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Feb 20, 2013

Ways Done in the Past - Foodage

Group of Chinese Hawkers, Singapore in 1915
Ways done in the past a century ago in Singapore where food pedlers was a common sight like this postcard in 1915.

Chinese street hawkers plying their trade outside Telok Ayer Market or Lau Pa Sat, Singapore c. 1915-1920s. Hawkers who operated food carts and stalls, like those in the image, were a familiar sight in Singapore until they were moved to more sanitary modern hawker centres starting from the 1950s.

Long, long ago before the days of  fast food or junk food, we have memories about food at different times, different places, different preferences for us to share.  

My mother used to remind me about the scarcity of food during the Japanese Occupation in Singapore.  She was in her twenties at that time and very energetic and hardworking.  For her relatives and neighbors who were staying at Hokkien Street at the time of the war, my mother would help them to join long food ration queues to run errands and to buy for them sacks of rice and sugar, the essential items for food. 

Food during the Japanese Occupation was for survival, not for pleasure, or enjoyment.  Any foodstuff which is edible to fill the stomach to stop the hunger is good enough, cannot afford to be choosy or fussy.

Photo Credit:  Sitting in Pictures, a content production company
Foodage is a series of 12-episode on Okto TV, half-hour series that traces Singapore’s food history in the years since independence to the present day through collective personal memories, home movies and photos. The series recaptures our lifestyle and food trends over the years, produced by Sitting in Pictures .

"A tour of Singapore's food history in 8 hours" posted at "The Long and Winding Road" blog here .

The TV documentary to share nostalgic memories of  food in Singapore are currently available for catch-up on Channel 5 with the courtesy of MediaCorp Singapore.

In Lee Kip Lee's book "AMBER SANDS - A Boyhood Memoir", it revives my memories about the places,  the food as excepted from his book under Chapter 1 "My Father":

...He was very fond of hawker food and we welcomed the sight of the satay man trotting up with his portable stall hanging on one end of his bamboo pole which he supported on his shoulder.  This contraption, about two-and-a-half foot square, was like a table on which were two bowls of satay gravy - one perdas and one not so perdas into  which we dipped our satay.  Below it was a miniature cupboard in which the satay man kept his cucumber, onion, plates and knife.  Suspended over the other end of the pole was a similar wooden stall which carried a rectangular device into which he placed small pieces of charcoal.  Once the fire was set, he would barbecue the satay sticks, feeding the fire with coconut oil that he brushed over the meat.  All this time he would have produced four tiny wooden stools upon which four of us would sit gathered round the gravy table whilst the others would stand and join in the feast.  Whenever Pa enjoyed his meal, he would sweat and beads of perspiration would trickle down from his brow to the floor.

His passion for hawker food led him to go out of his way to hunt for and discover their whereabouts.  His favourite was turtle meat which he would take away in a tiffin carrier from a place in Hong Lim Green near the Straits Chinese Recreation Club.  His other haunts were the Satay Club on a road beside the Alhambra Cinema in Beach Road; Hokkien Street for the famous Old Stall selling Hokkien prawn mee; Arab Street for nasi padang and Hock Lam Street for kway teow um (kway chap).  When I was working in his office, he would take me to Chulia Street next to the OCBC Bank for a meal of char kway teow and kwan chiang.
For the convenience of  friends outside Singapore and the uninitiated with the places and food (in Italic) in Singapore in the past as mentioned in the section of the book, archived photos as "memory-aids" with the photo credit of the National Archives of Singapore and contributors with thanks and acknowledgement. 

Hong Lim Green in 1930s (above) and 1960s (below)

Alhambra Cinema in Beach Road, Singapore
Hokkien Street, Singapore in 1930s
Hokkien prawn mee
Arab Street, Singapore in 1982 (above and below)
Nasi Padang of assorted menu
Hock Lam Street, Singapore in 1962
Kway Teow Um (Kway Chap)
OCBC Bank at Chulia Street, Singapore 1950s
Char Kway Teow
Kwang chiang (pork sausage)
Thank you for sharing our collective memories of our food, our history to remember them in Singapore.



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