Singapore Hawkers Share: How Hawker Centres Bring Us Together

Singapore Hawker Culture

What do you know Hawker Centres for? When my friends went on exchange to places like America or Europe, they not only missed Hawker Centres for its good, cheap food, but also for how it brought people together. 

As someone who spent their entire life in Singapore, I never truly came to appreciate the uniqueness of Hawker Culture till I spent an extended amount of time overseas. Having my favourite uncles and aunties at Mei Ling Food Centre memorise my order, or asking me how my day went was taken for granted till I realised this wasn’t always the case all over the world. It was this personal touch that many of my friends craved for while spending some 3 to 6 months in a foreign land. 

But enough from me about food — it’s time to hear from the hawkers themselves, as we dive into questions about what makes hawkering their preferred choice of F&B, and their personal experiences on how hawkering brings people together. 

Remus, Hawker and Owner of Fukudon

As a foodie myself, I understood passion for food when it comes to eating and cooking. But what I could not understand was why hawkers would choose to cook in the form of a stuffy, hot kitchen in a Hawker Centre, with dishes selling at low profit margins. 

Which was why I was baffled hearing from Remus when he mentioned that he left his previous job at a fine-dining restaurant to open Fukudon at Marine Parade Central Market, transitioning from a high end of the F&B spectrum to something more humble. But I quickly found the answer: Hawkering promises something that working in a kitchen doesn’t — valuable interactions with customers and neighbours that push him to get out of bed each day at 6am. 

 /></p><p><i><span style=Remus: “When people tell me my food is good, it’s a priceless feeling that makes me push on forward, even on my low days.” 

Image Credit: The Meatmen 

After three years as founder and chef at Fukudon, Remus has experienced his fair share of good, bad and ugly, but what pulled him through was people. When he first started the stall, he put in grueling hours, working 14 hours everyday for 6 days a week. It’s what he describes as “low days”, when he constantly felt like giving up just because of how tiring it was. In this period, it was the conversations with his left and right stall neighbours during his after-lunch-hour break that encouraged him to press on. 

Another of Remus’ biggest motivations were his customers. He recalls fondly Fukudon’s #1 fan, who he affectionately nicknamed “Mrs Karaage”, because she would add on at least one serving of Chicken Karaage to each of her orders. Though he doesn’t know her actual name, Remus recognises Mrs Karaage merely because of how many times she’s visited — 3 to 4 times every week since the stall first opened in 2020. 

 /></p><p><i><span style=Our interview with Remus was interrupted as he rushed to attend to a customer halfway, and he even recommended a menu for the uncle. 

Image Credit: The Meatmen

For Mrs Karaage’s family, Fukudon is a staple even during the weekend, when her whole family would make their way down to have lunch. Remus says that’s something he looks forward to every week — the rewarding scene of seeing the family enjoy a meal that he prepared together.  

It was apparent how their friendship goes beyond just an ordinary hawker and a customer when Remus even recounted the backstory to Mrs Karaages’ fried chicken craze — it all started when she chanced upon the finger-food while spending time working overseas in Japan. After she realised that she could get something similar at the Hawker Centre near her place, the rest was history. 

Randall, Hawker and Owner of Roast Paradise

Randall from Roast Paradise is a big Hawker-Centre-fan-turned-Hawker. Most of his meals are settled at Hawker Centres, and many of his fond memories include sharing a whole variety of dishes with his friends. To him, that’s what makes Hawker Culture unique — it’s the only place you get to eat a meal consisting of food hailing from different cultures. 

 /></p><p><i><span style=Randall poses with Roast Paradise’s signature sharing plate, which includes Char Siew, Roast Pork and Roast Duck, their stall’s latest addition. 

Image Credit: The Meatmen

Randall’s journey into F&B began with his love for food. In fact, during his younger days, he would go around the island, and eventually even overseas in a quest to find the best food with his kakis. It was these food trails that brought him and his friends closer together, and even gave him inspiration to start Roast Paradise. 

“We like to eat a lot of meat, we are meat eaters. (Well, over at The Meatmen, we can’t help but agree. Meat is the best!) So we went to try all these kinds of cool meats. That’s how I first tried this KL-style Char Siew.” 

When I first dug into Roast Paradise’s Char Siew, it was truly a mind-blowing experience with its slightly charred taste and the soft, juicy mouthfeel of the meat. So I can’t even imagine how it must have been for Randall when he tried this for the first time over at KL, back when Singapore’s roast meats usually consisted of the red-dye Char Siew. 

 /></p><p><i><span style=Close up of the sharing plate, with the Roast Pork at the back, the Roast Duck at the front and the glorious Char Siew in the middle. Straight into my mouth after the photo was taken. 

Image Credit: The Meatmen

Randall said he isn’t too good at describing the taste of his first KL Char Siew, but it was delicious enough that he knew that he needed to bring this dish over to Singapore. “I think people will love it as much as I did!” he laughed, and I was reminded again about how wanting to share one’s loves with others is all part and parcel of how food brings a community together. 

Who else can you connect with through food?

I think something that makes us uniquely Singaporean is our passion for food. We’re willing to queue for hours on end for our favourite Chicken Rice, are quick to recommend recipes or tell others about our latest ho jiak food-find. 

That’s also how we started over at The Meatmen. We love our local delights, and in wanting to share our favourite food with as many people as possible, we penned them down into recipes and made cooking videos so people could follow along. Through the years, we’ve had the joy of seeing people come together and share their stories and cultures through food and drink. And that’s what made us realise that at the end of the day, there’s nothing more important than human connection. 

So the next time you make your way to your favourite hawker stall, go ahead and try a smile with a “how’s your day going?” Perhaps you’ll also forge a new friendship that you’ll never forget. 


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