When you think hawker, you’ll probably picture the quintessential Singaporean uncle. So it might be surprising to see a young man (whom some might call a hunk), cooking up your chye tow kuay.
Meet Walter Tay, a 30-year old who quit his corporate job in 2015 to join his father in the hawker business, and spends his days cooking up delicious carrot cake for hungry Singaporeans.
He has drawn quite a bit of media attention for his good looks and physique. He told Mothership that lifting six times a week, along with long hours at the stall, helps maintain his figure.
How does he feel about the attention?
“I like it!” he quips. “It boosts my business directly”.
His business is doing well. His family recently set up a second stall at Admiralty, quite a distance from the original stall at Bukit Panjang.
Walter worked at a marketing firm for three years before its closure contributed to his decision to join his father frying carrot cake. He says that he enjoys his job now as “I sort of get exempted from playing the ‘society’s game’. I just fry my carrot cake daily”.
Good looks aside, it’s really commendable that he is one of the few youngsters who are continuing the hawker culture. Although hawker food is greatly loved by Singaporeans, the people who cook it are getting older- the median age of a hawker is 59, putting the industry at risk.
As one of the few young hawkers around, he thinks that being ‘louder’ as a hawker will help the industry survive, so that younger generations can understand what being a hawker is like. He hopes that they will like it and choose to take it on.
“I have friends and strangers telling me that my story is inspiring which is pretty unexpected as I always feel that hawker is classified as a ‘low class job'” he says.
(From the writer- that needs to change! Hawkers are so essential to Singapore and its cultural fabric. We should definitely start valuing them more).
That carrot cake in question? Beyond a doubt, it’s absolutely delicious. We visited their Admiralty stall (Mother and Daughter), where Walter’s father, Mr Tay Key Huat, was busy frying carrot cake for customers.
The carrot cake is crispy on the outside, with a satisfying char. There is a pretty generous helping of cai po, which lends a nice crunchy variation in texture, and saltiness throughout the dish.
The carrot cake itself is tasty, not bland, and the white carrot cake goes really well with the chilli provided.
The black carrot cake combines perfectly with the black sauce. It is nice and crispy, and doesn’t go soggy very fast. The taste is rich, sweet, and savoury, but not overpowering.
All in all, the food is good. And not only that, but Walter’s story is a pretty inspirational one for those seeking to go into the hawker business, or for those who have never really paid much mind to the unsung heroes that cook our amazing Singaporean food.
FATHER & SON
#01-23 Bukit Panjang Hawker Centre & Market, 2 Bukit Panjang Ring Rd, S679947
Mother & Daughter
676 Woodlands Drive 71, #02-18, S730676