Hawkers are 'in'. At least, they've been in the news for the last few days.
At the Singapore Day event, which was held in New York last week to connect the overseas Singaporeans, food was an important part of the programme. This despite local artistes like Hossan Leong and Kit Chan entertaining the crowd with our uniquely Singlish. Food always comes first.
But it's not the posh food that Singaporeans crave- it's the simple hawker food that draws us. The chicken rice, the laksa, the carrot cake and the char kway teow.... they unite the Singaporeans- regardless of race, language or religion.
Anyway, according to KF Seetoh, who helped co-ordinated this important event, the first item to sell out was the very, very humble 'chwee kueh'. Not very surprising actually, as even my 'ang mo' husband like it. Actually, he likes the 'chai po' and 'sambal' more than the actual 'chwee kuei'. Hehe! Over at my market here, they cost $1 for 4 pieces...that's about US$0.65.
Just in case you don't know what 'chwee keuh' is, go to this site for a look and a recommendation of the 5 stalls worth sampling.
It has often been lamented that Singapore has no identity to speak of...we are too young and hence there isn't anything to really unite us. Yet, I think many people would agree that food is probably the one identifying factor that connects us all- especially if they are good and cheap.
You only need to look at the number of 'food' tv and radio programmes, the numerous reviews in the various newspapers and magazine to realise just how important this is. And this obsession has resulted in every other stall having won/ featured/ been reviewed in one way or other. These owners proudly ang up the neatly framed newspapers clipping/ awards at their humble stalls. Out of the 3 coffee shops near my place, at least 3 stalls have been in the media.
At this rate, is it any surprising that some of these hawkers are millionaires? In an article in The Sunday Times (29th April), it was reported that some of them earned as much as $100,000 per month. Wow! This attention came about because a few of these hawkers were hauled up by the Inland Revenue dept for not paying enough taxes. I wonder how these officials know these hawkers were under declaring their income. Did they sit by the store and count like the journalists from ST did?
So next time you go to your favourite stall in the kopitiam, don't turn your nose up at the uncle frying the hokkien mee ok. He is probably driving a BMW and has a few Rolex watches stashed away at home.