Hawkers went from the street to food centres to global Unesco recognition.

PUBLISHED: DEC 18, 2020

How Singapore’s hawker culture evolved

1800s

Itinerant street hawking may have been around since the 1800s, but there’s no definitive record of when it started.

1960s

An island-wide exercise to legalise hawkers was carried out by registering street food peddlers.

1971

The first hawker centre to open was Yung Sheng Food Centre in Jurong. Today, it’s called Taman Jurong Market and Food Centre.

1985

All street hawkers had moved into 135 purpose-built food centres.

1997

Grading of licensed food stalls - from A to D, based on cleanliness - started. Earlier, in 1987, a Points Demerit System was introduced to ensure good hygiene standards.

2011

The Government announced that 10 new hawker centres would be built over the next 10 years. Prior to this, no new hawker centre had been built for the past 26 years.

Global recognition

In 2020, Singapore’s hawker culture was added to the Unesco intangible heritage list, which commits the country to protecting and promoting it.

UNESCO HAWKER JOURNEY
UNESCO HAWKER JOURNEY

Keeping hawker heritage alive

There are more than 110 hawker centres with about 6,000 hawker stalls today. There are hopes the Unesco recognition will translate into more apprentices and young people joining the trade.

YOUNG HAWKER APPRENTICES
YOUNG HAWKER APPRENTICES

SOURCE: ST REPORTS BY MICHELLE NG AND CLEMENT YONG; ST VIDEOS BY RENEE POH, YEO SAM JO, JAMIE KOH, S RUBEEN RAJ, FARZANAH FRIDAY, OLIVIA CHANG, SHAWN LEE MILLER, T KUMAR, PHILIP CHEONG, FAITH MELODY ZACCHEUS, ASHLEIGH SIM, ALEXIS GABRIELLE, JOYCE FANG AND LIM JUN YONG; ST PHOTOS BY HAN HAI FONG, WAN SENG YIP, GAVIN FOO AND DESMOND LIM; VIDEOS BY KK KOH/YOUTUBE AND GETAWAYTOURS/YOUTUBE

PRODUCED BY: DENISE CHONG

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