Workers’ Party politician Sylvia Lim made one hawker stall briefly famous with her Instagram photo. But residents and hawkers say it’s not necessarily the best that the Fengshan ward has to offer.
By Hong Xinying
A plate of fried oyster egg made the news. And as it turns out, locals say it’s not even from a famous hawker stall at Fengshan market and food centre.
On 12 August, Workers’ Party chairman Sylvia Lim posted an Instagram photo of her with the dish at the hawker centre at Bedok North Street 4. She captioned it thus: “The taste of Fengshan - heavenly! #reasontowin”.
Image: Sylvia Lim/ Instagram
The post fuelled speculation among netizens that Lim might field for the Fengshan SMC at the coming elections.
It even attracted the attention of Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean, who used it as a swipe at the opposition party’s management of the Aljunied-Hougang-Punggol East Town Council (AHPETC) funds.
At a media session on 14 August, the Minister of Home Affairs said: “Now we see the chairman of the town council saying that Fengshan SMC (Single Member Constituency) looks quite delicious. What’s going to happen? You’re going to swallow up Fengshan? For what purpose? To serve the residents of Fengshan? Or is Fengshan delicious because you want to add it to the pot? And help the town council with the deficit?”
Business as usual at hawker centre
But a week later on Wednesday (19 August), it was business as usual at Fengshan market and food centre, based on what some hawkers have told Yahoo Singapore.
“The hawker centre is most busy on Fridays and the weekends. Today, it’s even a bit quieter than usual because of the Hungry Ghost Festival,” said Tan Lay Choon, who runs a drink stall at the hawker centre.
The 58-year-old told Yahoo Singapore that frequent customers were less likely to head out or preferred to watch the getai stage performances nearby. She has been running the stall for over 10 years at Fengshan food centre.
As for the hawker stall in question, business has only been marginally better.
Although she has received requests for the same dish that Sylvia Lim ordered, stall owner Tan Siew Kim told Yahoo Singapore that there was probably just a 10 or 20 per cent increase in customers.
The 52-year-old said she might consider displaying press mentions at the stall in the future but will keep the prices the same.
Hawker stall owner Tan Siew Kim and stall assistant Doh Pend Hun at the Fengshan food centre. Image: Daniel Soh
Tan started the stall 15 years ago by serving mostly ngoh hiang (a Teochew-style roll of minced meats and vegetables) instead of the said oyster-egg dish. She started serving the dish about seven to eight years ago, when she learnt the know-how from an adjacent stall, which has since shut its business.
The hawker added that she has never met the opposition leader and would not have recognised her if she were to see Lim in-person.
According to her stall assistant Doh Pend Hun, Lim did not even order the dish personally. He told Yahoo Singapore that Lim’s colleague had bought the dish for her.
The 55-year-old also complained that some reporters have got the name of the dish wrong.
The dish that Sylvia Lim had tried at the Fengshan food centre. Image: Daniel Soh
“It’s or luak (fried oyster egg in Hokkien), not hao jian (oyster omelette),” said Doh, in jest. The cook fries the starchy egg batter and oysters together for the first dish; he ladles oysters on top of an omelette for the other. Doh has been working at the stall for 15 years.
Out of a dozen diners that Yahoo Singapore surveyed, most of them preferred to order from another stall.
The rival stall which spans two stall units, is located a row away and had about six employees cooking, serving and taking orders from customers.
One of the stall assistants told Yahoo Singapore that customers have approached them to ask if they had served the dish to the opposition leader.
Although he declined to be named, the employee spoke freely to Yahoo Singapore of how business remains the same, the stall busy as usual. He said the stall has been running at the same spot for over 10 years.
When Yahoo Singapore was there, the stall was receiving a steady stream of orders. But popular as it appeared to be, it’s not even the most famous stall at the Fengshan food centre.
The real taste of Fengshan?
That honour goes to a bak chor mee (minced meat noodle) hawker, located on the same row as the stall that the Workers Party politician had ordered from.
The family-run Xing Ji Rou Cuo Mian stall has been there for over 30 years, said stall assistant Yap Tiont Chye. The 50-year-old admitted that business has been “a bit better” since the neighbouring stall made the news.
Judging by the steady flow of customers, the hawker hardly needs the added buzz. The stall was easily the most frequented hawker when Yahoo Singapore had visited that evening.
So what is the ‘true taste’ of Fengshan? Most diners told Yahoo Singapore that it was the array of good food that attracted them, instead of the fame of one particular stall.
A Pasir Ris resident who wished to be identified only as Madam Xie, told Yahoo Singapore that she frequents the Fengshan food centre for its variety.
Another diner, Madam Fang, told Yahoo Singapore that she had seen the Sylvia Lim’s photo on Facebook but she felt it was much ado about nothing.
“It’s just a normal hawker centre. So we order a bit of everything from the stalls here. It’s not that healthy to have or luak every week anyway,” said the resident, who is in her 50s.