Sunday, February 6, 2011

Street hawkers of old Singapore

Street hawker stalls at Koek Lane, between Cuppage Centre and Orchard Plaza

Satay Club back then where Esplanade Theatres at the Bay stands

Ice balls flavoured with rose syrup and evaporated milk, a favourite of kids back in the 60's. Didn't matter that he was holding the ice ball with his bare hands

Home made ice cream from a tricycle.

A mobile form of hawking back in those days

The bustling Hock Lam street where it is not uncommon to see lawyers, judges and even ministers having their lunch as the High Court was just around the corner
Glutton's Square in the 70's came alive only after 6pm at a carpark just opposite Centrepoint Orchard

The famous Indian rojak at Waterloo Street

Hock Lam street was famous for its beef kway teow. Now, standing where it used to be - the Funan Digital Life Mall
A little heritage exhibition at the corner of Ang Mo Kio library caught my eye. Black and white pictures of the way it used to be brought back many pleasant memories and I count myself lucky to be born in the magical 60's, to witness the simple way of life before the great transformation came along, taking Singapore from the days of slow traffic and rich street life to the modern metropolitian city it is today. Back then, my parents brought me out alot in their Mini Cooper, going to different places for great hawker food. I still remember the original Katong laksa man serving his delicious bowls of laksa from the corner of a coffee shop. Despite many conflicting stories of who originated the Katong laksa today, I am very sure he was the one as there weren't anyone else like him in the Katong vicinity. He didn't have a proper stall , operating only with a big pot of gravy, a stool and some other containers containing noodles, bowls and spoons. But most importantly, he made do with what he had. He cooked the noodles by pouring the gravy into it and then pouring it out again, repeating it for a few times before putting in the gravy. Another efficient way he came up with was to cut the noodles which made it easier to handle. Though he lacked space and equipment, he made it up by his creativity.
Some of the streets featured in the exhibition include Hock Lam Street, home of the original Teochew version of beef noodles. The stall lives on today at Purvis street, run by the daughter of the original hawker. Glutton's Square on the other hand is a car park that came to life only at night with hawkers selling their food from a push cart. My favourites were the Hokkien mee and the cuttlefish kangkong. The food was so good that my parents overlooked the fact that each hawker washed his plates in a small pail of water. In fact, the dirtier the premise, the better the food. Yes, those were the days.

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