Legend of Maxwell Road Hawker Centre

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Screenshot_20170720-003920Maxwell Road Food Centre in Singapore (‘Now’ photo above, ‘Then’ photo below)

Thanks to the invitation of “China Street Fritters Group on Facebook” in a message sent me last week.

“We are featured in this year Singapore Food Festival. Hawkers Spotlight 2017. On 16 July, 2017 from 3.00pm to 4.30pm, Media, Bloggers & Writers will tour that few Spotlight stalls lead by Moses Lim. There will be a making of Hum Chin Pan & Food photography contest for Media & Guests.
Do come to support this event.
Cheers!”

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City Gas and Singapore Tourism Board pay tribute to second and third-generation heritage hawkers at Singapore Food Festival.  Maxwell Food Centre takes centre stage at Hawker Spotlight 2017.

For the second year running, Singapore’s town gas and natural gas utilities provider, City Gas, collaborated with the Singapore Tourism Board (STB) to host the Hawker Spotlight for the Singapore Food Festival (SFF).  Previously held at East Coast Lagoon Food Village, the moving hawker showcase took place at the iconic Maxwell Food Centre this year; right in the heart of Chinatown.

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The official explaining the instructions for the events of the Singapore Food Festival at Maxwell Food Centre.

“City Gas believes in paying tribute to heritage hawkers as they play a central role in shaping Singapore’s food landscape.  We are pleased to partner STB and Canon, and together, we hope to raise the profile of pioneer hawkers and encourage the younger generation to step forward to keep our hawker tradition alive,” said Mr Kenny Tan, Chief Executive Officer, City Gas.

Ms Ranita Sundramoorthy, Director, Attractions, Dining & Retail, STB added:

“We are thrilled to work in partnership with City Gas and Canon for Hawker Spotlight, an event where we showcase our hawkers and share their multi-generational passion for food with locals and visitors.  Hawkers are an integral and unmistakable part of Singapore’s multi-faceted food landscape, so it is fitting to shine the spotlight on them at the Singapore Food Festival, the only event here dedicated to showcasing local cuisine and culinary talent.”

The showcase served as a platform for the local media to connect with second and third-generation hawkers, the unsung heroes who form the backbone of our cherished hawker heritage.  Through first-hand interactions, media enjoyed a rare opportunity to immerse themselves in the local hawker food scene with these heritage hawkers on 16 July, 2017.

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Led by local celebrity and food connoisseur, Moses Lim, the media entourage was given an intimate insight to Maxwell Food Centre, and was introduced to six heritage hawker stalls such as China Street Fritters, well-known for its traditional handmade Hokkien ngoh hiang,

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and Hock Soon Roasted Duck Rice, a stall name that speaks for itself.

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Hawker Spotlight 2017 also included a new kid on the block, 3rd Culture Brewing Co., a hawker stall which specialises in pairing local food with craft beer.

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To complete the entire experience, the media also had the opportunity to try their hands at making and frying their own hum jin peng, a fried dough snack with either sweet or savoury filling.  The interactive session was helmed by hawker stall owner, Ms Li, who has been making the traditional snack from scratch since 40 years ago.

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Those Cantonese dough-nuts, harm jeen beng, two of which alone could satisfy any breakfast requirement, were a steal at 10 cents each although a customer had to fry them himself.   (Photo source:  The Straits Times.  Courtesy of NewspaperSG).

In the olden days, Ms Li’s father was a pedler hawker who ply his harm jeen beng in a cart in Chinatown.   Today, Ms Li demonstrate how to fry the heritage food at the Hawker Spotlight 2017 (photo below).

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The interactive hands-on session with the participants

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Ms Deenise Yang, the winner of the “hum jin peng” contest with her prize presented by Moses Lim.

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Hajmeer Kwaja Muslim Food.  The most popular items on the menu includes sup tulang merah, mutton ribs and ghee rice with fried kampong chicken.  Every flavourful dish is meticulously prepared using his grandfather’s traditional recipes.

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Rojak, Popiah and Cockle is owned and operated by the Lim family for over 25 years. Mrs Lim is the owner while Mr Lim, her husband and his sister.  Ms Lim, serves up delicious rojak, popiah and cockle.  The ladies from Russia (photos below) sampled the popiah and rojak at the stalls.
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Of all the drink stalls in Maxwell Food Centre, Ho Peng Coffee Stall is not only the most popular, it is also the most eco-friendly drink stall.

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Ho Peng Coffee Stall was awarded the Green Hawker Award for use of empty milk cans (photos below) for drink takeaways for over 60 years.

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Old Place. Heritage Hawkers: History of Maxwell Road Market

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The empty plot of land (where a horse stood in the photo above right), the Maxwell market was built beside St. Andrew’s Mission Hospital (later the Outpatient Services Headquarters) at Kadanayallur Street.

It curled out at the top, the Maxwell Road Market was a stereotype wet market of bygone years.  Its non-aesthetic but staunch architectural characteristic that long retained the atmosphere of a wet market so blissfully ignored by its hungry habitues.

But in the early 1980s, this facility situated at the busy junction of Maxwell Road and South Bridge Road ceased being a market and became a food centre.

But during the period of massive urban development in the 1980s, cooked food vendors famed for their exquisite viands in China Street and roadside hawkers in Chinatown were resettled here.

From near and far, those seeking mouth-watering and economical breakfast, lunch or dinner made a bee-line to this city food centre.

Built years before World War II, this relic of a wet market served its Chinatown neighbourhood well and its wide surrounding spaces were put to good use by itinerant hawkers.

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Seventy backlane hawkers in China Square moved to the nearby Maxwell Road Market on 6 December, 1986.

They were the last lot of backlane hawkers to be re-housed in hygienic centres.  They operated from open-air, makeshift stalls in China Street.

The shift wraps up the Government’s long and mammoth resiting programme which started in the early 1970s with the building of hawker centres.  The programme is to ensure that hawkers conduct their business in a clean and hygienic environment.

The temporary zinc-and roof shelter at China Street  was inadequate.  But the eating spot was popular with office workers, drivers and odd-job labourers, although it has no electricity and proper ventilation.  The hawkers have to tap electricity from shops nearby.

The new place at Maxwell Road is slightly bigger and comes with modern amenities.

According to an interview in the Straits Times on 18 September, 2000, Mr Ng Kok Hua, 29, a ngoh hiang seller, said: “We have built a reputation together for generations since the time we were at China Street.

“This will be lost if we were broken up and moved to different places.  Regular customers like to order dishes from several stalls at one time because of the attractive variety we offer.”

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China Street Fritters

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Mr Ng Kok Hua and his brother, Mr Richard Ng are the pioneers of the China Street Fritters since they moved from China Street and started business at Maxwell Road Food Centre in 1986.

China Street Fritters are famous for their traditional handmade Hokkien ngoh hiang. This stall has won not one but two awards – Best of the Best Ngoh Hiang and the Heritage Hawker Award.  The owner, Mr Ng, is the 2nd generation managing the stall.  After completing his bond in the shipping industry, Mr Ng decided to join the family business together with his elder sister, younger brother and sister-in-law.

Please check out the nostalgic memories of the China Street Fritters here .

To cut a long story short, a link to a previous blog to share my sentimental bonds to my affiliation with Maxwell Road Food Centre (formerly a wet market with a few hawker stalls catering nearby workers for meals) and Ah Hua’s China Street fritters.

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