The Unconscious Tale of Deliciousness.
As I write this in early November 2020, I can feel that Singapore is on the cusp of receiving that inscription for its hawker food culture in the Unesco Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity award. I played a small role, together with some famous foodies like Violet Oon and Azizah Ali, by suggesting the idea at a National Heritage Board focus group in 2018. A few months later, our Prime Minister called for that nomination with Unesco. Why? Because it’s one of the most popular and delicious cultures that binds, that all Singaporeans love and partake in, regardless of race, culture, class and creed. So what does it mean? All that toil and desperate acts of an earlier generation of hawkers, to survive an uncertain post-war future, have come to fruition. The people love it, the government supports it and their industry thrives because of it, and no one cares who you are when you chow down at a hawker centre or kopitiam. The opportunities ahead are a big green field. The era of the successful one-dish street food entrepreneur has arrived. There are currently over 114 public hawker centres in Singapore and more than 1,200 coffee shops (private small hawker cafes where you can have coffee too) plus hundreds of private food courts which are essentially smaller and more comfortable or air-conditioned hawker centres. The tally comes up to over 25,000. Covid-19 may have forced some closures in 2020, but it is an insignificant number. Hawkers are everywhere in this tiny country of 5.5 million people, with over 25,000 hawker food stalls in a tiny 725 sq km space. But no one is complaining. They feed this nation affordably, comfortably and conveniently. I learnt so much about life, love and determination from the people behind this hawker food culture, and I am still discovering today. Comfort food empowers in so many ways. The impending Unesco award is the ultimate recognition all hawkers in Singapore can receive, better than the ultimate “ die die must try ” or 3 pairs of chopsticks ranking this book can ever accord any vendor or chef. This 11 th edition of our popular Makansutra Singapore guide (since 1997) has gone electronic and in all honesty, we just like to freely share this great culture of deliciousness with you. Eat the Food and Digest the Culture. Food on your social media screen is an oxymoron. Devour, eat well and live it up.
Food Guru and Founder, Makansutra November 2020.
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