Hawker centres, or kopitiams, are integral to our local diet. We all have our own favourite fish soup and bak kut teh stalls. We love contending over the top hokkien mee and orh luak, scouring the island in search of our ‘best-ofs’. There is no lack of fine dining and fast food options in Singapore, but it is in the ubiquitous hawker centre where one finds the quintessential assembly of local dishes.
Whether or not the hawker trade will survive is a question many have asked and are still asking. Being a hawker is not a common aspiration amongst the younger generations – it’s a tough and tiring job, one not seen as a profession. Still, these young hawkers we’ve spoken to are especially resilient in the face of all the challenges, and some bring a new innovativeness to traditional dishes that mark true entrepreneurship. Are they legit? You be the judge.
Melvin Soh, 29, started his business at the tender age of 23, and faced an abnormal amount of doubt in his coffee brewing skills from the older generations. Brewed and filtered through a coffee sock before being ‘pulled’ through brass pots, our traditional kopi is admittedly something that belongs more to the older generations. His fragrant brew made from a special blend of 100% Arabica beans won over cynics in no time at all, however, and what sets Toast Hut apart is also his new renditions of the traditional kaya toast sets, such as golden cracker kaya and butter sandwiches, and tuna baguette rolls for those looking for a heartier meal.
Toast Hut is located at Old Airport Road Food Centre, 19 Old Airport Road, 01-52, Singapore, 390019.
Ru Ji Kitchen
The dedication of Joanne and Daniel, both 31, is admirable. The pair wake up at 4.30am to hand make fish balls for their mee pok tar, and unsurprisingly, the fish balls and fishcakes are excellent and fresh. Being handmade also means quality is ensured – only pure fish meat is used and definitely no preservatives here. Coming a long way from when they first entered the trade, when the couple would even feel embarrassed when their friends came by as the work meant they would not be at their most glamorous, they are now looking into expanding as well as ways to improve their dish even further – the mark of true passion!
Ru Ji Kitchen is located at Old Airport Road Food Centre, 19 Old Airport Road, 01-37, Singapore, 390019.
Wow Wow West
In the trade since she was 12, Elizabeth Huang, now 25, is able to handle the long lines of customers and deliver orders with the touch of a veteran at this Western food stall. With roots as a family business, Wow Wow West also employs ex-convicts to help them reintegrate back into society. Looking at how huge the portions are, we’re not surprised at the generous hearts fronting this business – and we love how the tender and juicy meat is seasoned with fresh herbs, not MSG. Whether it’s for the food or remarkable aims of Elizabeth and her parents, this is a place that you’ll quickly find yourself a regular at.
Wow Wow West is located at 6 Jalan Bukit Merah, ABC Brickworks Food Centre, 01-133, Singapore, 150006
A Noodle Story
A classic example of fusion hawkerprise, A Noodle Story tosses up Singapore-style ramen that combine the best of both – think braised egg and tender chashu beside crispy wontons and potato-wrapped prawn. The springy Hong Kong-style noodles inspire the thin noodles here, with lots of bite, and the chilli is, of course, spicy and shiok.
A Noodle Story is located at 7 Maxwell Road, Amoy Street Food Centre, 01-39, Singapore, 069111.
The Good Beer Company
Ok, maybe Daniel Goh isn’t really the youngest hawker here, but as one of the pioneers of craft beers in Singapore and an outspoken entrepreneur with intelligent insights, he definitely deserves a mention. Bringing a large variety of beers and ciders to the hawker centre brings a new way of pairing food and drinks, and one much less hurtful to your wallet. His craft beers come from the US, Germany, Japan, Switzerland, Belgium, and many other countries, and are priced 40% lower than most pubs and restaurants – even with the alcohol tax hike, as he ‘fundamentally disagrees [sic] with the idea of a luxury or sin tax’. Thumbs up!
The Good Beer Company is located at 335 Smith Street, Chinatown Complex, 02-58, Singapore, 050335.
One of the first few who sparked the spotlight on youth hawkers, the pair of hunky brothers (Cai Weiliang, 25 and Cai Weili, 28) first started by selling cookies, but switched to ramen full-time to cater to a larger crowd. It took them more than six months of experimenting to come up with a unique soup base, and the quality shows – the pork broth is thick and creamy without being overwhelming, the perfect complement to chewy Kyushu-styled noodles, melt-in-your-mouth grilled chashu and generous crunchy beansprouts. With prices more than half of restaurants and eateries, this one is an absolute winner!
Brothers Ramen are currently looking for a new location. Keep updated at their Facebook page here for news on their new space!
Sapori D Italia
Formerly known as Vintage Chef, this Italian hawker stall was started by Lim Gui Quan, 24 and Ong Jun Rong, 25, who wanted to offer their own creations that surprise and yet remain approachable to the masses. With their gourmet ingredients and cooking techniques used in their dishes like Pork Piccata, gone are the days of dried clumpy spaghetti or oily and chewy fish and chips as ‘Western food’ in our hawkers.
Sapori D Italia is located at Bishan Street 12, Block 112, Singapore, 570112.
Koneko / Japanese Food
If the luscious maki rolls and hearty bento sets do not melt your heart, Benji Kok’s bright sunny smile will. Only 23 this year, Benji has been learning the ropes of industry since he was 18, and aims to subvert perceptions by bringing quality-assured yet affordable Japanese food into more accessible environments with his Japanese food stall in MATRIX. We don’t know how he manages to offer such good food at these kind of prices, but we are totally sold.
Koneko / Japanese Food is located at 30 Biopolis Street, MATRIX, 01-01, Singapore, 138671.
Abdhus Alam Rojak
Since 16, Abdus Salam, 27, has been working at his father’s Indian rojak stall and started taking over operations three years ago. With a mentor who places quality and consistency as priority, Abdus is poised to continue offering rojak that is freshly made daily along with its unique rojak sauce.
Abdhus Alam Rojak is located at 503 West Coast Drive, Ayer Rajah Food Centre, 01-73, Singapore, 120505.
La Cuisson (formerly Le Cuisson) started from a coffee shop stall along Queen Street in 2011 offering affordable French fare for the masses. Having moved from there and Holland Drive, to newer and swankier premises at Prinsep Street, La Cuisson is now more a bistro rather than hawker store, but Kenneth Lin’s journey remains an encouraging story for budding young entrepreneurs. Despite its sizable portions, we appreciate that prices remain reasonable and the bistro homely, humble and uncommercialized.
La Cuisson is located at 44 Prinsep Street, Singapore, 188673.
Written by Tweedlingdum
Read more about Singapore’s yummy local cuisine at YourSingapore.com