Over the weekend, famous food guru KF Seetoh of Makansutra graced a special session of Project MUSE: Food and Shoot Tour at one of our local hawker center.
In 2019, there was a push from the Singapore government to nominate Singapore’s hawker food culture as part of a list of Intangible Cultural Heritage under United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO).
A lot of questions revolves around why Singapore Hawker Food can be considered as a culture. To answer that I have to define culture first.
Culture: The ideas, customs, and social behaviour of a particular people or society.Provided by http://www.lexico.com
For a typical layperson, our hawker food is what constitutes street food in the other parts of the world. It is definitely not something unique in that sense because people has been cooking food for other people as a way to earn a living and the food has some similarities too since some food do look and taste familiar between Singapore’s and other countries in the region.
However to me that’s where Singapore’s Hawker Culture that is quite unlike others. Our uniqueness comes in the form of where we consume our food. The hawker center is a hotpot that puts culture and heritage of various ethnic and religious groups into a single place thereby giving it a unique experience like no other.
Don’t believe? For a Singaporean, they will know where to get the best bowl of minced beef noodle (Fengshan), steam buns (arguably Tiong Bahru), fried rice noodles or roast meats (Old Airport Road). Each hawker center has their own strengths and with that, their very own culture too!
And even if our own hawker center does not have its own famous uniqueness, buying food from a hawker center has become part and parcel of being a Singaporean. During my time shooting Fengshan Hawker Center it is easy to see how the Hawker culture permeates our daily lives.
We buy our breakfast before the start of a long day. Packing lunch before going back to the grind of office and then meet up with friends for a chat and drink during supper. Maybe a game or two of Pokemon while waiting for friends. The hawker center is not just about food anymore. It is about the people revolving around the food and how we bind as a people with our love for food at a place we call home.
Through this Food and Photo Tour, KF Seetoh shared the history behind our hawker culture and more importantly how to appreciate the food through its stories and its uniqueness. Even at this hawker center where we conducted the tour, we have outstanding burger joint, a local coffee with the espresso machine and a hawker who was a chef in western/Italian restaurants.
Even though we have our smartphones, sometimes a good compact camera helps to better capture the images. Even shuttering a shot with a camera is more intuitive than a smartphone’s on screen shutter button. For that Sony has graciously provided enough RX100 Mark 7 compact cameras for the participants to shoot and see the difference between a smartphone and a compact camera.
If you are interested to do something with your group of friends you can contact Makansutra. Project MUSE means Meet Up Shoot Eat, a group of foodies where we gather to have food as a group and shoot what we ate and you are welcomed to join us too.