From a recent cook-off challenge:
Singapore’s humble but beloved hawkers have triumphed 2-1 in a cook-off with the legendary Gordon Ramsay who runs restaurants that have earned not just one but three Michelin stars. Are our hawkers then worthy of Michelin star attention? Well, they may not be decorated, but it looks like they still win the hearts of locals.
Nearly 5,000 people thronged the Singtel Hawker Heroes Challenge to see the Ramsay, the Hell’s Kitchen star, pit his skills against three hawkers who were chosen in a national poll drawing 2.5 million votes. The chef only had two days to learn and prepare the same hawker food that these local masters have been doing for decades.
There is, by the way, plenty of talk that the hawkers are an endangered species. With rising rents, various bureaucracies are asking whether the hawker centers really deserve so much dedicated land in the city plans. There’s also a question whether the younger generation wants to take on jobs which are so stressful and demanding, when so many other good jobs are available in Singapore. Other hawker centers are suffering in quality just a wee bit from the gentrification of their neighborhoods. Let’s hope for the best but I fear for the worst.
My Singapore food recommendation, by the way, is the Ghim Moh Market and Food Centre, which has numerous gems and is one of those “pre-upgrade” hawker centers, with a design dating from 1977. (Unfortunately they will close it for renovation next year, which will probably mean the loss of some hawkers.) My favorite dish was the dosa at Heaven’s Indian Curry, arguably the best I have had, including in South India. They open at six a.m. each morning, every single day, see my remarks above. Their dishes cost either one dollar or two dollars (roughly, actually less).