Monday, March 14, 2011

This is the way we eat (Part 2) by Peter Chan

After the P.A.P came into power in 1959, the Hawker Department was amalgamated into the Ministry of Health until in 1972 when it was hived-off to the Ministry of Environment. Licensing started in 1968 but implementation was slow because of the British Military Pull-Out. Although the government intended to contain the street hawker problem, this could have been political dynamite. In many P.A.P “Meet the People Session”, the top two most sought after “needs” were getting a hawker licence, and public financial assistance.

Photo 1: Beef Kway Teow at Empress Place Hawker Center. It was built next to the present Asian Civilization Museum ( c 1972).

Getting hawkers to be re-sited into hawker centres and/or action by way of arrests, fines and demolishing structures usually draw the attention of Members of Parliament (MPs). This is because each constituency had its own peculiar hawker problems. For example in new industrial area like Redhill and Jurong, there were always business opportunities when there were factory workers. Lower-income families living within HDB estates took to illegal hawking to supplement income. Testimony of the “bureaucratic intelligence” when adhering to a public policy, the result was hawking licences were issued in places far from homes and inaccessible to public transport. Thus MPs appeal on behalf of their constituents by petitioning the Minister in charge of the Hawker Department, a Mr. Yong Nyuk Lin.

Photo 2: Left to Right – Eating on stools at a Ho Chi Minh City roadside; Bak So Mie Push-cart in Jakarta.


As part of the hawker development projects, 16 hawker centres by 1972 were under various stages of planning/construction. These hawker centres were meant to house re-sited street hawkers. Zion Road Hawker Center was completed in my second-year at the university. When I went dating, Esplanade Satay Club opened in 1972, Empress Place in 1973 and 7 mile Bukit Timah Hawker Center cum wet market was completed by the time I graduated. By the time I went to work Cuppage Center was opened.

By 1986 there were no more street hawkers and all stallholders in hawker centres were licensed by the Ministry of Environment. Since 1996 all the ENV market and food centres underwent upgrading works. Today, Singaporeans are very selective as to where they eat.

If we miss the ambience of street hawkers, we can always try our ASEAN neighbours. Rest assured this is very sedap man (aka Mo Tak Teng). When I was based in Hong Kong, I would take “short-cuts” through the alleys of Hong Kong to get from point to point. Not too far back, I revisited one of the routes (photo3). It looks like things don’t change that fast in Hong Kong.


Photo 3: Ah Chan and Luk Siew Fung at their stalls on Hong Kong Island.



Hmmmm ... maybe this is one of the reasons why I enjoyed Ipoh food. They have lots of roadside foodstalls. They also have lots of push-cart type food vendors at the wet market. Chun See



14 comments:

Lam Chun See said...

Peter. Are you able to confirm this. I thought I saw on a tv documentary once that Spore's first hawker centre was in Jurong; along Corporation Drive. I have eaten there many times as it was near my church. But did not take any photos. :(

Anonymous said...

Chun See

If you follow strict definition of a hwker center where there are no "under one roof" a wet market, then the one at Yung Sheng Road in Jurong was the first when it was completed in 1972.

If you dont follow that definition, then the wet markets would also have their own hawker stalls as early as 1954.

Thimbuktu said...

Chun See, are you referring to Taman Jurong Food Centre? Many Malaysian factory workers were staying in their hostels provided by the employers. The wide variety of the food there was cheap and good. There was also a canteen near the Jurong Industrial Estate operated in a buffet-style for the customers could have a choice of each food item and charged accordingly.

Philip said...

In the 1970s and earlier, a food centre was referred to as a hawker centre. In Taman Jurong, there were 2 wet markets cum hawker centres known as Taman Jurong I and Taman Jurong II. They were located at Corporation Drive and Corporation Road respectively. Yung Sheng Hawker Centre had only 15 food stalls. There was a stand by itself 4D stall at the corner fronting the hawker stalls.

Philip said...

Licensing of hawkers did not start in 1968 nor its implementation was due to the British Military Pull Out. In fact, 1968 was the year an island wide survey of hawkers was carried out by the Hawkers Dept. In 1970s bona fide unlicensed hawkers plotted in the map during the survey were given licenses.

Thimbuktu said...

The buffet-style canteen at Loyang are found here and here .

Cheers!

Philip said...

All public markets and food centres are managed separately by ENV, HDB and JTC but all stallholders are licensed by ENV. It is not true that all food centres are upgraded by the ENV. Upgrading is carried out by each authority that owns the premises.

Joseph Wong said...

In 1972, Chomp Chomp was created to house all the hawkers around Serangoon Garden, both static and itinerant. Previously most of the hawkers were sited at the defunct bus terminus at Serangoon Garden Circus. Then they moved to Maju Ave while Chomp Chomp was being built. The itinerant hawkers that ply the streets of Serangoon Garden were also given a permanent home at Chomp Chomp.

Zen said...

The pictures bring back good memories of myself sitting on a bench, in front of a push-cart, meanwhile seeing the 'cook' preparing my breakfast (a bowl of tasty meepok). After polishing it up speedily, washing down with a cup of tea-tarek and headed straight for work.

peter said...

Philip fyi,

Accoridng to Mr. Goh Chin Tong, former head of Hawker department, temporary hawker licences were issued after survey of hawkers conducted between Nov 1968 and Jan 1969. By trhen Hawker depatrmnet found there was somthing like 24,000 street hawkers. The keyword here is "temporary licence". After temporay licence issued, street hawkers had to move off the main road into side lanes/backlanes/alleys so as to prevent road congestion. Even with these measures, illegal hawking continued until Hawker Department formed Special Squad in 1974. Problem solved after govt made it compulsory that any state agency like URA when it redeveloped the land must also provide for hawker centers. Thus you got Golden Shoe, Amoy Street and Cuppage Center

Philip said...

Goh Ching Tong went to the Hawkers Department only in the 1980s. The island wide hawkers survey, the clearing and licensing of street hawkers were before his time. In the 1960s HDB already had their Hawkers Department to deal with illegal hawkers and licensees in their markets/hawker centres. JTC formed one in 1974. Later the management of illegal hawkers island wide came under the Env Hawkers Department.

Thimbuktu said...

Anyone know why the hawker inspector called as "teh gu" (地牛) in the early days? Just curious. Thanks.

mahjong said...

Nice Photography. Picture is very good and your pictures are beautiful as always. Nice Post.

Selatke said...

Actually the most famous hawker centre that pre-dates those mentioned above was the one at the Pearl Pasar (珍珠巴刹) in Chinatown. The whole pasar was burnt down in 1966. The People's Park Complex was built on its site. Some of the food stalls in the old pasar were relocated there.