3 New-Gen Hawkers Setting A New Course For Singapore’s Foodie Culture

3 New-Gen Hawkers Setting A New Course For Singapore’s Foodie Culture

Going beyond the usual hawker fare, these young pioneers are starting a new chapter for Singapore’s unique cuisine.

Singapore’s beloved hawker culture may have made it onto the UNESCO Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity, but it continues to be plagued by one question: who will take over? 

Younger Singaporeans continue to pick cushy office jobs over long, gruelling hours in a hot kitchen, which may or may not offer worthy remuneration, to no one’s surprise. Fortunately, our sunny shores continue to see hope with second- or third-generation hawkers taking up the challenge of their families’ time-honored recipes and new-generation pioneers serving up their own version of hawker fare.

Here are three hawkers penning a new page, with great success.

Josiah and Jeremy Chee, Rice Bowl Boys

Changing the way you view cai fan (mixed economic rice) are the brothers from Rice Bowl Boys, Josiah and Jeremy Chee. Josiah, a former bartender at top spots like 28 Hong Kong Street and Jigger & Pony, coaxes out stellar flavors from common ingredients, while former finance manager Jeremy works the numbers, making up a dream team right within Singapore’s most competitive hawker spot, Chinatown Complex

Not wanting to simply follow what’s already in the market, the boys have managed to carve a niche brand with a superb menu and a direction to match. As with most grain bowl places, their menu span signature Badass Bowls (predetermined, $6.50 to $9.50) to Build Your Own Bowls (lite for $7, regular for $9). Lower prices than popular brands aside, they’ve also included a series of bar snacks, owing to their proximity to craft beer spots, Smith Street Taps and Mikkeller Bar Singapore. And, to attract the older folks that frequent the complex, they’ve also included more photos, provided Mandarin translations on the menu as well as charmed patrons with their earnesty.

Highlights include their signature Omega Bae with pasta tossed in a herbaceous Yemenite sauce akin to chimichurri and a perfectly cooked salmon topped with an eye-catching miso beet jam, the Strip Love with mushroom couscous and striploin slices, as well as Tempeh Fries ($6) with their thunder sambal sauce for when you’re looking to pair with a pint next door. 

And if you can’t make it down, their “bougie on a dime” bowls are also available for delivery within 3 km on all platforms. 

  • Address: #02-60, Chinatown Complex Food Centre, 335 Smith Street, Singapore 050335
  • Opening hours: Sun-Mon 11am-2pm, Tue-Fri 11am-2pm and 5pm-9.30pm, Sat 11am-9.30pm

Related: Oldies But Goodies At Berseh Food Centre

John Paul, Gubak Kia

What makes John Paul more than just the third-generation of Empress Place Beef Kway Teow is his winning menu that balances his father’s (a.k.a. David Lim or Uncle Gubak) recipes with his more western-styled culinary experiences. 

Despite having helped out at his father’s stall since young, David has always allowed John to follow his own path. While John admits he very much enjoyed making his own bowl of beef noodles, circa age 12, he didn’t think much of it and graduated with a Diploma in Communications Management in 2013. Yet fate would have him return to the F&B world, when he had no luck in the property and offshore industry and sent a cheeky resume to Wolf Burgers. Within, he joked he had 10 years of experience. From being the errand boy at his father’s store, of course. His beef kway teow impressed the owners, and saw him furthering his career at Camp Kilo Charcoal Club in no time.

It took a friend-cum-investor to have him poke at the idea of the hawker store, specifically one that could embrace his father’s legacy and his own path. His ever-supportive father asked only one thing - to preserve the essential recipes - and left John to expand the menu creatively, one that has found a legion of fans at the trendy timbre+.

There’s no denying John’s expertise with the grill with the Beef Short Rib Kway Teow (from $12.90) where the traditional mix of al dente kway teow, base and their signature pineapple-infused chili sauce comes topped with a rib that’s spent 48 hours marinating in beef stock, and his innovation with seasonal specials, like the Gubak Kia’s Mee Goreng (from $7.90) and Dan Dan Mian ($8.90) with sliced beef. You’ll also see gems otherwise reserved for the family’s dinner table, including Uncle Gubak’s Beef Stew, occasionally. 

  • Address: #01-27B, timbre+, 73A Ayer Rajah Crescent, JTC Launchpad @ one-north, Singapore 139957
  • Opening hours: Mon-Fri 11am-9pm, Sat 5pm-9pm

Related: Taste The Passion At The Renovated Lau Pa Sat @ Food Folks

Sylvester Fedor, Mikkeller Bar Singapore

With his straight-shooter personality and enthusiasm for craft beer, Sylvester easily won over Daniel Goh and Kuok Meng-Chao, the owners of Singapore’s first multi-tap craft beer stall in a hawker centre, Smith Street Taps. The regular transitioned to a part-timer and eventually saw him tossing his former life as a flight steward aside for the craft brewery business. 

2017 saw him taking on the role as the Singapore representative for Hong Kong’s highest rated brewery, Young Master Ales, and opened doors to Mikkeller, a cult brewery from Copenhagen with over 50 F&B concepts internationally, in 2019. He moved over to Bangkok, Thailand and became part of the family as the General Manager of the three bars in the city. 

The pandemic saw him returning to Singapore and to old friends, Daniel and Meng, who needed help launching their distribution arm, SST Trading Co. Whilst doing so, he noticed the lack of Mikkeller’s brand presence in Singapore, sparking a relatively drunken conversation between him and Mikkel (owner of Mikkeller) that resulted in the opening of the world’s first hawker and smallest Mikkeller bar. The key was to make Mikkeller accessible, spread word of the craft and the people involved and, needless to say, enjoy it alongside the dynamic mix of new generation hawkers and masters at Chinatown

The hawker-cum-craft beer store serves up to 10 rotating craft brews on tap, alongside a well-stocked fridge of packaged beers. Sylvester, with a keen understanding of the craft and a strong sense of the market, curates the tap list that’s sure to surprise even the most seasoned drinkers. You’ll not only see core and seasonal brews from Mikkeller, ranging from their breweries in Copenhagen to San Diego, but also sought-after brews from breweries or brewers that are friends with the brand, including the rare Hill Farmstead Brewery all the way from Vermont. 

  • Address: #02-58, Chinatown Complex Food Centre, 335 Smith Street, Singapore 050335
  • Opening hours: Tue-Fri 5.30pm-10.30pm, Sat 2pm-10.30pm (last order at 9pm)

Related: 5 Hawker Dishes To Earn Your Old Airport Road Food Centre Foodie Badge

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