Aspiring hawkers and the public learn about the trade and how to whip up local dishes with new cooking series

Mr Neo Cheng Leong,  owner of Leong Hainanese Chicken Rice at Shunfu Market, conducting a cooking class at Henderson Community Centre on May 29, 2017.
Mr Neo Cheng Leong, owner of Leong Hainanese Chicken Rice at Shunfu Market, conducting a cooking class at Henderson Community Centre on May 29, 2017.ST PHOTO: FELINE LIM

SINGAPORE - Mr Darren Low, 39, has always loved to cook for his family and does so three to four times a week.

Armed with new knowledge and skills from the Hawker Fare Series, which launched on Monday (May 29) at Henderson Community Club, the self employed father may soon be making a career switch to become a hawker.

The series, which was jointly organised by the National Environment Agency (NEA) and the People's Association, kicked off with a session on how to prepare chicken rice, a popular local dish here, by veteran hawker Mr Neo Cheng Leong, 57.

Mr Neo's store Leong Hainanese Chicken rice located at Shunfu Market in Upper Thompson can sell up to 200 plates of chicken rice a day.

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The series is aimed at aspiring hawkers as well as members of the public.

On why the Hawker Fare Series is opened to the public, Senior Minister of State for the Environment and Water Resources Amy Khor told reporters at the event: "Creating interest in hawker culture will help to sustain the hawker trade."

The series is part of the Government's efforts in sustaining the hawker trade and supporting new entrants under the Hawker 3.0 committee's recommendations that the Ministry of the Environment and Water Resources accepted in March.

Other initiatives include the setting up of a hawker business management course with the Institute of Technical Education College West, as well as setting aside incubation stores in various hawker centres for prospective hawkers to try out the business.

These efforts will be completed by the end of this year.

The committee was set up in response to an ageing workforce in the hawker industry as many young people are unwilling to join the trade. The average age of hawkers is 59.

The Hawker Fare Series is organised into courses on specific dishes, with each course lasting for two 3.5 hour sessions. Some dishes include local hawker favourites such as mee goreng and yong tau foo.

All courses are conducted by veteran hawkers.

Each course costs $40 for PAssion card members and $45 for non-members. There is also an ingredient fee of between $10 to $16 depending on the dish.

Participants can use their SkillsFuture credits to offset the course fee.

The sessions have class sizes of between eight to 12 people, and consist of in depth explanations of recipes as well as tips on running a hawker business.

"The (Hawker Fare Series) course was very eye opening. Before attending it, I was not sure of the procedures and details behind making chicken rice but now I understand that it's not as easy as it seems." said Mr Low.