Singapore—Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat, along with other members of the East Coast GRC team, paid a special visit to the Bedok Marketplace @ 58 on Saturday, Dec 19.

DPM Heng wrote in a Facebook post that they went there for the express purpose of congratulating “our hawkers for the inscription of Singapore’s Hawker Culture on UNESCO’s Intangible Cultural Heritage list.”

He noted how Singapore hawker culture has changed over the years, evolving from its humble beginnings as street food into fully functioning hawker centers.

The Deputy Prime Minister also noted that many of the hawkers he has encountered took on the trade of their parents and are second-generation hawkers, while others are new.

“Their culinary skills and ‘secret family recipes’ have been passed down by their elders, and honed through years of toil and sweat! Some are newer to the trade but are no less passionate.”

DPM Heng then encouraged everyone to thank hawkers when they see them. “Next time when you are out for a meal or da bao (take-away), do remember to thank our hawkers!”

Singapore applied nearly three years ago for its hawker culture to be included on UNESCO’s list. And last week, on Dec 16, a virtual conference comprised of a 24-member international panel unanimously accepted Singapore’s application.

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A report in the said that it only took around three minutes to approve the application submitted by the National Heritage Board, the National Environment Agency and the Federation of Merchants’ Associations.

UNESCO’s approving committee deemed it unnecessary to debate the nomination at the 15th session of the intergovernmental board as Singapore’s application had met all the requirements.

News of Singapore’s hawker culture’s inclusion in UNESCO’s list was a breath of fresh air in what has been a difficult year for many due to the Covid-19 pandemic, including many hawkers themselves, who have suffered from a loss of income due to restrictions on foot traffic this year.

DPM Heng wrote in a Facebook post on Dec 17, “A spark of joy as we approach the end of the year. Congratulations to #OurHawkerCulture for being inscribed on UNESCO’s Intangible Cultural Heritage list! This recognition is also an affirmation of our multicultural identity.

Food is our living heritage, and a unifying thread of our social fabric that brings people of diverse backgrounds together. Let’s keep our hawker legacy going — continue to support our hawkers so that they can continue to preserve our hawker culture and cook delicious makan for us!

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As for Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, he wrote in a Facebook post that the “biggest thanks must go to the generations of hawkers for nourishing a nation’s stomach and spirits. This recognition would not have come without their sweat, toil and dedication to their profession.”


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