In our conversations about preserving our hawker culture, there has been a lot of talk about older hawkers passing the mantle onto the next generation. To this end, the NEA has come up with schemes where older hawkers can be matchmade with younger ones. They have even set up hawker academies where aspiring hawkers can attend courses to help them kick start their hawker career.
All these things are good but the most essential ingredient is still the passion of the hawkers themselves. Unfortunately, there are more stories about failures of our institutionalized hawker nurturing program than successes. As the old adage goes, you can lead a horse to the water, but you can’t make him drink. A thirsty horse doesn’t need you to lead it to the water, they will find it themselves.
Our young couple’s story exemplifies this. Still in their twenties, Han and Chelsea just decided to open a stall to sell Bak Chor Mee out of their passion for the dish. Since 16, Han had left school to pursue his interest in cooking and had worked at several western restaurants including his last stint as a Junior Sous Chef at burger and lobster. When he decided he wanted to open a hawker stall, he didn’t need a hawker mentor to teach him how to prepare bak chor mee. Granted that his years of culinary training have given him basic cooking skills, but he worked out how to cook bak chor mee himself and has even innovated to make it even better while still capturing the traditional taste. They have only been open for two months, but have already attracted quite a following with a perpetual queue at the stall until closing time.
You may have read elsewhere that he serves a tonkotsu-inspired broth at his stall. All that means is that he was inspired to make his pork broth thicker and creamier like what you find in Ramen, but his soup is not anything like a Ramen tonkotsu broth. However, it is a rather robust a...