PETALING JAYA: Singapore will be nominating its rich hawker culture for Unesco's Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity, says its prime minister Lee Hsien Loong.

In his speech during the republic's National Day Rally on Sunday (Aug19), Lee said Singapore's hawker centres were its "community dining rooms" and are a unique part of the country's heritage and identity.

The Straits Times reported if the bid is successful, Singapore's hawker culture will join the likes of Malaysia's Mak Yong theatre from Kelantan, Indonesia's batik and India's yoga on the world stage.


The Straits Times reported that the organisations fronting the bid – National Heritage Board (NHB), the National Environment Agency and the Federation of Merchants' Associations Singapore – said hawker culture was selected because it has shaped the Singaporean identity in many ways.

Singapore's hawkers started out as migrants who peddled their food on streets and sidewalks. They were moved into more sanitary purpose-built facilities by the government from the 1970s. Hawker centres are still being built today and by 2027, a total of 127 hawker centres will dot the landscape.

In an NHB poll earlier this year, 27% of 3,000 respondents said food was more important to them than social practices and festivals, and traditional performing arts, which each got 18%.