Maxwell Food Centre

Maxwell Food Centre (originally known as Maxwell Market), located at the junction of South Bridge Road and Maxwell Road, is a popular hawker centre near the Central Business District.1

Maxwell Market was opened on 17 November 1928.2 During the Japanese Occupation, the market housed a government co-operative store, known as Kumiai, that controlled certain types of wholesale and retail trade.3 Wartime privation drove many to scavenge for discarded vegetables and fruits at the market.4 After the war, the Social Welfare Department set up People’s Restaurants to provide cheap and nutritious meals to the masses.5 The first Family Restaurant, which served meals at 8 cents per plate, opened at Maxwell Market on 18 December 1946.6

The wet market was converted into a food centre in 1987, housing hawkers who were relocated from China Square.7 Although the structure was spruced up, individual stalls did not have running water and hawkers had to share common washing areas that were originally meant for washing raw market produce.8 Cooking ingredients and dirty utensils would be piled side-by-side at these washing points in full view of diners.9 In addition, the concrete floor was perpetually wet and littered with cigarette butts, used tissues and spilled food.10

Despite its squalid conditions, Maxwell Food Centre was popular for serving cheap and delicious fare as well as traditional dishes that were rarely found elsewhere.11 One of these was kangchia mee or rickshaw noodles, a dish consisting of Hokkien noodles in a clear broth, which was a favourite of rickshaw-pullers in the past.12 Other long-time favourites at the food centre were peanut soup and ham chin peng, a deep fried dough snack.13

In 1991, plans were announced to relocate the hawker centre to make way for the new Urban Redevelopment Authority headquarters.14 However, the plans were shelved in 1993.15 In 2000, the Ministry of Environment decided to upgrade the market after redevelopment plans for the area were deferred.16 Maxwell Food Centre closed in September 2000 for a S$3.2-million revamp, and reopened in May 2001.17

Maxwell Food Centre was voted Singapore’s favourite hawker centre in the 2014, 2015 and 2016 editions of City Hawker Food Hunt, which aims to recognise the best hawker stalls and celebrate local hawker food culture.18 Many of the hawkers at this food centre are second- and third-generation owners who inherited their parents’ businesses and traditional recipes.19 One of them, China Street Fritters – famous for its handmade sausages, ngoh hiang (fried meat roll), liver roll and egg slices – won the Heritage Hawker Stall award in the 2015 City Hawker Food Hunt, for serving good hawker fare for more than 50 years.20 Another favourite is Tian Tian Chicken Rice, which was one of 34 recipients of the “Bib Gourmand” award in the inaugural Michelin Guide Singapore 2016.21


Bonny Tan

1. “Hawker Food Centres in Signapore,” Singapore Tourism Board, accessed 19 July 2022; Singapore Land Authority, OneMap, n.d.
2. Municipality, Singapore, Administration Report of the Singapore Municipality for the Year 1928 (Singapore: Fraser & Neave, 1929), 110–D. (Call no. RRARE 352.05951 SIN; microfilm NL3412)
3. Chan Kwee Sung, “Ah, Sweet Scents of Nostalgia for Maxwell Market,” Straits Times, 18 September 2000, 18 (From NewspaperSG); Wong Hong Suen, Wartime Kitchen: Food and Eating in Singapore, 1942–1950 (Singapore: Editions Didier Millet and National Museum of Singapore, 2009), 19. (Call no. RSING 641.30095957 WON)
4. Chan, “Nostalgia for Maxwell Market.”
5. “35-Cent Lunch Is a Reality,” Straits Times, 28 June 1946, 3. (From NewspaperSG)
6. “Eight-Cent Family Meals for S’pore,” Straits Times, 14 December 1946, 5; Big Rush for 8-Cent Meals,” Straits Times, 19 December 1946, 7. (From NewspaperSG)
7. Danny Tan, “Maxwell Hawker Centre a Hit after Facelift,” Straits Times, 18 March 1987, 26. (From NewspaperSG)
8. “Treasure Trove of Old Favourites,” Straits Times, 19 April 1987, 4 (From NewspaperSG); Chan, “Nostalgia for Maxwell Market.”
9. Kenneth Kwek, “Bye, Max, See You Real Soon,” Straits Times, 3 September 2000, 8; Debbie Goh, “Makeover for Old Maxwell Rd Market,” Straits Times, 19 August 2000, 57. (From NewspaperSG)
10. Monica Tan, “Fried Snack for 10 Cents,” Straits Times, 5 September 1999, 8. (From NewspaperSG)
11. Goh, “Makeover for Old Maxwell Rd Market”; Tee Hun Ching, “Generation Max,” Straits Times, 20 May 2001, 12 (From NewspaperSG); Tan, “Fried Snack for 10 Cents.”
12. Khng Eu Meng, “Goodness, It’s Rickshaw Noodles,” Straits Times, 11 February 1988, 18 (From NewspaperSG); Tan, “Fried Snack for 10 Cents”; “These Stalls May Soon Disappear,” Straits Times, 3 August 2008, 65. (From NewspaperSG)
13. Magdalene Lum, “Want Some Fast Food? Fry It Yourself,” Straits Times, 29 May 1994, 61 (From NewspaperSG); Tan, “Fried Snack for 10 Cents.”
14. Eddie Toh, “URA to Build New $240M Headquarters at Site of Maxwell Rd Hawker Centre,” Straits Times, 16 October 1991, 40; Maxwell Hawkers Fear Relocation Will Split Them Up,” Straits Times, 23 October 1991, 21. (From NewspaperSG)
15. Eddie Toh, “URA Puts on Hold Its Plans to Build New Hq,” Straits Times, 8 July 1993, 36. (From NewspaperSG)
16. Goh, “Makeover for Old Maxwell Rd Market.”
17. Kwek, “See You Real Soon”; Tee, “Generation Max.”
18. Chan Luo Er, “Maxwell Food Centre Named Top Local Food Haunt for Third Year Running,” Today, 7 November 2016, 13 (From NewspaperSG); “About Us,” City Hawker Food Hunt, n.d.
19. Goh, “Makeover for Old Maxwell Rd Market.”
20. Venessa Lee, “Maxwell Is Tops Again,” Straits Times, 9 November 2015, 4; Siau Ming En, “70-Year-Old Hawker Stalls Win Heritage Award,” Today, 9 November 2015, 3. (From NewspaperSG)
21. Tan Hsueh Yun, “Hawkers Galore on Michelin’s Bib List,” Straits Times, 15 July 2016, 3. (From NewspaperSG)

The information in this article is valid as of 2016 and correct as far as we can ascertain from our sources. It is not intended to be an exhaustive or complete history of the subject. Please contact the Library for further reading materials on the topic.





Ethnic foods
Heritage and Culture
Peddlers and peddling--Singapore
Commercial buildings
Streets and Places