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Bertha HarianBertha Harian

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Diploma for hawkers?

I read today’s ST page 1 story with some trepidation. Oh my god! Will we be getting mass-produced bak chor mee with the “right” amount of sambal and vinegar from now on? What exactly is this centre for hawkers supposed to do? Teach them to cook???? Or teach them how to run a hawker stall efficiently so that they can pay off the rent, water and electricity bills, cleaning bills and have something (or much more) left over? Really, quite a lot of our hawker fare is already factory-produced. Go check that chicken/duck rice stall and ask if it got its meat from some ready-braised, ready-roasted chicken/duck factory. Ask the satay seller if he marinates his own meat, or ordered them from City Satay or some such. Then there are the bits and pieces of pre-packed, prepared ingredients, such as ready-crushed peanuts for Chinese rojak and fish balls (which taste and feel like rubber).

In case you haven’t noticed, some hawkers have given up the cooking to Chinese nationals. No more to their sons and daughters. I guess some of our best recipes will soon be in the hands of foreign talent. Talk about technology transfer! You can’t force a young person to run his father’s stall, so I guess the next best thing to do is to give the man a diploma and a career path? Hawking used to be a way for the less-educated to make a living, starting as a stall assistant and moving on to, well, master chef. Now they have to sit in class – and be certified. A failing grade means no hawker stall for you???

Sorry if I’m ranting but I really wish more questions had been asked for the article, which seems to be concentrating on the culinary aspects of the school and how to get a grade A in cleanliness sticker.  Maybe the hawkers themselves should be interviewed – and their young ‘uns. What they wished they had known before they had set up stall, some tips on budgeting, energy-saving devices  or how to band together to get fresh ingredients – or even how to go green and save the Earth.

Can we leave the cooking part alone?

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An ex-journalist who can't get enough of the news after being in the business for 26 years

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