NYC's Urban Hawker Brings Anthony Bourdain's Asian Market Vision To Life

New York City's first Singapore hawker center has officially arrived — but it was originally conceptualized years ago by globetrotting chef Anthony Bourdain. Back in 2014, Bourdain told Eater: "As the greatest city in the world, I've long felt that we should have the kind of delicious, diverse food centers that Singapore (for instance) enjoys... My likes are pretty well known: dai pai dong in Hong Kong, Boqueria in Spain, hawker centers in Singapore, street tostadas in Ensenada. To the extent that I can help bring those things home to New York, along with a truly interesting collection of homegrown innovators, I will be very, very pleased." Hence, Bourdain began planning Bourdain Market, a first-of-its-kind landmark in NYC's legendary food scene. The chef envisioned a sprawling Singapore hawker center with over 100 different vendors, including a farmers market, an oyster bar, a bakery, and a rooftop beer garden. As of 2016, the $60 million market was planned to be built at Pier 57 in the Meatpacking District. Estimated opening dates were pushed back further and further from 2015 to 2017 and then 2019. Due to various hurdles and setbacks, Bourdain's hawker market was never realized — until recently.

Inspired by Anthony Bourdain, Urbanspace food hall and Singaporean street food enthusiast K. F. Seetoh joined forces to open Urban Hawker in September 2022, reports The New York Times. Now, the first-ever Singapore hawker market to hit NYC is here.

A hub of culture and cuisine

In addition to Urban Hawker, Seetoh has also founded the World Street Food Congress and Makansutra, a culinary organization that champions global street food heritage. Seetoh joined Bourdain in the planning stages of the market back in 2015, reports Eater, following his appearances on an episode of "No Reservations" in which he guides Bourdain throughout the food stalls of Singapore. In a 2018 tribute to the late chef via Singapore news outlet The Straits Times, Seetoh wrote, "I can unreservedly tell you that he was a champion of all things authentic, the unheralded, and the disadvantaged." Enter: a brick-and-mortar celebration of international culture.

Urban Hawker is located in Midtown, Manhattan, at 135 West 50th Street. Fittingly, there's an entrance across the street from Le Bernardin, the world-renowned restaurant of chef Eric Ripert, a personal friend of Bourdain's. The 11,000-square-foot space is home to 17 vendors selling Chinese, Indian, Southeast Asian, Malay, and Peranakan hawker culinary stylings, among others. For breakfast, Kopifellas offers Nanyang kopi coffee with kaya toast and soft-boiled eggs. For lunch, it's traditional Singaporean chicken and rice at Hainan Jones. Foodies can grab seafood noodle soup at Prawnaholic Collections, Singapore-style curry at Daisy's Dream, or an Indonesian rice bowl at Jakarta Munch. Yum Yubu offers stuffed fried bean curd pockets, and for another baked treat, the Urban Hawker is also home to Lady Wong bakery — the largest pandan importer in New York City.