Attention: this post uses the “hawker centre”, one of the most distinctive elements of Singaporean urbanism and without question the single greatest contributor to my quality of life on the island, as a metaphor. If you do not know what a hawker centre is, please read this (and explore the whole site) before continuing with this post. Thanks!
The Two Hungry Friends
Two hungry high-schoolers go for a midday stroll.
“So much yusheng! Chinese New Year is exhausting. And next weekend, again.”
“I’m sick of prawn rolls and pineapple tarts. Still, hunger strikes.”
“I’m hungry, too.”
“What to eat?”
“Laksa? My mom always takes me to 328 Katong and swears it’s the best.”
“Laksa at 328 Katong! Delicious! Now that you mention it, laksa would be perfect.”
“And the definitive laksa, the greatest, the most famous: it’s 328. To Katong!”
“But lo! Alexandra Village Food Centre! How fortunate to stumble upon Depot Road Claypot Laksa, a very fine stall! And so much nearer…”
“I’ve heard of Depot Road… but for me it is Katong 328 or none at all. My dad’s tried Depot Road, not as shiok lah.”
“But so far away, Katong 328! MRT’s crowded and ERP makes you bleed!”
“Yes, yes… it’s a commitment, but I do what I must for authentic Katong laksa!”
“Then we part. I’m hungry now. And I like Depot Road better than Katong 328.”
“We part, then…”
“Until next time!”
Our friends part ways, the one stays at Alexandra Village, the other heads to Katong. Entering the food centre, our friend is unpleasantly surprised.
“Closed!? What? It’s still early enough…”
A look of knowing horror sweeps her face.
“Chinese New Year! Auntie’s on vacation. A grave error! That claypot laksa would have satisfied. I’ve always loved it…”
Our troubled student, hunched over a table in front of the shuttered stall, considers the situation. Laksa had been on her mind. But suddenly, a switch. The hawker center is quiet… but not entirely. She looks up.
“Haji K. Abdul Rehuman Muslim Food… I’ve never noticed it. Biryani could be nice, it’s great at Tekka Centre but I’ve never tried Indian Muslim at Alexandra Village.”
Our friend considers her options: mourn the temporary closure of her beloved laksa, or try the biryani. Checking her phone for guidance, she considers further.
“I’ve never heard of this stall. And neither ieatishootipost nor makansutra have reviews… I’m flying blind. But so be it! It smells wonderful…”
She orders. Biryani on the table, our friend finds rapture.
“Scrumptious! Grains perfectly separated, warm mutton, dense and meaty. Laksa’s not the only game in town at Alexandra Village!”
Our friend eats, leaves, and wonders if there are biryani stalls elsewhere that she’s overlooked.
Meanwhile, in the East, our Katong enthusiast approaches the venerated establishment to find…
“Katong 328 closed! What’s going o…. oh… oh dear of course it’s Chinese New Year! An embarrassing oversight.”
Dejected, he considers the situation.
“Katong 328 closed. This is terrible. The great 328! I eat nowhere else. But I’m here and hungry… I must eat!
Our friend looks up and down East Coast Road. He finds Chinese restaurant after Chinese restaurant after Chinese…
“Oh what bitter misfortune! All Chinese, all closed. And I don’t live nearby.”
Our friend is short on options.
“There will be food at home, Mom and Dad are cooking up another CNY feast.”
“Prawn rolls and pineapple tarts…”
Our friend hops on the bus and heads home, hungry.