Singapore is famous for its street food and Unesco has decreed that its hawkers centers have special cultural significance and are now on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.

According to Unesco, community dining and culinary practices in a multicultural urban context is present throughout Singapore. Hawkers prepare a variety of food for people who dine and mingle at the centers, which serve as ‘community dining rooms’ where people from diverse backgrounds gather and share the experience of dining over breakfast, lunch and dinner. Activities such as chess-playing, busking and art-jamming also take place.

"Evolved from street food culture, hawker centers have become markers of Singapore as a multicultural city-state, comprising Chinese, Malay, Indian and other cultures," Unesco says. "Hawkers take inspiration from the confluence of these cultures, adapting dishes to local tastes and contexts. Today, hawker centers across Singapore continue serving the needs of diverse communities in residential, recreational and work districts. Some of the oldest hawkers started their practice in the 1960s. Many specialize in a particular dish, refined over many years, and transmit their recipes, knowledge and skills to younger family members or apprentices."

Diners at Newton food center in Singapore
DIners at Newton Food Center in Singapore © AhBoon.Net/Shutterstock

"Community organizations, non-governmental organizations and educational institutions in Singapore play a significant role in promoting and sustaining hawker culture through training programmes, events and documentation projects. The country applied for the Unesco recognition two years ago, and it was recently granted, alongside Armenian Lavash bread and Cambodia’s Royal Ballet.

Hawker centres are found all over the island; however, here are a few of the best places to get you started on your gastronomic adventure if you travel there: Chinatown Complex, Lau Pa Sat, Maxwell Food CentreNewton Food Centre, East Coast Lagoon Food Village and Gluttons Bay. Further information on the designation is available on Unesco's site here.

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