5.30am in a Singapore hawker food centre

A hawker centre or cooked food centre (Chinese: 小贩中心 or 熟食中心) is the name given to open-air complexes in Singapore housing many stalls that sell a variety of inexpensive food. They are typically found near public housing estates or transport hubs

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. At the same time, hawker centres were renamed food centres.

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