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PHOTO CREDIT: WORLD STREET FOOD CONGRESS, WAN SAN YIP VIA UNSPLASH

Preserving and appreciating hawker culture

Yonas Ngaturi


Published: 17 April 2015, 9:17 PM

The World Street Food Congress stressed showing appreciation towards hawker culture.

There are plenty of pictures of brunch food, café food, bar food on Instagram and the rest of social media. What about hawker food?

We are so into paying more than $10 on bar food or café food and featuring them on our Instagram profile. However, we would complain whenever there is a price increase at our favourite chicken rice stall.

 

THIS IS A RARE SIGHT ON INSTAGRAM.
PHOTO CREDIT: INSTAGRAM/BRYLINGUAL_

 

“People can pay $12, $15 for ramen but people moan about a 50-cent increase in fishball noodles,” said Bjorn Shen, 32, owner of Artichoke restaurant and book author.

Preserving and appreciating the hawker food and culture was one of the topics for dialogue-hackathon session at the recent World Street Food Congress (WSFC).

Hawker food has always been synonymous with Singapore’s identity and a part of every Singaporean’s life. It is so common that we have it every day. Whether you are working or studying, anyone has access to hawker food and can afford it. Hawker food is often perceived as affordable. However, ingredients are getting more expensive.

Despite the rising costs, the hawkers know that they should not charge more.

“While ingredients are becoming more expensive, hawkers can’t charge people more because they seem to care more about the price of a dish than its actual quality,” said Douglas Ng, a 23-year-old hawker. Douglas is one of the few new young hawkers. He operates Fishball Story at Golden Mile hawker centre.

 

DOUGLAS (CENTRE) WITH SATISFIED CUSTOMERS.
PHOTO CREDIT: FACEBOOK/FISHBALLSTORY

 

On top of that, they have to pay for their rent and pay their staff. It has been really hard on the hawkers. Yet, hawkers have thought of alternative ways to repackage hawker food to make it more appealing to the younger generation. At the end of the day however, even if the hawkers try their best, it will not matter unless Singaporeans learn how to better appreciate hawker food.

 

A HAR CHEONG GAI BURGER WITH SWEET POTATO FRIES MADE BY HONG KONG OLD CHUN KEE. HAR CHEONG GAI IS PRAWN PASTE CHICKEN, A LOCAL ZI CHAR DISH.

 

Hawker food is not just about the food, it is also the people that makes the food. It is the hawker community and the stories behind their food. Many of them have gone through many hardships to be able to continue running their hawker stalls. Their food is the result of recipes that have been passed down from generation to generation.

“These stories of struggle can give rise to tourism. People have Instagram, put the story on Instagram also and share it,” said K F Seetoh, founder of Makansutra.

 

K F SEETOH, FOUNDER OF MAKANSUTRA, GIVING HIS KEYNOTE SPEECH AT THE WSFC.

 

People should also have their own emotional attachment to their favourite hawker food. One audience member in the WSFC’s dialogue session shared that street food can be a source of comfort after being away from Singapore. People should recall their emotional attachment instead of focusing on the price.

The reality is that there is no immediate solution to preserving and appreciating our hawker food. However, it starts with everyone putting in their effort and taking their time to understand the beauty behind our street food. This should be enough for now to keep our hawker food culture going.


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