people standing in front of a food stand

Is it the Chili Crab, or the Chicken Rice? The Nasi, Laksa or the Crispy Duck? Singapore’s street food is world famous for $2 Michelin Star meals, and mouth watering morsels in every Hawker Center, but now it’s got a world recognized status to go along with it.

UNESCO has granted Singapore’s Hawker Stalls the same protected cultural status as the Tango in Argentina. These humble symbols of multi cultural food are now officially recognized the world over, with the globally recognized symbol of ‘Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity’.

a plate of food on a table

Singapore’s Hawker Stalls

UNESCO is the Educational, Social and Cultural arm of the United Nations, designed to recognize outstanding achievements or places in the global landscape. Places can earn World Heritage status, such as Machu Picchu, but so can iconic concepts or ideals, like the tango, and now hawker stalls.

Singapore’s Hawker Stalls are an incredible, often literal melting pot of culture, mixing culinary heritages from China, Malaysia, India, Indonesia and throughout Asia into bold and incredible dishes. Hainanese Chicken Rice may have originated in Hainan, but it was perfected in Singapore.

people standing in front of a food stand

In a December 16th ceremony, UNESCO officially recognized Singapore’s Hawker Stalls, and the timing was well received.

Singapore’s Hawker Stalls, which buck the Michelin Star fine dining trends of expensive and exclusive, in favor of cheap and inclusive have taken a beating this year, with local lockdowns and virtually no international travel into the country.

Popular Hawkers like Old Airport Road, Changi Village, Chinatown Complex, Ghim Mow and Newton are doing a fraction of the usual business, and many of the stalls aren’t operated by tech savvy youngsters who can pivot easily.

Fortunately, the city-state has banded together to protect these timeless and important businesses, even helping elders to offer online delivery without a fee.

You truly can’t say you’ve experienced the best food Southeast Asia has to offer until you’ve roamed Singapore’s many Hawker Centers, and the same could be said for the city’s cocktail dens too. Whenever Singapore opens back up to international visitors, be sure to make a point to skip the posh meals at least once or twice, and go dive into some sub £2/$2.50 dishes that wow even the toughest critics.

Gilbert Ott

Gilbert Ott is an ever curious traveler and one of the world's leading travel experts. His adventures take him all over the globe, often spanning over 200,000 miles a year and his travel exploits are regularly...

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