dish here is Hainanese chicken rice. Whether it’s the best chicken rice in Singapore or not is a matter of preference. Judging by the perpetual queue here, if you say “yes,” you’d have plenty of backup.
- Ah Tai Hainanese Chicken Rice (#01-07): If the lineups at Tian Tian prove a little too hectic, slink over to Ah Tai Hainanese Chicken Rice for a (hopefully) more subdued wait. The chicken rice here is nearly identical in quality. Hardly a surprise considering the stall’s owner spent over 20 years stirrin’ up chicken rice for his more famous next-door neighbour.
- Rojak, Popiah & Cockle (#01-56): While rojak is a more popular sighting over at the venerable Old Airport Road Food Centre, Rojak, Popiah & Cockle is the place to try it at the Maxwell Hawker Centre. The Malay-style rojak here drops down a mix of crispy dough (yo tiao), beanspouts, and vegetables topped with a sweet and spicy prawn dressing and chopped peanuts. You can add a century egg or cuttlefish if you’re feeling a little more adventurous. The popiah (Malay spring roll), filled with cabbage, carrots, hard-boiled egg, and peanuts, is also worth a taste.
- Zhen Zhen Porridge (#01-54): Like at other popular stalls, the queue at Zhen Zhen Porridge can feel endless at times. It’s a striking ode to the simple beauty of their signature dish, a yummy bowl of smooth Cantonese-style congee (rice porridge) rich with sliced fish, shredded chicken, shallots, spring onions, and century egg.
- Chee Cheong Fun Club (#01-38): One of my own personal favourites at this hawker centre is the delicious chee cheong fun at Chee Cheong Fun Club. These small rice rolls seem to practically melt in your mouth with their silky-smooth texture. Topped with a special proprietary sauce that fuses together Singaporean, Malay, and Cantonese flavours, these little slices of heaven also offer a bit of a bite. Try out the KL-style curry chee cheong fun for an even larger dash of spice.
- Marina South Delicious Food (#01-35): Although its name may sounds like a Chinese to English translation gone comically wrong, don’t like it fool you: The food here is no laughing matter. This popular food stall serves up plenty of yummy local wok-fried Singaporean favourites including oyster omelettes, hokkien mee, and carrot cake. The char kway teow is a superb choice for an introduction to the Marina South Delicious Food menu.
- Empress Place Teochew Beef Kway Teow (#01-43): Once a staple in the East Coast food scene, this popular beef noodle stall’s Maxwell location has become an instant favourite in the area. The thinly sliced beef in this soup is cooked to perfection and drowned in a rich tasty broth with silky noodles.
- Tong Xin Ju Special Shanghai Tim Sum (#01-92): To tackle your xiaolongbao (Shanghai-style steamed dumplings) craving, try out this popular hawker stalls. The dumplings here are freshly made daily this that silky texture that seems to melt in your mouth. Their guo tie (fried dumplings) are equally epic, if a little heavier.
- Teochew Rice and Porridge (#01-98): A long history predates this popular porridge stall; it’s graced the streets of Singapore since the 1970s. Unlike the youngin’s in the bunch, the owner here sticks the the basics, offering only a dozen or so varieties of her signature porridge dishes. While there’s a variety of more “exotic” items on the menu like shark meat, the minced pork porridge with black beans is a great place to start.
- Hup Kee Wu Xiang Guan Chang (#01-97): With over 70 years under its belt, this popular food stall means business with its unique Hokkien-inspired menu. Among the top dishes to try at Hup Kee Wu Xiang Guan Chang are the ngoh hiang (meat roll), neng kway (egg lard cakes), and its namesake guan chang (pink sausage).
- Jin Hua Fish Head Bee Hoon (#01-77): While the stall name is unlikely to get many travellers excited (the late Anthony Bourdain excluded), the signature dish here—you guessed it, fish head bee hoon—tastes far better than it sounds. This delicious noodle soup consists of a milky broth strewn with bee hoon noodles and a smattering of vegetables, shallots, and sesame oil.
Maxwell Food Centre is located on the edge of Chinatown with several MRT stations (Outram Park, Chinatown, Telok Ayer, Tanjong Pagar) within about 10- to 15-minute walking distance.
The closest is Chinatown MRT Station on the North East Line. From Exit B, it’s less than a ten-minute walk via South Pagoda Street and South Bridge Road.
Where to stay near Maxwell Food Centre
Thanks its its location near Chinatown, Tanjong Pagar, Telok Ayer, and the Singapore CBD, there’s a ton of great hotels to choose from near Maxwell Food Centre including some of the best Chinatown hotels.
Here are some of our favourites in the area…
- Bliss Hotel: One of the top choices in the area for travellers on a budget, this modern hotel features spacious rooms with a few extras usually reserved for more expensive accommodations including a free smartphone rental for the duration of your stay in Singapore.
- The Scarlet Singapore: Situated in a beautiful heritage building amidst the bustle of Chinatown, this mid-range boutique hotel charms with ultra-contemporary rooms and excellent amenities including a rooftop bar and outdoor hot tub.
- Ann Siang House: Another superb boutique hotel occupying an old Chinese shophouse. In addition to their regular rooms, you can also book self-catering studio apartments for a more homey feel.