15 hawkers lauded for efforts in shaping Singapore's hawker culture

Ms Elayne Ang, one of the Promising New Hawker Award recipients, with her partner Samuel Tan at their Tian Kee Carrot Cake Hokkien Mee stall. ST PHOTO: JOEL CHAN

SINGAPORE - Recognition for Singapore's hawkers is getting a boost, with a new set of awards lauding new entrants, innovators and family members who have taken over the business.

On Monday (Jan 11), a total of 15 hawkers were presented with the first Singapore Hawkers Awards for their efforts in shaping the country's prized hawker culture, which was added to the Unesco Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity last month.

Organised by The Federation of Merchants' Associations, Singapore (FMAS) and Chinese-language daily Lianhe Wanbao, the awards consist of three categories - the Promising New Hawker Award, the Hawker Heritage Award, and the Enterprising Hawker Award. The awards are supported by the National Environment Agency.

Dr Amy Khor, Senior Minister of State for Sustainability and the Environment, presented the awards at Our Tampines Hub during the second edition of the SG Hawker Seminar.

She said: "We all know that our hawkers are the heart of Singapore's hawker culture and in fact, generations of Singaporeans have grown up with hawker food. Indeed, together with the Unesco inscription, I am very happy that (this award is launched) to celebrate hawker culture as well as to give recognition and appreciation to the dedication and hard work of our hawkers."

The award recipients were chosen from more than 110 applications and will each get $500 in cash. The panel of seven judges included celebrity chefs Eric Teo and Mel Dean.

Mr Yeo Hiang Meng, president of FMAS, said the awards are timely, coming after the Unesco listing.

"We hope that by sharing the successful stories of these exemplary hawkers, fellow hawkers in the community will be inspired to do better and more budding hawkers will be inspired to join the profession and contribute to our rich food culture," he said.

The Promising New Hawker Award recognises new hawkers who have shown potential in sustaining their budding hawker trade, while the Hawker Heritage Award recognises brands which have been passed down for generations.

The Enterprising Hawker Award recognises those who have innovated and implemented new business strategies to grow their business.

Mr Jimmy Teo, one of five recipients of this award, said he initially faced difficulties when he entered the industry four years ago. "The manpower shortage and the physically demanding hours restricted operations. I realised the conventional solutions didn't work and I knew I had to innovate."

The 29-year-old, who runs two stalls selling bak chor mee and finger food at Commonwealth Crescent Market and Food Centre, tapped automation such as food processors to boost productivity, and also quickly familiarised himself with food delivery platforms.

He said: "I am grateful for the acknowledgement of my efforts and I hope this would help to attract more talents into the industry to keep the hawker culture alive and going."

Ms Filzah Miranti Mohd Dawood, 28, whose family owns a stall in Geylang Serai Market serving Malay dishes such as lontong and nasi rawon, or rice served with black beef soup, was one of six recipients of the Hawker Heritage Award.

She started helping her mother at the stall since she was eight, and is the fourth-generation successor of the business, which started in 1963.

She follows the same preparation methods and recipes as her predecessors.

"It wasn't easy to pass (my mother's taste) test. It's definitely rewarding that I get to learn the hard way. Methods of cooking traditionally can be so tedious but worth it."

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