From my experience there are a few essential things in which you need to know before you eat at a Hawker Stall. Luckily I was with a local who got to show me the ropes before I was let off the leash and into the glorious world of yummy budget food.
First off, what is a hawker stall or hawker centre? To me they are basically rows of small stalls, where food is ready to be prepared or served. The space where people cook is tiny and crammed with cooking utensils, but it is amazing what they can do with fresh ingredients in a confined space. The stalls serve a variety of food from appetisers, main dishes, desserts and drinks. I found in Malaysia there were more outdoor hawker centres in comparison to Singapore.
|An example of an outdoor Hawker Centre|
Hawker Centres are planned out nicely in a way that they are arranged like an outer circle and you can walk around and see everything, without having to backtrack. Each stall has the food menu plastered up where you can see the price and usually a photo of what it looks like. Don't be nervous when people start calling you into their stall, take your time and find something you want to eat. There is usually a wide variety of food from Malay, Chinese, Indian, Taiwanese and more, but don't worry you can always pick from different stalls at once.
When you have chosen where you want to buy your food, they either serve your meal immediately or you can sit at your table and they somehow find you in the crowds. Once you are seated with your food, people selling drinks then move in.
After you are finished with your meal, you just leave everything on the table and soon enough the hawker stall staff will swiftly clean up after you. And that is pretty much the basics of eating at hawker stalls, its not as daunting once you start eating there regularly. To the locals this is just a way of life, so don't be shy. It would be a waste if us tourists didn't experience eating here, otherwise we'd have nothing to write about to home.