The chances of Singapore's hawker culture being inscribed as an official Unesco intangible cultural heritage have been boosted, with an expert body recommending that it be put on the list. An evaluation body comprising 12 experts from around the world, appointed by a 24-member intergovernmental committee that will give the final verdict next month, said in a much-awaited report that Singapore's application fulfils all the necessary criteria. Although this does not mean that the country's bid is successful already, there is reason to believe that it will go through. The news will not only delight the 6,000 hawkers spread over 110 hawker centres here, but also sharpen the appetite and enhance the appreciation of cultural heritage among all segments of the population, because there is hardly anyone who has not visited, does not visit, or will not visit a hawker centre in the course of living in Singapore.
Indeed, it is impossible to imagine Singapore without the everyday appeal of food at hawker centres. These cater to the diverse tastes of a multiracial population, each of whose communities possesses a wide range of culinary traditions. What hawker centres do is to bring these culinary cultures together in an unobtrusive way that Singaporeans have grown to appreciate from a young age, and sometimes even take for granted. It is not far-fetched to believe that Singapore's multicultural and cosmopolitan identity would not have flowered as it has done without the appetising catalytic role played by hawker food and the centres where it is served day in and day out.