Is it considered an obsession if you've eaten at a place five times the first two weeks it's open for business? If so, consider me obsessed with Hawkers.
First, the menu. Part infographic (so that's how I hold my chopsticks!), part design masterpiece, there's an abundance of mouthwatering options, and that's because Hawkers serves up street food from China, Vietnam, Thailand, Korea, Japan and Malaysia. (The food is so good, I temporarily forget I'm in 5 Points.)
I can't say enough about the atmosphere: Huge windows open to unveil an entirely open façade. Large upside-down wok-like pans serve as light fixtures and hang from an exposed wood beam ceiling. An old upcycled wooden palette with chalkboard paint serves as the craft beer list.
Hawkers is thoroughly modern, comfortable and hip.
The food speaks for itself. I can't think of any comparable places in town that have such a culturally diverse menu with such reasonable prices.
Start with the roti canai, a Malaysian flat bread ($3) that I can best describe as fluffy Indian naan meets the airiness of a French crêpe. It's served with a cup of delightfully spicy curry dipping sauce. Another standout is the crispy roasted pork "siu yoke" ($6), or pork belly, served with a thick hoisin dipping sauce and garnished with scallions.
Items are intended to be shared, even the soups. You'll receive a large bowl, two smaller cups and a giant ladle. The tom yum soup ($8.50) touts a spicy lemongrass broth that's loaded with flat rice noodles, shrimp, bean sprouts, basil, straw mushrooms, tomatoes and cucumbers. It's great on a chilly day and leaves you feeling warm inside.
I preferred the stir-fry noodle dishes to the rice bowls. Hawkers' stir-fry udon noodles ($8), with eggs, scallions, onions, bean sprouts and carrots, and chicken pad Thai ($8) earn my top honors. Runner-up? The Zha Jiang Mian ($7.50), a traditional Chinese dish with blanched noodles, ground chicken, yow chow (a leafy green similar to bok choy), spicy red peppers, cucumbers and a slightly sweet sauce. It's stick-to-your-ribs filling, too.
Skip the spring rolls (good but nothing special), basil fried rice (seemed to need a few dashes of salt?) and edamame (go for something more exciting). Do, however, set aside room for the Royal Pairing, a unique dessert that's part mangosteen and part durian fruit, or the trio of tea-based crème brûlées — Thai tea, Malaysian milk tea and green tea — served with crunchy biscuit-like dipping cookies.
Hawkers is open daily for lunch and dinner. There's also a separate kitchen devoted to take-out orders (rumor has it that they'll soon offer delivery, too).
The staff is incredibly knowledgeable and authentic — everyone seems genuinely passionate about being there, and about the food, which makes it that much harder to stay away.