Vegetarians, here’s what you can order at hawker centres – we even worked out 3 meal options for you

There’s always something for everyone at the hawker centre.
The Straits Times

As a country that boasts eating as a national pastime, it’s no secret that Singaporeans are big foodies who are always on the lookout for interesting twists of our local dishes.

That being said, we’re still basic at heart and often go back our hawker classics because they’re a quick, affordable and fuss-free dining option.

But to the uninitiated or someone with a dietary restriction, the cornucopia that’s our hawker centre can prove inundating, and this isn’t helped by the maze-like placement of food stalls.

So if you’re a vegetarian who always find yourself lost in the midst of the sprawling food centre, here’s a helpful list of 15 options you can have.

We’ve even broken it down to specific meals so you can plan your day better.

Now go forth and explore.

Breakfast

1. Chee Cheong Fun

A light but flavourful dish for breakfast, these innocuous white rice flour rolls are dusted with sesame seeds.

Its name means “pig intestines noodles” when translated to Mandarin but don’t panic –  there’s no meat in the plain ones (pictured below). There are versions with prawn or barbecued pork rolled inside so take note to only ask for the plain ones.

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2. You Tiao and Tau Huay combo

Some say that you tiao (Fried dough fritters made of flour) and tau huay (soybean pudding with sugar syrup) make the perfect breakfast pairing. In fact, a local musician has even made a song comparing the compatibility of a pair of lovers to that of these two food items. It’s a no-brainer.

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3. Chai Tow Kway (Locally known as ‘carrot cake’)

Somewhere in time, the name of this dish was lost in translation, because it contains no carrots and definitely isn’t a cake.

It’s actually stir-fried “radish-cake” cubes tossed with eggs and preserved radish commonly available in the black and white (sans sweet dark sauce) versions – opt for a mix of both if you’re the adventurous kind.

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4. Chwee Kueh 

A common breakfast item that’s usually sold out by lunch if it’s bought from a popular stall. These white basin-shaped steamed rice cakes are a mixture of rice flour and water and topped with diced preserved radish.

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5. Vegetarian Bee Hoon

Also known as ‘Zhai Mi Fen’ in Mandarin, plates with a mountain of these stir-fried vermicelli noodles rarely cost more than $3 and are available from vegetarian stalls where other side dishes sold are also meatless.

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Lunch

1. Roti Prata

Commonly found at Indian-Muslim food stalls, roti prata, which is essentially fried flatbread, is best enjoyed when peeled with fingers and dipped in curry gravy or sugar.

Take note to ask for Dhal curry which is made up of lentils, tomatoes, chillies and other assorted spices, otherwise the seller automatically serves it with fish or chicken curry.

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2. Thosai

Often lauded as the healthier cousin of roti prata, thosai is similar to a sour pancake made of fermented batter accompanied by various dipping sauces like coconut chutney and Dhal.

The seller might sometimes provide fish or chicken curry as a third dip so if you want to keep it fully vegetarian, make sure to ask what kinds of dip are offered.

The New Paper

3. Gado-gado (A salad that means ‘mix-mix’ in Indonesian)

A dish that’s becoming harder to find in hawker centres, gado-gado is an Indonesian-style salad typically made with fried tofu, bean sprouts, hard-boiled eggs and vegetables, tossed with a spicy peanut sauce and topped with crispy tapioca crackers.

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Dinner 

1. Nasi Padang (Literally means ‘field rice’ in Malay)

With a wide variety of delicious Malay-style side dishes, deciding what to eat may cause anxiety for some patrons but sellers are usually nice enough to provide recommendations.

Some popular options for vegetarians include sambal goreng-tahu tempe (spicy stir-fried long beans with deep-fried bean curd and fermented soy bean cake), curry vegetables and begedil (deep-fried potato patty with spices). You don’t want to miss this.

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2. Longtong Sayur Lodeh 

A assortment of curry vegetables, ketupat (steamed rice cakes), hard-boiled eggs and vermicelli, longtong sayur lodeh is a Malay dish that’s popular among those who prefer curries that are not so spicy.

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3. Nasi Goreng or Mee Goreng 

Consisting of rice (nasi) or yellow noodles (mee) that’s stir-fried with garlic, onions, vegetable and eggs in a medley of various sauces, this dish can be served meatless but you will need to let the seller know when ordering.

For some reason, it’s also commonly served with a side of cucumber slices and a splash of tomato ketchup.

The New Paper

Dessert or snacks

1. Rojak (‘Mixture’ in colloquial Malay)

The quintessential Singaporean dish, rojak is a salad of mixed vegetables, fruits and you tiao (fried dough fritters) covered in sticky black sauce and garnished with chopped peanuts.

A mix of sweet and savoury to test your tastebuds, this uniquely Singaporean salad is often ordered as a snack during the long hours of the afternoon, or even as an appetiser before dinner dishes are served.

The New Paper

2. Ice Kachang (‘Iced bean’ in Malay)

A colourful mountain of shaved ice drizzled with sweet syrup mixed with different food colourings, the “bean” part of its name comes from the lower layers of red beans, jelly, sweet corn and attap chee (palm seeds).

Other wacky variants of this dessert include those drizzled with durian (pictured below) or mango sauce.

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3. Mee Chiang Kueh (‘Peanut pancake’ in Hokkien)

An old-school snack that’s made by pouring batter on a flat griddle to make a large pancake, this item is typically available with other fillings like red bean paste and grated coconut.

Modern versions include cheese and chocolate but the original peanut filling is usually the most popular.

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You need to know this: Yong Tau Foo

If you’ve been ordering yong tau foo from these stalls with open-air glass displays filled with an assortment of vegetables and tofu pieces, you might want to ask what kind of broth they’re cooking it in.

That’s because Chinese-style soups are often cooked with animal bones like chicken or pork, when they’re making the stock.

Big tip: Never assume and always ask first, because the vendors are often more than willing to offer a helping hand.

The Straits Times