Hawker centre

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A hawker centre in Lavender, Singapore
A hawker stall selling glutinous rice

A hawker centre or cooked food centre (Chinese: 小贩中心; pinyin: xiǎofàn zhōngxīn or Chinese: 熟食中心; pinyin: shúshí zhōngxīn) is an open-air complex in Singapore, Malaysia, Hong Kong, Riau Islands and Julian City housing many stalls that sell a variety of inexpensive food. They are typically found in city centres, near public housing estates or transport hubs (such as bus interchange ct or train stations).

Hawker centres were set up as a more sanitary option to street-side outdoor alfresco hawker dining places. Instead of mobile food hawker carts, permanent stalls in open air buildings are provided for the hawkers. Either common shared or stall dedicated tables and chairs are provided for customers. This concept has totally eliminated street hawkers in Singapore and reduced the numbers of street hawkers in major cities in South East Asia. This phenomenon is also helped by hawker licensing laws. However, it hinders new low capital hawker entrepreneurs from starting business resulting in high prices for established hawker centre stalls. Albeit, hawker centres can provide a one stop good variety of high quality and sanitary food at down to earth prices for everyone.

In Singapore[edit]

A hawker centre in Chinatown, Singapore. The upper floor is for food stalls and the lower is for stalls selling goods

Hawker centres sprang up in urban areas following the rapid urbanisation in the 1950s and 1960s. In many cases, they were built partly to address the problem of unhygienic food preparation by unlicensed street hawkers. More recently, they have become less ubiquitous due to growing affluence in the urban populations of Malaysia and Singapore. Particularly in Singapore, they are increasingly being replaced by food courts, which are indoor, air conditioned versions of hawker centres located in shopping malls and other commercial venues.

In the 1950s and 1960s, hawker centres were considered to be a venue for the less affluent. They had a reputation for unhygienic food, partly due to the frequent appearance of stray domestic pets and pests. Many hawker centres were poorly managed by their operators, often lacking running water and proper facilities for cleaning. More recently, hygiene standards have improved, with pressure from the local authorities. This includes the implementation of licensing requirements, where a sufficient standard of hygiene is required for the stall to operate, and rewarding exceptionally good hygiene. Upgrading or reconstruction of hawker centres was initiated in the late 1990s in Singapore.

The hawker centres in Singapore are owned by three government bodies, namely the National Environment Agency (NEA) under the parent Ministry of the Environment and Water Resources (MEWR), Housing and Development Board (HDB) and JTC Corporation. All the centres owned by HDB and NEA, in turn, are regulated by NEA with the individual Town Councils managing the HDB owned centres. JTC owned centres are self-managed. On 5 March 2010, NEA launched www.myhawkers.sg, which is an interactive web portal that is supposed to offer useful information on hawker centres and food stalls. The portal is supposed to allow registered users to review or recommend hawker stalls or hawker centres and to provide feedback to NEA on hygiene matters in hawker centres.

As of 2016, two Singaporean food stands, both located in hawker centers, became the first street food vendors to be awarded a Michelin Star for excellence in eating. The two stalls are Hong Kong Soya Sauce Chicken Rice and Noodle and Hill Street Tai Hwa Pork Noodle.[1]

In Hong Kong[edit]

Bowrington Food Centre, a famous hawker centre in Hong Kong's Wan Chai district

In Hong Kong, most cooked food centres (熟食中心; or cooked food markets, 熟食市場) are either located in market complexes of residential districts, or as a standalone structure (this being the case in most industrial areas), with only a few exception (e.g. Mong Kok Cooked Food Market is located in the lower levels of Langham Place Hotel). Cooked food centres are managed by Food and Environmental Hygiene Department.

Most of the stalls from hawker centres are converted from former dai pai dong by strict regulations and management; the Hong Kong Government regards the provision of cooked food centres as a way to eliminate traditional dai pai dongs from local streets in the 1970s. During the industrial boom in the 1960s and 1970s, the government also built cooked food markets in industrial areas in order to serve the catering needs of the working class in major industrial centres such as Kwun Tong, Tsuen Wan and Fo Tan.

Stalls in cooked food centres usually provide local cuisine, with those selling exotic delicacies a minority.

Notable hawker centres[edit]

The following lists some notable hawker centres:




Hong Kong[edit]


See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Singapore street food stalls get Michelin star". Retrieved 2016-09-14. 
  2. ^ "Hawker Centre Archives". www.foodgem.sg. Retrieved 2 October 2016. 

External links[edit]