#EvenBetter Singapore's Hawker Centres
📷 1: Photo of Senja Hawker Centre. [Kean Cham on Facebook]
Families on weekends, office workers at lunch hour; retired seniors at all hours — regardless of race, religion or economic status, Singaporeans share a common love for eating at hawker centres.
Before hawker centres existed, Singaporeans had to take a chance on unlicensed street hawkers, who set up food stalls by the street to sell all sorts of food, from freshly-cooked dishes to deserts and fruits. Selling food curb-side meant that most hawkers did not have easy access to clean water to wash ingredients or utensils. There were no assigned disposal areas, so hawkers often left heaps of food waste and refuse on the street, which attracted plenty of pests and posed a threat to public health.
This changed in the 1970s when the government introduced licensing and registration requirements for street hawkers. From 1971 to 1986, over 18,000 hawkers were relocated to markets and hawker centres, starting with #SingaporesFirst hawker centre, Yung Sheng Food Centre. Since then, more hawker centres have been built across the island, providing hawkers with more hygienic places to work, and diners with more hygienic food.
In 2021, the government announced the Hawker Centres Transformation programme (HTP), which aimed to incorporate the latest technology and automation features into hawker centres, making them cleaner, modern, and more sustainable.
Unlike older hawker centres which can be hot and stuffy, newer hawker centres, such as the Senja Hawker Centre and Fernvale Hawker Centre, have high ceilings, ample ventilation, and large ceiling fans, vastly improving air circulation and overall comfort. These new hawker centres have also incorporated modern technology for smoother dining experiences – for instance, patrons of the Bukit Canberra Hawker Centre can download a mobile application to place orders without having to stand in line.
Singapore’s hawker culture is so beloved that it was inscribed onto the UNESCO Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity in December 2020. Our hawker centres have made it possible for Singaporeans from all backgrounds to continue enjoying affordable cuisine as our nation moves forward to be #EvenBetter.
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