Video: Hawker Anthea Tan Follows In Her Father’s Footsteps To Make Fishball Noodles
Tiger Street Food Support Fund recipient Anthea Tan reflects on what it was like growing up as a hawker’s child and why she’s picking up the baton.
07 June 2018
Every day, thousands of people have their meals at Singapore’s many hawker centres with nary a thought of the lives of the hardworking individuals behind the stoves, the hawkers who begin their days at the crack of dawn and work back-breaking hours to make a living, away from their families and children.
Anthea's father is the second generation owner of Yam Mee Teochew Fishball Noodles.
So, what was it like growing up with parents who worked as hawkers? “My parents had very very long working hours. Growing up, I lived with my grandparents and I didn’t see them much,” says Anthea Tan, 26. “Unlike my peers, I never got to go to places like the zoo or Sentosa with my parents.”
Her experience of growing up away from her parents is not unusual for children of hawkers. “It’s also hard for them to not watch us growing up. I think they sacrificed a lot because they are hawkers and the work demands that of them.”
Her father, Tan Leang Yong, now 52, was just a child in the 1970s when he started helping out at his father’s street cart hawking Teochew fishball noodles. By the time he completed his national service, the stall had relocated to Kovan Market And Food Centre and he began to work with his father in earnest.
Three generations of the Tan family. (Pic: Anthea Tan)
“My mother also started helping out at the stall when they were dating and that’s how it became a family business,” says Anthea Tan. “After I graduated from university, I had some time off and decided to spend more time at the hawker stall helping my parents. It was then I realised how hard the environment and the work was, but I also discovered that I enjoyed the hawker life very much. And that’s why I decided to follow in my dad’s footsteps and carry on the family business.”
In early 2017, she won a grant of $10,000 from the Tiger Street Food Support Fund, which aims to promote and support the hawker trade in Singapore. She used the money to set up outlets of Yam Mee Teochew Fishball Noodles in Yishun Park Hawker Centre and Kaki Bukit 511 Market And Food Centre in Bedok, which she and her 24-year-old brother now run. Her parents still run the original stall in Kovan.
The Tiger Street Food Support Fund supports young hawkers like Anthea Tan.
And although the work is challenging, she shares her choice of career has given her one of the greatest gifts — she gets to spend time with her parents. In this Father’s Day tribute, she expresses her gratitude to her dad, which he reciprocates with words of love and affirmation.
Yam Mee Teochew Fishball Noodles
209 Hougang Street 21, #01-35/36 Kovan Market And Food Centre
51 Yishun Avenue 11, #01-15 Yishun Park Hawker Centre
511 Bedok North Street 3, #01-24 Kaki Bukit 511 Market And Food Centre