Singapore is increasingly renowned for its fine dining, but you can still eat well - and rub shoulders with the locals - in the city-state's traditional hawker centres. For some of Singapore's best - and most affordable - food, make a beeline for these culinary hotspots.
Lau Pa Sat
Singapore's most visually striking food court, Lau Pa Sat occupies a lovely cast-iron Victorian building, dwarfed by the shiny skyscrapers of the CBD. Also known as Telok Ayer Market - it's close to the Metro station of the same name - it's a popular port of call for lunching businessmen and women, but also throbs at night. After 7pm, tables spill out onto neighbouring Boon Tat Street, where a hive of satay vendors do a roaring trade (they don't nickname this 'Satay Street' for nothing).
18 Raffles Quay
You can tuck into some of Singapore's best food at Maxwell Road Hawker Centre, a five-minute stroll from the hubbub of central Chinatown. It's a favourite of Singaporeans and tourists (including celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain), thanks to stalwarts like Tian Tian Hainanese Chicken Rice, which attracts queues throughout the day for its fragrant, tender speciality (strips of boiled chicken layered on oily rice). To enhance the flavour, be sure to add garlic, chilli and dark soy sauce.
1 Kadayanallur Street
Hong Lim Food Centre
While chicken rice is often touted as 'Singapore's national dish', so, too, is char kway teow. Comprising a jumble of ingredients - including pork lard, Chinese sausage, cockles, chives, bean sprouts and occasionally prawns and eggs - this stir-fried noodle classic is wokked up everywhere, but the good folk at Outram Park Fried Kway Teow boast a clutch of awards. You'll find them in the Hong Lim Food Centre, hidden behind the swanky Parkroyal on Pickering hotel. Tip: go just before or after the peak lunch period (noon-2pm).
531A Upper Cross Street
Although Chinese and Malay flavours dominate many of Singapore's hawker centres, the sari-filled Tekka Centre has more of a Bollywood vibe. Under whirring fans, in the heart of the Little India district, it dishes up some of Singapore's best food, specialising in fiery curries (mutton, chicken, fish and vegetable), aromatic biryanis and flaky dosas (savoury pancakes from southern India). While you're waiting for your meal to arrive, people-watch over a mango lassi (a refreshing yogurt-based drink) or chai masala (spiced tea).
Bukit Timah Road
Tiong Bahru Market
Just west of Chinatown, Tiong Bahru has emerged as one of Singapore's hippest inner-city zones, brimming with trendy cafes and boutiques. But the busiest place in the neighbourhood - at least on weekday mornings and lunchtimes - is the local market. Some of Singapore's best food can be had in this eye-catching Art Deco-style building, including fishball soup, chwee kueh (steamed rice cake) and Cantonese roasted duck. Look out for Tiong Bahru Pau, whose char siew pau (barbecued pork buns) have earned Singapore-wide renown.
83 Seng Poh Road
East Coast Lagoon Food Village
Seafood is a staple across Singaporean food courts, but there's something extra special about ordering it with a sea view. Nestled in East Coast Park, a 15km seaside strip running between Changi airport and Singapore Marina, this open-air hawker centre is fairly sedate during the week, but really comes to life at weekends. Expect to see Singaporean friends and families mingling over chilli crab, grilled stingray and oyster omelettes - with tropical juices and ice-cool Tiger beers.
1220 E Coast Pkwy