Old dog, new tricks

Reinventing a thing as old as our hawker centers isn’t easy, but has been successfully done to great effect, as proven by the crowds that gather at the many newly upscaled hawkers islandwide.


Slightly over one-year-old Timbre+ at One-North obviously comes to mind, having set the bar high by using refurbished shipping containers and graffiti wall art to up the cool factor. Traditional hawkers and food trucks co-exist under the same roof here, serving up all kinds of grub—from wanton mee to seafood boils—as you have them with Archipelago beer on tap or bottled craft brews at Timbre’s Bottle Shop.

Then we've got northeast heartlander favorites Legend Beer Garden along Anchorvale Road, and recently opened Starker Q (more a leveled-up foodcourt than a hawker) at Punggol Town Plaza, both from the same company that serves up the locally brewed Starker Fresh Beers. Here, they keep things real by having tze char staples like sambal kang kung alongside crowd-pleasers such as salted egg yolk wings on the menu.

The Bedok Marketplace

Touting themselves as the hippest hawker in the east is The Bedok Marketplace, which sets itself apart with a good selection of dining options like Tajima Wagyu Bento from The Burning Oak and Mee Goreng Pasta from The Chop Chop Selections (both taste as good as any restaurant out there that serves the same). The drink stalls offer a good selection of beers, as well as wines by the bottle too if you want to keep things classy.

And let’s not forget Salut Coffeeshop, a godsend for Bukit Merah residents and workers (like the SG team) craving for a good meal of fancy duck rillette, camembert cheese gratin or beef burgers oozing with spicy guacamole, jalapenos and roasted capsicums in a homely coffeeshop setting.

The best thing about these reinvented hawker centers and coffeeshops aren’t the supposed hipster vibes and Instagram fodder food and decor, but rather, the ability for them to reinvigorate people’s interest in the cultural significance of these places. Perhaps that is why we’re seeing a new generation of hawkers taking up the mantle to learn and cook good ol’ hawker fare, which can only be a good thing for food activism and cultural preservation.

Let’s hope the upcoming Pasir Ris Central Hawker Centre, a two-storey establishment serving both traditional hawker cuisine and more modern takes on those cuisines, will be an equally poignant step in the right direction for our hawker culture when it opens by the end of 2017.

You can find the original story (and many others) in our 22nd Birthday print issue here.