Along with his advice to “always keep calm and use sambal”, champion for hawker rights KF Seetoh wrote about how far the local hawker scene has come, and where he thinks it is going to go.

In a Facebook post on Thursday (Dec 17), which was also Mr Seetoh’s birthday, he started by saying: “Thanks for the great B’day gift Unesco”.

“The first time i made some noise about our Unesco-able food culture was through a suggestion that our Yue Sheng Prospertiry salad be made a intangible Unesco recognition in my New Paper column about 8 years back”, he wrote.

Continuing, Mr Seetoh wrote: “Then in early 2018 , yours truly, with the support of a few renowned foodies like Violet Oon and Azizah Ali, raised the whole hawker culture suggestion to a focus group headed by the folks from National Heritage Board. A few month later, PM LHL official made a call for it, and it’s official today”.

Mr Seetoh explained that as he grew up and in his youth as a photojournalist in the 80s and 90s, he saw hawkers selling just one or two dishes, “the one-dish enterpreneurs”, who raised their families on those earnings.

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“Now, I see some young folks with top and even masters degrees follow their calling into a hawker or kopitiam stall’, he added, applauding their passion.

Mr Seetoh then asked: “So what now, of this Unesco Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity inscription?”

He wrote that even though hawker culture may be declining it will not be overnight and that Singaporeans should leverage on this recognition from the UNESCO award “for when the airport doors re-open, the world will come hungry and with a vengeance. They will experience hawker food with a third eye and engage both right and left brain when they next devour”.

Mr Seetoh also suggested that Singapore should have a Hawkers Museum, as well as a yearly Hawkers Day.

“Unesco checks back with us every 6 years to see if this award can still stand. We should do more and continue to”, Mr Seetoh wrote.

After nearly three years since its application, Singapore’s hawker culture has officially been added to the Unesco Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.

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On Wednesday (Dec 16), a virtual conference comprised of a 24-member international panel unanimously accepted Singapore’s application.

Singapore’s hawker culture marks the first item on the intangible cultural heritage list. There are currently 463 entries in the list, including Japan’s washi craft-making (traditional hand-made paper), Spain’s wine horses and Malaysia’s Mak Yong theatre.

Unesco’s Intangible Cultural Heritage website defines hawker culture in Singapore as “community dining and culinary practices in a multicultural urban context that is present throughout Singapore.” /TISG

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