Step out of your freezing CBD office and into a warm story about next generation Singaporean hawkerpreneurs wielding uni degrees, spatulas and kopi socks like never before.
Hungry for inspo? Give the Insta-poets and Human of New York/Toyko/Timbuktu a rest and get your #dailyinspiration at a hawker centre in Chinatown. Next time you’re stuffing face like a local, look around for next-generation Singaporean hawkers who are following their dreams, one recipe at a time. There aren’t that many, but we’ve found a few in Chinatown. Armed with university degrees, mad culinary skills and a wok full of fresh ideas, these inspiring millennials are taking their family’s legacy and Singapore’s foodie rep to the next level.
Debbie & Kamen of Tang Kay Kee
Tang Kay Kee Fish Head Bee Hoon (no brownie points for guessing what they’re famous for) has been serving the dinner shift for four generations, but Debbie Yam (27) and Kamen Tang (21) decided to stir the pot, quite literally. Now, they’re opened for lunch and dish out traditional Cantonese food with restaurant-style presentation. Because comfort food bowl eating FTW.
Back in the ‘40s, their great-grandfather used to peddle on Hokkien Street before moving to this hawker centre where the whole family joined him. And Debbie always wanted to wok this way.
So, she got a degree in management, worked in the kitchen at a famous cafe, dabbled in restaurant marketing and took working vacations in New Zealand – talk about commitment! And in true millennials style, they’re on Instagram, have a cool poster on an easel, chope cards to keep you coming back and movie ticket-like coupons.
Must-try: Debbie wants you to try the Hor Fun.
Where to find them: Tang Kay Kee, 531A Upper Cross Street #01-70 Hong Lim Food Centre Singapore 05053
Jack, Faye and Anna of Coffee Break
Kopi worshippers like us can count on the Sai siblings – Jack, Faye & Anna – to keep things brewing. Walking in their father’s and grandfather’s footsteps, their drinks are still sock brewed… with a sprinkle of sea salt (you heard that right). Get in line at their rebranded kopi stall, complete with a cool hipster graphics and an iPad based ordering system, for delectable speciality coffees. In 2017, they even launched a quaint cafe at the Singapore Science Park.
Think flavours like black sesame, rose, toffee nut, butter pecan and whatnot – all at hawker centre prices. These uni grads are constantly pushing themselves to learn more, chasing coffee beans around the world and boldly experiment with their craft. Thanks a latte, you guys!
Must-try: Faye says you should try the widely popular Sea Salt Caramel Latte at Coffee Break.
Where to find them: Coffee Break, Amoy Street Food Centre 7 Maxwell Road #02-78 Singapore 069111; 2 Science Park Drive Ascent Singapore Science Park 1 #01-28 Singapore 118222
Jason of Beng Who Cooks
Jason Chua, who also answers to Beng, is a new-age hawker and an amateur boxer. He comes from a family of fruit and dessert hawkers with stalls all over the island. But he’s the first in three generations to jump head first into the demanding genre of cooked food. After getting a diploma in sports science, Jason (26) followed his stomach/heart and went on to study culinary arts, specialising in French cuisine. Oh my crepe.
Like a mad scientist in a lab, he creates kinda-sorta poke bowls that combine the best of many cultures, much like Singapore itself. Expect recyclable paper bowls, DIY style checklist of ingredients and funny Instastories.
Must-try: Jason changes the menu every three months, but he recommends you try the sauces. They’re punchy!
Where to find him: Beng Who Cooks, 531A Upper Cross Street #01-44 Hong Lim Food Centre Singapore 051531 and at some boxing events islandwide.