Everything You Should Eat At Urban Hawker, NYC’s New Singapore-Style Food Hall feature image


Everything You Should Eat At Urban Hawker, NYC’s New Singapore-Style Food Hall

Laksa, stingray fried rice, and more things to pick up at Midtown's Singapore-style food hall.

Midtown is now home to Urban Hawker, NYC’s first Singapore-style hawker food hall. Curated by Makansutra founder KF Seetoh, the project was initially conceived in part by Anthony Bourdain, who enlisted Seetoh to help pursue his dream of delivering Hainanese chicken rice and spicy chili crab to New Yorkers who don’t have their own travel TV shows. The food hall hosts 17 vendors, many of whom came straight from Singapore. Check out this list of our favorite ones, then eat your way through Singapore, Malaysia, the Philippines, and the rest of Southeast Asia. If you can lock down a table, that is. This hall is one big game of musical chairs, so figure out who your designated table sitter is now, or you’ll be eating your laksa outside Radio City.


Hainan Jones

It wouldn’t be a hawker center if you couldn’t get your hands on Singapore’s national dish there. Hainan Jones is officially our favorite vendor in the food hall, and we’re not alone. Wait times for their Hainanese chicken rice can stretch up to 45 minutes, and they’ve run out long before closing on multiple occasions. But if you’ve got the time, you won’t be disappointed. You can get your chicken roasted or fried, but we prefer the classic poached version. It comes out tender and juicy with skin that falls off like the ol’ bird just got home from a long day. The uber gingery rice and broth that come on the side are plenty flavorful by themselves, but the spicy chili and sweet sesame soy sauce help the dish realize its full potential. 

Daisy’s Dream specializes in Peranakan cuisine, and they’ve got the best bowl of laksa in Midtown. The sour soup base very obviously contains a lot of shrimp paste, but there’s enough coconut to balance it out. If you want a less involved (aka less liquid) lunch, get the nasi lemak with a side of meatballs to go and pick at the crispy pink hunks of meat and whole school of fried anchovies as you walk through the chaos outside.

At this fried rice specialist, you can choose from 10 variations of fried rice with everything from crispy fish to tom yum. They’re all pretty decent, but the one worth seeking out is the BBQ stingray fried rice. Yes, because it’s hard to find, but also because the fish happens to be velvety soft with a fresh, mild taste that lets the sweet and sour sauce on top shine.

Padi is a full-service Malaysian restaurant in Singapore, and they’ve brought their solid bowls of hearty chicken gulai, sweet-ish beef rendang, and smoky chicken satay stateside. Longtong, served in a bowl of creamy coconut curry, should be your first priority. The silky rice cakes soak in all the yellow curry without falling apart, accompanied by potatoes, fish cakes, and boiled eggs to round out the meal.

Of all the stalls, Ashes Burnnit serves the most social media-friendly food. Think over-the-top smashburgers and omelet sandwiches with colorful sauces slapped on them like they’re Pollock paintings (basically, drunk food). The singa roti john—a delightful monstrosity consisting of curry beef, egg, cheese, and other fixings in a hero-like roll—is melt-in-your-mouth, chopped-cheese delicious. But we wouldn’t operate any heavy machinery after eating it.

The menu here seems to have a basic roti prata on it out of necessity, in case the general public doesn’t notice that they’ve got the option to get a big fluffy portion of murtabak instead. A bedazzled version of the same roti, the murtabak comes filled with egg and chicken or lamb curry. The thosai pairs well with their curry too, but If you want to eat more than a bunch of flat breads, get a peppery biryani or a fully neon orange (but nevertheless delicious) bowl of kinda sweet kway teow.

This spot specializes in Filipino comfort food done extremely well. The menu is small and straightforward, so you won’t have to agonize over what to order. Everything we’ve tried here is great, but on your first visit, get the pork adobo. The meat is braised to the perfect fall-apart texture and comes drenched in a garlicky soy-based sauce. The lumpia are crisp, bite-sized, and served in a brown paper bag, making them an ideal on-the-go snack.

You can get a lot of East Village bakery Lady Wong’s classic sweets, like rainbow kuih and cassava cake, at this satellite stall, but the real reason to make this your go-to lunch spot is the savory stuff. The tuna lemper, a sambal-laced take on the OG tinned fish served encased in warm sticky rice, is the kind of grab-and-go meal you’ll find yourself craving all the time. You should also get the anchovy puffs.

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