17 hawker stalls get award for serving up heritage meals

Ayer Rajah Food Centre stalls first of those in 110 centres lauded in campaign to promote the culture

Right: (From left) West Coast Drive Merchants' Association chairman Bernard Thia; Minister for Communications and Information S. Iswaran; Mr Abdul Rauf Abdul Hamid of award-winning stall Mr Dum Briyani (No. 78) and his wife Marita Mohd Salleh; IBF pr
(From left) West Coast Drive Merchants' Association chairman Bernard Thia; Minister for Communications and Information S. Iswaran; Mr Abdul Rauf Abdul Hamid of award-winning stall Mr Dum Briyani (No. 78) and his wife Marita Mohd Salleh; IBF president Fredrick Yap; and IBF food ambassador leader Nor Suhir at Ayer Rajah Food Centre yesterday.ST PHOTO: TIMOTHY DAVID
Right: (From left) West Coast Drive Merchants' Association chairman Bernard Thia; Minister for Communications and Information S. Iswaran; Mr Abdul Rauf Abdul Hamid of award-winning stall Mr Dum Briyani (No. 78) and his wife Marita Mohd Salleh; IBF pr
Mr Iswaran, Mr Thia and Dr Yap with other award-winning stallholders.ST PHOTO: TIMOTHY DAVID
Right: (From left) West Coast Drive Merchants' Association chairman Bernard Thia; Minister for Communications and Information S. Iswaran; Mr Abdul Rauf Abdul Hamid of award-winning stall Mr Dum Briyani (No. 78) and his wife Marita Mohd Salleh; IBF pr
Mr Iswaran, Mr Thia and Dr Yap with other award-winning stallholders.ST PHOTO: TIMOTHY DAVID

Seventeen hawker stalls at Ayer Rajah Food Centre were recognised yesterday for serving up delicious heritage meals, as part of a campaign to promote hawker culture.

It was the first of about 110 hawker centres across the island to have stalls receive the Singapore Top Heritage Food award given out by the International Business Federation (IBF).

The stalls were chosen after three days of judging last month by a panel of food ambassadors who are IBF volunteers, said IBF president Frederick Yap.

The next phase of the campaign, in April, will allow the public to vote for their favourite hawker stalls.

Dr Yap said the results will be published in a guidebook listing the top 10 hawker stalls for each Singaporean heritage dish - such as Indian rojak, wanton mee and nasi lemak.

"Our goal is to highlight the best heritage hawker food at each hawker centre in Singapore."

In December last year, Singapore's hawker culture was added to the Unesco Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity, following three years of work by the National Heritage Board, the National Environment Agency and the Federation of Merchants' Associations, Singapore.

New schemes have also been introduced to lower the barriers to entry for young aspiring hawkers, and make it easier for retiring hawkers to hand over their stalls to non-relatives.

Yesterday, Dr Yap said members of the public who want to recognise the best hawker stalls can volunteer to become food ambassadors with the IBF, which will provide the necessary training.

"It is not an easy task. They will have to go to the hawker centres during non-peak hours to do tasting," he said.

Among the 17 stalls recognised yesterday was Mr Dum Briyani (No. 78), a family-run briyani stall.

Mr Abdul Rauf Abdul Hamid, 53, and his wife Marita Mohd Salleh, 48, received the award from Dr Yap and Minister for Communications and Information S. Iswaran, who is also an MP for West Coast GRC.

Madam Marita said: "We were surprised, because it is the first time we've received an award for our briyani."

Since its opening in 2015, the stall has been frequented by loyal customers like retiree Han Hai Kwang, 70, who orders a plate of chicken dum briyani at least once a week.

"The rice is not oily and it is fluffy. The only problem is sometimes when I come, the briyani is sold out," he said.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on February 21, 2021, with the headline '17 hawker stalls get award for serving up heritage meals'. Subscribe