Singapore's hawker heritage on Unesco list: How some hawkers are passing on legacy to young apprentices

As Singapore awaits the Unesco decision on inscribing hawker culture on the intangible heritage list, three hawkers share why they are passing on their love of the trade to others through an apprenticeship scheme.

Mentoring another to keep the trade alive

The hawker who runs the Min Nan Pork Ribs Prawn Noodle stall at Tiong Bahru Food Centre, Mr Tan Kin Leng, used to be ashamed of the trade.

As a child, he had to help his father and grandfather at the now 50-year-old stall, while his classmates and their families feasted on the food he served.

Today, he is actively helping to keep the trade alive, mentoring Mr Lim Min Jie, 34, who wishes to start his own braised food stall.

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Young, and ready to make waves

Western food chains Astons and Collin's began in hawker centres or coffee shops, and Mr Lee Syafiq hopes his burger outlets will be the next hawker brand to make it big.

He opened the first Ashes Burnnit stall at Golden Mile Food Centre last year, and two more since then, with each outlet selling about 500 burgers a day.

While not a household name yet, like Malaysia's Ramly burger, Ashes Burnnit is fast acquiring a loyal customer base for both its affordability and its crusty patties.

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Happy to train next generation

Mr Clement Wang's traineeship at Rong Xing Yong Tau Fu began after a chance encounter in January when, while queueing at the Tanjong Pagar Plaza stall, he told the hawker he wanted to learn how to make her tofu and meatballs.

Mr Wang, 34, who then had an airline cabin crew job, felt he had no way of getting into the trade despite his interest, as his only experience was when he had helped out part-time in a restaurant kitchen at the age of 19.

But veteran stallholder Tee Chun Moy, 60, said she would be happy to take him on.

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Unesco's decision on hawker culture out this week

By this time next week, Singapore will know if its dreams of having hawker culture inscribed on the Unesco intangible heritage list have come true.

The intergovernmental committee in charge of the final verdict is convening from Monday (Dec 14) to Dec 19, during which the official result of the nomination will be announced.

The historic moment has been hotly anticipated by the country for nearly three years, though for a while what to nominate for the list was unclear.

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