Leave Bedok Hawker Centre Alone

All hawker centres in Singapore for that matter.

Just as I was down about inflation and feeling that the one affordable thing we have left is hawker food, I read about the possible privatisation of hawker centres.  Oh the horror!

In Singapore, the equivalent of Anthony Bourdain, is K F Seetoh, and he pipes in about this at the Yahoo Singapore Blog.  Although didn’t he start off the trend by establishing Food Republic – a private food court chain? At the Makansutra forum it was stated that Food Republic was his brainchild, but he made a business decision to pull out and Bread Talk is now running it.

I must say I have no issue with a few of these outlets, but their prices are double that of what you find in the hawker centre and the quality is not as good. Hawker food is not meant to be eaten in an air-conditioned environment. It’s meant to be eaten hot of the pan.

Here’s an extract of the article.

First it was all about bold pricing strategies, which is actually the simple act of raising hawker food prices through the roof. Now, it’s about the prospect of privatising hawker centres, which can lead to the same effect. Imagine, the audacity of charging $17 for a bowl of laksa in a food court, as recently reported. Sheesh! Now, a question mark hangs over the fate of the iconic Bedok bus terminal hawker centre as town keepers and private property players entertain the thought of privatising it.

We’ve come a long way since the wild old days when then Governor F. Gimson in the 50’s declared in his Hawker Enquiry Report that “there is undeniably a disposition among officials to regard the hawkers as primarily a public nuisance to be removed from the streets.”…..

Hawker centres were eventually set up to house the relocated itinerant street hawkers. There were already 24,000 of them in the 60s. Today, there are over 100 public hawker centres that have become makan institutions that feed the masses. It is also listed in the book 1,000 Places to See Before You Die which declared “Even Hong Kong runs a distant second”, when it came to gastronomy culture……

My mum and aunts recall fondly, the Singapore street hawkers in the 60’s and earlier. The street hawkers even sold noodles on their bicycles, so that when you were hungry you could just wave them down and order a bowl. My mum referred to the man who came by her home as the Tock Tock man as he used to beat two wooden implements together to alert you that he was coming just like the ice cream man would ring his bell.  I am sad that I did not get a chance to experience that. Today you can get a glimpse of it at the Singapore History museum. I hope this is not the fate that awaits our hawker centers.

About bookjunkie

Blogging about life in Singapore helps me survive the mid-life crisis
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7 Responses to Leave Bedok Hawker Centre Alone

  1. 365days2play says:

    Nowadays there’s just so many changes it almost seems pointless to want to stop them. If we all vote with our feet, things won’t end up this way. Eg if nobody ate at the airconditioned food courts, they’d soon realise not to build another one. Unfortunately, while we do want our heritage hawker centres to stay, we also choose to go to air conditioned places.

    • bookjunkie says:

      I am guilty of that sometimes too, mostly because of the convenience. But I am glad to say I think I go to hawker centres and coffeeshops more than the air-conditioned food courts, especially if they have my favourite hawker food that I’m craving for. Although I try the curry rice at Food Republic, my favourite version is still the original one at the coffee shop.

      I tend to avoid most food courts where the ventilation is bad. Food smells intermingled in an air-conditioned place really puts me off.

  2. Al says:

    This is also a common sight in Kuala Lumpur 🙁 I think as economy grows, money start pouring in, consumers start dining based on ambience/environment and hygience ratings more than the flavours and tastes :'( Local dishes are becoming too expensive….(at least in KL).

    My Hong Kong friends told me that hawker food in Hong Kong is also a dying trade as hawkers are treated as a nuisance. Hawkers are forced to move in to proper shops, and old recipes prepared over crackling firewood or charcoal are also fast disappearing as licenses are not renewed for those who still cook using these old cooking methods :'(

    • bookjunkie says:

      Thanks for dropping by AI. Food cooked over charcoal sounds divine to me 🙂 What a pity.

      I think this is the reason why the food in the smaller states of Malaysia tastes so good. They are very authentic and with cooking methods passed down over the years.

  3. Crappies says:

    By Bedok Hawker Centre, do you mean the Fengshan hawker, i.e. the Bedok Blk 85 hawker centre? (http://hulrulto.blogspot.com/2011/05/upgrading-fengshan-hawker-centre-aka.html)

    Yupz, hawkers have no choice but to raise their prices after upgrading is done because their rental will have increased. Sad to say, that is what happened to many hawker centres.

    What is sadder is that some of the hawkers decided to call it quits during upgrading… and there goes our favourite hawker food.

  4. Anthony Ong says:

    Hi, long-time well-known hawker centres like the one at Bedok interchange has a history and a tradition. Many of the stall holders have been there for decades, and some are 2nd generation staff holders. People grow-up eating at the hawker centre, and becoming long-time friends with stall-holders. The place is a part of their kampong. This is part of our cultural heritage.

    If demolised, the new air-con food-court is going to be (usually) privatised by major food-court chains and many previous hawkers will not have the financial means to return. Also, the people (customers) mostly low-income or no-income house-keepers, students, retirees, etc will have no convenient place to go for low-price makan. Hope this will be reviewed carefully. Same goes for the Fengshan hawker centre. Thanks.

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