Every day, more than 6,000 experienced food traders produce a variety of delicious dishes within around 110 hawker centers in Singapore. Now, the island that is rich with Hawker Center will be nominated for an inscription on the Representative List of the UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage, said Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.
If this goes well, Singapore’s culture will join the Malaysian Mak Yong theater from Kelantan, Indonesian batik and Indian yoga on the world stage. Started in 2008, a list of about 400 elements has been set to show the diversity of world heritage and ensure its protection.
In a Chinese speech on the National Day Rally, Lee said the hawker center was Singapore’s “community dining room”, adding that they were cultural institutions and a unique part of the country’s heritage and identity.
He also described the Singapore Botanic Gardens as a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2015 as a proud moment for the country.
Placing Singapore’s peddling culture on the list of intangible cultural heritage will “help protect and promote this unique culture for future generations”. He said: “It will also let the whole world know about local food and our multicultural heritage.”
The bidding organization – the National Heritage Board (NHB), Singapore’s National Environment Agency and Federation of Merchants’ Associations – said the hawker center culture was chosen because it had shaped Singapore’s identity in many ways.
For example, the hawker center serves as an accessible multi-ethnic space where people can enjoy a variety of multi-generation and multicultural food offerings that have evolved with time. Culture is built on hard work, knowledge and culinary techniques and the traditions of street vendors past and present.
Singapore street vendors started as migrants who peddled their food on the streets and sidewalks. They were transferred to facilities specially built by the Government in the 1970s. Vendor centers are still being built today and by 2027, 127 snack centers will have colored the scene.
Among them, there was Loh Teck Seng, a second generation soybean milk vendor who took over his father’s business.
Reported by the Straits Times, he operated a kiosk in the Tiong Bahru Market, saying: “I feel appreciated and feel proud. This can help improve our position and attract tourists to our kiosk.”