[Sponsored] While Singapore’s fine dining scene is booming with the hottest celebrity chef openings and Michelin-starred restaurants, we seem to have taken our hawker food culture for granted. The recent closure of long-standing eateries like East Coast zi char stall Leng Heng Claypot Deluxe and Chinatown Complex’s famous Ah Lo Cooked Food should have us worried about the state of local street food today. But with initiatives like a new committee dedicated to preserving our food culture, it seems like there’s a silver lining to the fast-disappearing trade.
New-generation hawkers are championing local street food
From taking over the family business to embracing authentic Singaporean fare, these passionate individuals play a crucial part in the efforts to preserve our hawker culture. One such example is 58 Bak Chor Mee (#03-150 Taman Jurong Market and Food Centre), a stall that has been around since 1973 and is now manned by second-generation hawker Mr Ang, who serves a delicious variety of noodles like mee pok, mee kia and kway teow.
Another popular institution is Kway Guan Huat Joo Chiat Original Popiah & Kueh Pie Tie (95 Joo Chiat Rd.), which has been making traditional handmade popiah for over 70 years. Now, the family-run shophouse restaurant is managed by third-generation popiah-makers like Michael Ker.
Our hawker culture is garnering international recognition
Celebrity chef and host Anthony Bourdain made headlines worldwide when he announced his plans to launch a hawker-style food market inspired by Singapore’s street food culture. On his wishlist? Geylang Claypot Rice, Tian Tian Chicken Rice and Hill Street Char Kway Teow.
Singaporeans are still celebrating traditional food heritage
Local foodies can’t miss the Singapore Food Festival, an annual celebration of homegrown food featuring highlights on traditional classics and modern interpretations of local dishes, and last year’s event had the spotlight on the historical Ellenborough Market and its famous Teochew cuisine. The next edition is happening in July this year but for those who can’t wait, there’s the Singapore Heritage Fest, with programs like the Balestier Food and Heritage Trail and the Changi Road Food Trail happening in May.
There’s a new committee to revive the hawker trade
Aiming to support hawkers and to preserve the local hawker culture in Singapore, Hawker Centre 3.0 is a 14-member group comprising individuals from private and public sectors dedicated to helping hawker businesses stay relevant in the future. Besides exploring ways to ease rising costs of operating a stall and to increase the longevity of the trade, there are also plans to encourage a new wave of young hawkers through training programs.
Local personalities are keeping the hawker culture alive
Making dining at hawker centres a sexy (and instagrammable) affair are social media influencers such as homegrown chef Willin Low and blogger Miss Tam Chiak. Low may be famous for his restaurant, Wild Rocket, but he is a staunch champion of traditional Singapore cuisine and his account features unpretentious dishes like char kway teow and otak otak. Also sharing her passion for local fare, Miss Tam Chiak regularly documents her meals at heartlands all over Singapore—just try not to drool over her mouthwatering photos of kway chap, roti prata and more.
And drumming up more hype for traditional Singapore cuisine is former Immigrants Gastrobar chef Damian D’Silva. His new venture at hot new gastropark Timbre + offers a menu of authentic items like nasi lemak, Peranakan specialty sek bark and kai fan, a dish once popular with coolies.
There is a new campaign to help local hawker businesses
It’s no secret that the F&B industry is an increasing competitive one and to help local hawkers sustain their businesses, Tiger Beer is pledging 20 cents for every six-can pack purchased from Apr 1 to May 31.
Need more reason to get excited about hawker food? Check out this video:
Got a long-favorite hawker dish you can’t live without? Sadly, aging hawkers, changing trends and a lack of interest among children of veteran hawkers mean it might not be around forever. Show your appreciation by heading down and taking a picture. Don’t forget to #UNCAGESTREETFOOD and share the love.
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