Hawker food: a term almost synonymous with Singaporean food. And it’s not just any kind of fare. This is what brought Gordon Ramsay to our shores and enthralled Anthony Bourdain so much, he publicly declared these local dishes a necessity in his upcoming Bourdain Market in New York. The extensive variety in hawker fare reflects rich cultural roots and influences, ranging from Hainanese Chicken Rice and Assam Laksa to Teochew Carrot Cake and Roti Prata. The term “hawker” first came from street food peddlers who plied their trades since the 19th century. Mounting hygiene and licensing issues led to the first hawker centres built in the 1970s, legalising the trade island-wide. It took years for the relocation to take effect. As of 2013, there were 113 hawker centres and more than 6000 cooked food stalls dispersed around the island, with 20 more slated to be built by 2027
HISTORY OF HAWKER CENTRES
To the uninitiated, hawker food may not fall under the “good food” category, especially when it means hobnobbing in non-airconditioned centres where one can feel comfortable wearing the I-just-woke-up uniform of of singlet, shorts and slippers. Yet a quick dig can uncover layers of dispute that go beyond the taste of food to proprietorship and claim-to-fames. Yes, there are politics — it’s not just another food truck economy. That’s how significant and rich hawker food really is: a kueh lapis of history, cultures and influences behind each luscious dish.
BUCKING THE TREND
Mention Creamier to any local and what comes to mind would be ice cream — and Toa Payoh. Owners Khoh Wan Chin and Audrey Wang had good foresight when they breathed life into a little cosy corner of the estate with their handcrafted ice-cream parlour in 2011, for more than 14 new cafes have joined them since. Cafes are no novelty in Singapore. Demand and supply have never been higher, with cafe-hopping a favourite weekend activity amongst the younger generations. The quest to trawl through the list of new cafes is fuelled by large numbers of entrants, with an average of almost 400 yearly and more than 200 in 2015 alone.
FOR SPECIALTY COFFEE
Here’s where calls the shots when you’re looking for gourmet coffee. From bean to cup, The Daily Press pays attention to each detail at every step for the perfect cuppa — from using their own house blend of coffee beans from Ethiopia, Brazil and Sumatra, to a dedicated emphasis on quality equipment, baristatraining and community spirit. “We want to educate the community on specialty coffee here,” Goh Shuiling, 29, who fronts the business development, says. “It’s also about the types of beans used, and the roasting process, which is actually healthier than kopitiam coffee.”