Veteran hawkers shed light on trade

Veteran chicken rice hawker Neo Cheng Leong, 57, imparting his skills during a Hawker Fare Series cooking class yesterday.
Veteran chicken rice hawker Neo Cheng Leong, 57, imparting his skills during a Hawker Fare Series cooking class yesterday.ST PHOTO: FELINE LIM

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

In fact, the self-employed father of a two-year-old has toyed with the idea of making a career out of being a hawker, and he is finally getting the skills to do so.

So will others who sign up for the Hawker Fare Series, jointly organised by the National Environment Agency (NEA) and the People's Association to arm people with the know-how to take on one of Singapore's most iconic trades.

About a dozen people attended the first session at Henderson Community Club yesterday on how to prepare chicken rice, taught by veteran hawker Neo Cheng Leong, 57.

Mr Neo sells up to 200 plates of chicken rice a day at his stall, Leong Hainanese Chicken Rice, in Shunfu Market in Upper Thompson.

The Hawker Fare Series is open to the public, because "creating interest in hawker culture will help to sustain the hawker trade", Senior Minister of State for the Environment and Water Resources Amy Khor told reporters yesterday.

It is part of the Government's efforts in sustaining the trade and supporting new entrants, based on recommendations made by the Hawker 3.0 Committee set up in response to the ageing workforce in the industry. The average age of a hawker is 59.

The Hawker Fare Series is organised around specific dishes, with each course taught over two sessions by veteran hawkers. Other dishes include mee goreng and yong tau foo.

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

Participants can use their SkillsFuture credits to offset the course fee. The sessions have class sizes of eight to 12 people, and consist of in-depth explanations of recipes as well as tips on running a hawker business.

"The course was an eye-opener. 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.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 30, 2017, with the headline 'Veteran hawkers shed light on trade'. Print Edition | Subscribe