Enter hipster dishes and experiments. Old-school critics might feel that bona fide hawker food has to depend on traditionally ‘Singaporean’ dishes and ingredients familiar to locals. By that definition, Seafood Pirates, which offers seafood soup inspired by Japanese culinary techniques, could be categorised as ‘hipster’, and therefore not ‘authentic’.
This is patently pedantic, and as Teo puts it, “Haters, are just being haters.”
Food that’s edgy or new-fangled is still a unique expression of food culture, just like traditional hawker recipes are. Let’s not forget that long before they became established, our beloved national dishes were also once newly minted, searching for a place to take root.
In the same spirit, I venture that it’s about time we start being open to considering even foreign food or other entrepreneurial food ventures as part of our hawker culture.
30-year-old Sharon Tay, co-founder of food and events provider, The Swag Social, doesn’t see her business in the same realm as that of the typical hawker. Her skepticism is not unexpected—The Swag Social positions themselves as an exclusive F&B pop-up for events like ARTBOX Singapore and the Singapore Night Festival. Featuring street food from other countries like Taiwan, Japan, and Korea, typical hawker fare is far from their menu offerings. The Swag Social even lacks a physical shop space.