Some civilizations chronicle their pasts with art or books. Others pass on history orally through folklore. In Singapore, the tale of how a humble fishing village in Southeast Asia evolved into a buzzing modern metropolis often comes in spoonfuls of peppery pork rib soup or bites of fried egg noodles at its hawker centers.
Across the city-state, the ubiquitous open-air food complexes are packed with closet-sized stalls, manned by hawkers—businesspeople who both cook and sell fare from Hainanese-style chicken to Peranakan laksa (lemongrass-coconut noodles). For visitors, hawker centers might just seem like jumbo food courts: Follow your nose or the longest line, then pay a few Singapore dollars for a trayful of chow to enjoy at a shared table.
For Singaporeans, hawker culture is about more than just a good meal. These food centers are beloved institutions exemplifying the country’s melting-pot culture, places where people of Chinese, Indian, and Malay