Singapore

Youth push for hawker culture to get Unesco listing

Students step up to support S'pore's bid to get on Unesco list

As Singapore prepares to nominate its hawker culture for inscription on Unesco's Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity, some young Singaporeans have stepped up to lend their support.

One of them is Miss Poh Huan Rong, 19, a third-year business and social enterprise student from Ngee Ann Polytechnic.

While in Shanghai for six months on an internship last March, she found herself craving her favourite char kway teow. After three months, she finally found a restaurant serving it - but it was too salty and the noodles "didn't taste right".

She said: "I even tried cooking it myself, but they don't sell the right kind of noodles or sauce there.

"Only when I came back to Singapore could I have a proper plate of char kway teow."

The restaurant environment was also a far cry from the casual familiarity of the Clementi hawker centre where she often had supper with friends, she said.

That made her realise the importance of not taking Singapore's hawker culture for granted.

So she signed up to volunteer at the Our SG Hawker Culture travelling exhibition to showcase hawker culture and encourage the public to pledge their support for the nomination.

Since its launch in October, the exhibition, which features a miniature hawker centre diorama and colourful information boards, has garnered more than 220,000 pledges online and at venues around the island.

Passers-by can press a button at the exhibition to give support without penning a full pledge.

Yesterday, Miss Poh was at Yuhua Village Market and Food Centre in Jurong East, where the exhibition ends today, with first-year culinary and catering management students Keisia Lim-Urquhart and Vivian Zhu from Temasek Polytechnic.

They had breakfast with Culture, Community and Youth Minister Grace Fu, who was there to pen her support.

Miss Lim-Urquhart, 17, and Miss Zhu, 18, both researched hawker food as part of a project on local breakfast foods.

Miss Lim-Urquhart said she chose mee siam as it is a part of her Nonya heritage. Her mother is part Peranakan and her father is a Scottish Canadian.

She said: "The many variations of dishes like mee siam show the diversity in Singapore. For example, Malay hawkers don't add coconut milk to the mee siam gravy."

Miss Zhu said she learnt from a hawker how nasi lemak was created by Malay settlers living by the sea who used the abundant coconut as an ingredient.

She said: "With better understanding, you also learn to appreciate it more."

The Our SG Hawker Culture exhibitions will collect pledges from the public until March, when the nomination will be submitted to Unesco.

The exhibition will move on to Toa Payoh Hub Atrium and Velocity Mall from tomorrow to Sunday.

Details can be found on the Our SG Heritage website at www.oursgheritage.sg/support-hawker-culture/

Food & Drink