One of Singapore Day’s main highlights is the local food fare we bring over, and where do we find them if not for hawker centres? Apart from soaking up the bustling atmosphere and fragrance of food, some visit hawker centres also to take a journey down memory’s lane.
Before hawker centres were built, hawkers gathered in streets to sell food in booths and stalls. The lack of proper equipment led to overcrowding and hygiene problems such as contaminated food and polluted streets. To improve the situation, the government started relocating hawkers into properly built facilities in 1971, and these facilities are the cultural icons we know as hawker centres today. Here are five of the oldest hawker centres in Singapore!
(Street Hawkers selling their food in booths before hawker centres were built.)
1. Yung Sheng Food Centre
The first hawker centre to be built as part of the government’s street hawkers’ resettlement programme, Yung Sheng Food Centre, also affectionately known as “六十摊” (literally ‘sixty stalls’), has been in operation since 1971. It houses some of the oldest hawkers still serving their dishes with passion. Starting out with only 60 stalls, it has since merged with Corporation Drive Market and Corporation Drive Food Centre to form Taman Jurong Market & Food Centre, having over 120 stalls in operation today.
2. Lau Pa Sat
(Lau Pa Sat with its Victorian structures. Picture source: http://gallery.ntu.edu.sg/)
Meaning “old market” in Hokkien and previously known as Telok Ayer market, this was the first market in Singapore. It has been relocated and revamped various times since its opening in 1825 as a 9-metre by 24-metre attap structure resting on timber piles into a hawker centre known for its Victorian structure today. It was converted from a market to a hawker centre in 1973.
It closed down temporarily for the tunnelling of a Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) station nearby in 1986, and reopened in 1991. It is now one of the favourite eating places for office workers nearby, with over 100 stalls.
At night, the side street of Lau Pa Sat, Boon Tat Street, is closed, transforming into “Satay Street”, consisting of satay stalls serving customers sitting out on the steet the way they used to decades ago.
3. Maxwell Road Food Centre
(Interior of Maxwell Road Food Centre. Picture source: http://www.yoursingapore.com/)
Think of famous Tian Tian Chicken Rice and you will think of this hawker centre. Formerly known as the Maxwell Market in the 1930s, it started out as a wet market before becoming a temporary hawker centre meant to house hawkers from China Square along China Street in the 1980s. It was renovated in year 2000 and is now a preserved hawker centre. This hawker centre located in the Central Business District with over 100 stalls includes famous stalls like Zhen Zhen Porridge, Jin Hua Sliced Fish Bee Hoon and Maxwell Fuzhou Oyster Cake.
4. Tiong Bahru Market
(Tiong Bahru Market, one of the oldest hawker centres in Singapore.Picture source: http://commons.wikimedia.org/)
Along with one of the oldest housing estates in Singapore comes one of the oldest hawker centres. Tiong Bahru Market opened in 1955, as one of the earliest modern markets in Singapore. Famous stalls here include Tiong Bahru Hainanese Boneless Chicken Rice, Tiong Bahru Lee Hong Kee Cantonese Roasted and Pork Ribs Prawn Noodle.
5. Newton Food Centre
(Newton Food Centre after renovation. Picture source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/peach-life/310340685/)
Known for a variety of great food especially when it comes to seafood, Newton Food Centre is well patronised through day and night, by both locals and tourists. What some people don’t know is that it has been in operation since 1971, and is among the earliest hawker centres in Singapore.
It has been promoted by the Singapore Tourism Board as a tourist attraction for sampling local food fare. It was recently renovated in 2006 with a design inspired by old colonial houses. The 7 metres high ceiling also provides better ventilation and a cooler environment.
will see various stalls from different hawker centres going down to Sydney, Australia to bring a taste of rich culture and history from home to Singaporeans there. Which stalls will be making their way there this year? Watch this space to find out! If you don’t want to miss out on any of the dishes that's going to Singapore Day 2013, to attend the event now!
By Sim Yu Xiang