The chit chatter of students from a nearby secondary school has led me into this corner of Queenstown Estate. All its surroundings except the community library had shut their doors since the turn of the millennium. However, the aroma and the palatable food continue to attract food lovers into this food centre that is one of the oldest in Singapore.
The brown agenda approach was why food centres come about. Firstly, severe housing congestion in Chinatown meant that resettlement estates were required to remove squatters and provide Singaporeans with a sanitised living condition. Different amenities were subsequently constructed in public housing so that spatial reorganisation of land use in city centre can be successful.
Secondly, the prohibition of itinerant hawkers in 1973, on one hand, symbolised the role of a developmental state in manipulating ordinary landscapes to propagate the importance of hygiene and sanitation in Singaporeans. Singaporeans, on the other hand, continued to patronise these peddlers as a symbolic resistance to the government’s top-down approach because hawker food was considered an expensive delicacy and health and hygiene was an unimportant concern then. Such actions were halted after increased police patrols
The Food Centre in 1969
Built in 1969, this food centre is situated behind the cinemas, many of the hawkers started off as itinerant hawkers peddling from pushcarts around Queenstown, providing palatable and affordable fare. These mobile hawkers resettled into these centres as the concentration of good food has proved a boon for Singaporeans looking for food. Ever since, food centres have become iconic features of heartland Singapore.
Commonwealth Avenue Cooked Food Centre
Come next February, many of the first-generation hawkers will have to leave because of the redevelopment of Margaret Drive. Many of the familiar faces, food and sights may become a part of memory for many of the residents who live in the area. Mr Yu, a salesman who stays in Telok Blangah, recalls patronising this Food Centre since the 80s for Fried Kway Teow. He looks apparently disheartened to know that the Food Centre is going to be demolished. Now he is married with a daughter who works in a kindergarten.
Mr Yu-a regular patron of the Food Centre
Deylan Goh recalls the Shanghai Dimsum at Level 2, "At my younger times, uncle would often give me more dumplings & charge me at a cheaper rate too! Sweet childhood memories from old Queenstown."
Jenn-Lee Ong recalls her memories with the Teochew Cha Kua Teow stall, "I was there with my hubby last night and he restricted me to just a plate, I said NO!!!! I am not sharing!! I will miss it here because we will normally eat there when we drive pass the food centre and see a short queue. If it is relocated in Telok Blangah, we will have to drive there deliberately. I will normally buy more than a plate or packet to make the waiting time worth it! Where do we get so many Hums for our Kua Teow . What other stalls will I miss?
Yong Chuan Voon expresses his regrets at the closure of the food centre, "I was told many hawkers will decided to retire after the closure. I think this is the only hawker centre not offered relocation."
Kimmy Tay agrees, "It will be a pity if they decide not to rebuild the hawker centre. That is where all the good foods are and that is where all walks of life in queenstown gather to have their meals. I can still vaguely remember the times when I was still a child, the hawker centre is always packed with people and come to think of it the atmosphere back then was a very lively one, but as the years goes by, that lively atmosphere seem to have died down. Even then it may not be the same in the future even if they decide to rebuild it. The hawker centre, together with the old cinemas, shopping centres and the emporium is just like a human body, it will never be the same once you take one part of it away. Neverthless. I hope that NEA can rebuild it so that it can attract some, if not most, of the crowd back there in the future to eat and remind singaporeans that Commonwealth Avenue Cooked Food Centre has some of the best hawker food in Singapore."
Familiar Faces, Familiar Names
Have You eaten before?
Many shops have left already..
Yet it remains as one of the gathering places in Queenstown..
Come 2011, when the curtain falls..will anyone still remember here?