When it comes to street food and night markets, I thought I had seen it all after going to Hong Kong, Taiwan and Saigon. But I was further from the truth the second I stepped into the amazing hawker centres of Singapore and Malaysia (Kuala Lumpur and Penang). A completely different approach from what I was used to. In Singapore alone, there are at least 50+ hawker/food centres. My first meal in Singapore happened at the well-known Maxwell Food Centre located in the heart of Chinatown. It was 11:30 am and people were pacing the aisles for their first meal. Kids, servicemen, old people, businessmen – all congregating under one roof to eat from the 75+ food vendors. It’s simple. You wait in the line for whatever whets your appetite, pay, pick up your food and sit on the many provided benches. Shortly after you’re done, a busser comes by and cleans up after you. You’re out of there. It reminded me of being at a county fair, only the prizes were edible. But the irony of it all was the quirky presentation of the food on humble, colorful plasticware. We found this to be pretty damn cool and immediately started to document it. As opposed to the usual bells and whistles you get from haute dining, the hawker food almost seemed to pop more visually off a faded pink plate. A French chef would rather de-bone himself with his $150 chef knife, than serve his perfectly seared scallops on plastic plates. It’s then that you realize how important food is to the Singaporeans and Malays. What we see as gourmet, is in fact day-to-day survival for the locals – served on humble, no bullshit plasticware.
See the rest of the Plastronomique series on our site. Thanks for reading.