SINGAPORE: In a video over social media, food guru Kf Seetoh marked the first anniversary of Urban Hawker, which opened its doors near Times Square in New York on Sept 22, 2022, turning 135 W. 50th Street “into a spot of historical significance for Singapore food culture.”

He travelled down memory lane, from recalling that it was a project nine years in the making when Mr Seetoh helped the late legendary Anthony Bourdain in 2013 at the World Street Food Congress to suggesting at a government-led focus group in 2018 that UNESCO recognize Singapore’s hawker food culture, and then in 2020, the same year that the recognition was granted on his birthday (Dec 16), when Mr Seetoh met Mr Eldon Scott, the original founder of Urban Space food halls throughout the United States.


The Singapore hawkers at Urban Hawker are Halal burger joint Ashes Burnnit, Sembawang’s White beehoon chain and coffee stall Kopifellas, Peranakan restaurant Daisy’s Dream, Chicken Nice from Maxwell Food Centre, Dragon Phoenix (known for its chilli crab and for inventing the yam ring), Prawnaholic (serving Hokkien-style prawn noodle soup), Hainanese Western stall Smokin’ Joe, Malay and Indonesian cafe Padi@Bussorah, Indian stall Mamak’s Corner, and Mr Fried Rice.

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Mr Seetoh thanked the eleven hawkers who bravely uprooted themselves and took the “chance to plant the Singapore food brand in Manhattan, New York, the capital city of the world. So many are so proud of them and the warm accolades are still pouring in today” for the hawkers who’ve made a splash in the New York food scene.

He noted that there have been rave reviews from The New York Times and Eater magazine, “but the cherry on the cake was that many Singaporeans and Malaysian friends did not just congratulate the hawkers, but instead offered alarm and sincere ‘thank yous’ for doing this, because comfort food mattered so much to them.”

The Makansutra founder then went on to announce that since so many have expressed interest in also bringing their food to the US and beyond, he will be holding “an exploration and revelation talk on the potential and reality of setting up in New York” and to “watch this space” for more details.

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Mr Seetoh noted that many have found the hurlers to success in the food & beverage and retail industries to be “quite daunting” due to high rent, operation cost pressures, lack of manpower, and so on, and that some hawkers have become a one-man show or a family-run industry, and that Makansutra will try to answer the questions of those who are hoping to internationalize their brand.

“Yes, we are looking at more opportunities in the US and even beyond, so come here and talk to us and all of the hawkers. They have found some level of success in the United States. Then, decide if you want to take America or the world. Be proud of your craft, who you are. Show the world what you’re made of. You have the chops, believe us.”/TISG