This is the second time I’ve written about Lau Pa Sat, and since it’s one of the best hawker centers in town I’m sure it won’t be the last. We took a cab over for dinner and in typical cabbie fashion, were offered a few nuggets of wisdom along the way. I was mentioning I had picked up a book by Lee Kuan Yew about his decision to, practically overnight, change Singapore’s national language to English. Upon hearing this, our cabbie gave us a language lesson about Lau Pa Sat. It’s pronounced L-ow (rhymes with “ow, I just stubbed my toe”) Pa Sat and it means “old market”. It’s also known as Telok Ayer market from the days long past when it was located over the water, before all the land reclamation began that has so drastically changed the coastline of Singapore.
Today, 114 stalls serve food from every part of Southeast Asia and there’s an outdoor barbecue area with enough smoke to make your eyes water. Men with fists full of satay work the grills and fan the flames as yet another neighborhood in Singapore chows down. This country sure can cook and sure can eat. Somehow I can’t seem to resist the Indian food whenever we come here for dinner.
Lau Pa Sat has been around in some form or fashion since 1825, having transitioned from an old market to a hawker center. When asked how he felt about all the changes he’s seen in Singapore during his lifetime our cabbie replied, “This used to be a fishing village! But I think now, as we look around at our neighbors, we are very content.”