Long queues at hawker centres, rude hawkers and often lousy food – chicken rice with hardly any chicken and fish soup with very little fish. A short trip across the border brings culinary delights from an era long gone. What happened?
The makan scene in Singapore is truly sad. In the past, only the stalls serving great food had long queues. Nowadays, when 99% of households eat out, even stalls that serve sub-standard food are seeing long queues on weekends and public holidays. As rentals at food stalls go through the roof, the real hawkers give up, corporations take over and people who mind the stalls have become low-paid food “sellers” and not the cooks themselves. I’ve heard that you can even buy ready-made roti prata dough, satay, mee siam and mee rebus gravy from a supplier. Any Tong, Dick or Halid who has lost his job due to “economic restructuring” can become a hawker.
It’s no wonder that the standard of food has dropped so drastically over the years. The unglam nature of the F&B business in Singapore creates a situation in which talented people are very difficult to come by. Only those who cannot make it in other disciplines would find refuge here. No wonder standards start to drop almost immediately after business starts picking up. That’s why I’m most reluctant to recommend makan places in my blog. The place may not deserve my praises just months after I’ve recommended it. Our signature dishes are left with no taste and no substance – only hype.
Do you seriously think that celebrity chefs have the time to attend to you? How much of Chef Wan’s talent can rub off on the ever-changing staff? 1Market went bust in June 2016. You can’t just clone a business and scatter it all over the place by branding alone. The absolute prerequisite for success is the commitment of the kitchen staff.
What really irks me when I visit a neighbourhood food centre is having to join a long queue to buy food that I can cook much better. This just won’t do. I’d have to boycott the places that serve lousy food. It doesn’t matter if they are the only food court or kopitiam in my neighbourhood. I’m going to shop for ingredients at my neighbourhood minimart and DIM (Do It Myself).
As our population approaches 6.9M, all the food centres are going to be crowded. Food prices will rise and food quality will drop.
If there’s still good food out there, of course I would want to know where it is and share the info with everyone. But eating out is seldom healthy. Oil is reused over and over again. Even some high class restaurants use that magic ingredient MSG.
The main objective of this blog is to 1) show off my culinary skills (I can fry with one hand) and 2) encourage home cooking. Come check out my latest experiments with some awesome ingredients readily available at your neighbourhood minimart. If I can do it, so can you.
“The sheer joy of having and taking the time to cook to your own taste and enjoy the food with loved ones is far greater than the cheap thrill of showing off decorated dishes bought at the poshest restaurants.”
The author on Neighbourhood Chef
© Chan Joon Yee (陈俊誉 Chen Junyu)