'Hipster' Pasir Ris hawker centre lets young hawkers grow
Pasir Ris Central Hawker Centre opens with 42 stalls and event spaces
When Mr Poh Chee Eng, 28, tried to help out at his parents' prawn noodles hawker stall in Ang Mo Kio, customers said he was too young to cook.
In spite of that, the former civil servant is opening his own prawn noodles stall at Pasir Ris Central Hawker Centre, which is managed by NTUC Foodfare.
Mr Poh might be the youngest hawker at traditional hawker centres, but at Pasir Ris Central Hawker Centre, he fits right in.
The hawker centre, which opened yesterday, has 20 traditional food stalls on the ground floor and 22 on the second storey selling "hipster" dishes such as chicken rice burgers and wagyu beef bowls. It also has event spaces that can hold performances and workshops.
The opening was originally targeted for November, but it was delayed by issues related to the gas supply.
Out of the 42 stalls, 14 are run by first-time hawkers like Mr Poh. This provides a good space for young hawkers to grow their trade while teaching customers to trust that fresh faces can also whip up a good meal, he said.
He is under NTUC Foodfare's "hawker-preneurship" programme, which aims to "attract and nurture new-generation hawkers", a spokesman said.
The programme helps young hawkers by lowering their start-up costs. It also provides guidance in stall design and set-up as well as support along the way.
Ms Cheryl Sou, 27, is another first-time hawker under the programme. Her stall, Seoul Shiok, sells Korean food such as army stew.
"It is hectic but the environment here is great," she told The New Paper. "The other vendors and I feel like family. When they have supplier contacts for cheaper rice, for instance, they would share it with the others."
Her start-up cost was around $40,000 to $50,000.
Even with the help they receive and the nurturing environment at Pasir Ris Central Hawker Centre, the young start-ups still face challenges unique to their trade.
"There are no fixed working hours or lunch breaks," Mr Poh said. "Our fortunes vary from day to day, and there is still the social stigma when a young person says they are a hawker, as opposed to having a title like a banker. But I want to continue the legacy of my family's recipes through my stall."
He had started preparing food at around 2am the day before and left only at around 8.30pm.
Sometimes, hawkers can work for over 16 hours, added Mr Caleb Tan, 28, owner of The Stew House.
He added he has issues of hiring people to work for the stall.
"I was initially concerned that the crowd would not come, but there has been an unexpected number of people here," he said.
His start-up cost was around $35,000 to $40,000.
The food on the "hipster" second storey is priced at an average of $4 to $6, while the traditional food downstairs ranges from about $2.80 to $3.50. But patrons said they are not deterred by the slightly higher prices of the "hipster" dishes.
Pasir Ris resident Puah Kee Oei, 53, said: "It is not much more expensive and I do not mind trying something new. It is good to have new food, because coffee shops usually always sell the same things." - ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY RY-ANNE LIM