Let's face it. Singapore's heritage hawker food is heading towards more serious trouble.
Because of you.
Higher rent, higher labour cost, higher ingredients cost, utilities, cleaning costs, fewer customers especially the young, and list goes on....
But, most critically, we are not able to get enough new generation hawkers.
The main reason?
We are not short of passionate young men and women who are willing to slog it out in stuffy small kitchens and keep our heritage hawker food alive, and not just cloistered in homes and on display only at cooking demonstrations. There are young people who are willing to make the sacrifices to keep our heritage hawker food part of Singapore's every day life.
Trouble is, they can't make a decent living out of it.
It's because most of us kiasu 怕输 (fear of losing out) Singaporeans are not willing to pay the true price for something even as valuable as our heritage and Singaporean identity. If we can squeeze a discount from somebody even if it means the business going bust, we will.
We only want to pay the same price or at most a very little bit more for artisanal hand crafted hawker food as compared to mass produced generic factory food - and so, condemned ourselves to it.
If our heritage hawker food disappears from Singapore, Singaporeans only have ourselves to blame.
Not all fish balls are made of these
Because, we refused to appreciate the difference between a fishy ball made with some unknown fish and lots of don't know what compounds, and a fish ball made with 100% fresh Yellowtail fish or Ikan Parang fish.
(I am using the fish ball example but this applies to all hand crafted hawker food from chwee kway to char kway to chee cheong fun to otak otak. You get the idea.)
Many of us even judge how good a fish ball is by how high it can bounce - we might as well eat rubber balls then. (Not quite, but some fishy balls have so much starch they nearly are, rubber balls.)
What I am saying is - eat your fishy compound balls - I do that most of the time because I also go for the most affordable, acceptable option. We need such mass produced food to keep food prices affordable and the businesses are doing a great job of it. I am grateful to them for it.
What I am also saying is - know that fishy compound balls and genuine fish balls are different things.
Fishy compound balls are made with cheaper compounds and machine made in the millions in automated factories. Artisanal fish balls are hand made with costly 100% fresh fish with a bit of salt and each hawker makes just a few hundred balls a day.
Therefore, they have to be priced differently.
Support our young hawkers who are putting their heart and soul into making food the old way. Support their business even if their hand made fish balls cost a little more than fishy balls because it is worth it. Our hawker food heritage is worth it.
You are getting the real thing, a more tasty, healthful fish ball and you are doing your part to keep the young hawker in business, and keep Singapore's heritage hawker food culture alive and kicking for our children.
Make a commitment to appreciate the difference between mass produced food and artisanal hand crafted hawker food.
If we continue to be indifferent as we are today, in the not-too-distant future, everybody will only get to eat fishy compound balls. And, no one knows what a real fish ball tastes like anymore.
Please share with us your valuable views.
Disclaimer: This is written tongue in cheek, to bring attention of a serious malaise undermining Singapore's hawker culture. If this indifference goes on for a bit longer, Singapore's heritage hawker food culture will be in worst danger. My sincere apologies, if I offended you inadvertently.
Date: 22 Mar 2016
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