Have you tried eating at a Singapore hawker centre? If you haven’t, you certainly should. It is one of the icons representative of the Singaporean way of life.
One of the challenges you might face when eating at a hawker centre is the ‘etiquette’ or protocol that you should follow.
But if you want to really experience Singaporean life, you should try out eating at a hawker centre at least once.
This article will show you the proper way to enjoy a good meal at a hawker centre.
Photo by Prince Roy Some rights reserved
‘Chope’ is Singaporean slang for ‘Reserve’. If you ‘chope’ a table, you’re essentially reserving the table for your use. They typical way to do this is to leave a packet of tissue on the table. Folks will understand immediately that the table is taken once they see that packet of tissue. But please do not use your mobile phone or wallet to ‘chope’ a seat – it’s going to get stolen!
Oh, one more thing – some hawker centre tables have a number on it. Remember that number – you will use it to tell the specific hawker stall where to send the food to.
Find a Stall
Once you’ve ‘choped’ a seat (yes, the word is available in past tense too, with the ‘ed’ at the end), you can proceed to locate a hawker stall that strikes your fancy. Typical good and popular hawker stalls tend to be the drink and dessert stalls, chicken rice stalls, char kuay teow stalls, roti prata stalls, fish ball noodle stalls and bak kut teh stalls.
If you’ve picked a stall, simply order your dish and announce your table number. You did remember it, right? If you can’t remember, you can usually get away by pointing in the general direction where you sit – the hawker will be smart enough to go in that direction and find you when serving the dish. No need to pay any money first – that comes later when the dish is served.
Time to Eat
Well, you’ve ordered your food from your favorite hawker stall. The hawker sends the food there, and that is the point where you whip out the cash to pay. And er … sorry no Visa or Mastercard accepted. You will need cash for payment at hawker centres.
As a rule, after you finish the dish, there is no need to clean up and deposit the dish and cutlery in a receptacle. There are usually dedicated cleaners who will do this job.
If you intend to takeaway food instead of eating it in the hawker centre, you need to specify that you wish to ‘Ta Bao’ (which is slang for ‘takeaway’). Pronounce it loudly and clearly (maybe for a few times) after you’ve ordered your food. The hawker will usually understand (in fact, many of the hawkers in Singapore are fluent in English).
Now that you understand how to eat at a hawker centre, you and try it out! Stop going to Starbucks or McDonalds for food. Try out a piece of authentic Singaporean culture – hawker food.