Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Balek Kampung To Bedok Corner Part 3: Bedok Corner Hawker Center (Written by Peter Chan)

For the knowledge on how alfresco dining and rustic charm was like in my time, I would not mind stepping back into the past. Like many others, I prefer the modern amenities although I am aware that with modernization it comes with a price; a loss of the laid-back kampong ambience, unsociable people, warm evenings because of lower ceilings, and higher food prices.

The Bedok Corner Hawker Center did not begin at its present location next to Bagnall Court. In fact it began at the bus-stop in front of the former 3SIR. The present location of the hawker center in the early 1960s was a piece of empty ground filled with lallang. Shortly after the Bedok Camps were completed in 1969, all the hawkers were re-sited across the road to its present location. In my memories, I can “see” stalls selling “Jill Her Eng Chye”, Chicken Porridge, “Cher Char”, Hokkien Mee, ”Cheng Teng” and Satay. Only the Lim family operating the “Jill Her Eng Chye and “Cheng Teng” and the Hokkien Mee were the sole survivors from the 1950s, while many retired during the upgrading of the hawker center. Of course it might not be fair to compare yesterday’s food prices to today’s; inflation, wages, rental and utilities always rising more than decreasing. Satay was $1/- for 10 sticks, chicken porridge was 0.30 cents a bowl and Jill Her Eng Chye was $2/- by the time I was in National Service in 1972. Through the years, I always patronized Mak Chik who sold mutton soup; always conscious that her price went up from $1.50 to $3.30 today.


Photo 1: (Left Photo) Chicken Porridge stall. (Right Photo) Hokkien Mee stall on the side of the future 3SIR. In front of the stalls was Vienna Inn, the future Bagnall Court. Bedok Corner is on the right of the photo. The sea was behind the stalls. (circa 1958)

Photo 2: Bedok Corner Hawker Center: front facing Bedok Camp 1. The front row comprised the Drinks stall, Cher Char stall, one stall always closed, passage way, Hokkien Mee, Mee Goreng/Mutton Soup Stall, Seafood Bakar stall, Cheng Teng stall and Jill Her Eng Chye stall. The back of the hawker center faced Bedok Road (now the public car park)

Photo 3: Old familiar faces such as “Jill Her Eng Chye”, Hokkien Mee and Ah Pek who is seen “kooning” at the public toilet

After the upgrading works were completed in 2005, a new name was given to this place; to keep pace with its new Minangkabau architecture. Bedok Corner Food Court did not retain many of the Bedok Corner Hawker Center stalls. I missed the goreng pisang Malay women selling her kueh and tapioca & banana fritters, Rashid the Bandung drink specialist, and the chicken & duck rice stall – on some days the taste of his duck was better than his chicken and vice versa. Today a horde of new food stalls appeared with new menus; tandoori chicken, ice kachang in soya bean, O-luak, Tahu Goreng to name a few.

One question for readers: Look at Photo 3 again and guess which person is likely to be the CSM from 1st Commando Battalion

Photo 4: Bedok Corner Food Center (circa 2008)

12 comments:

Thimbuktu said...

I think it should be the guy in pink shirt carrying a plate of 'mee goreng'. He has a "satt khee" look and has moustache. Most of the CSM whom I know keeps moustache to appear serious and macho :)

Tom said...

Tom said ... I think it is the man with the smart pink shirt is the CSM to , because soldiers and ex. soldiers like to pose in front of a camera haha.

Lam Chun See said...

I think it's the guy in the blue shirt. He has a leaner, more disciplined and more serious look.

yg said...

although i had been to the bedok corner hawker centre only two times, i liked the relaxed atmosphere. i saw the children of the hawkers playing happily at the sandy patch. i could feel the camaraderie among the stallholders.

Seen This Scene That said...

can't really tell from this angle. i guess it could be the guy in white facing the picture. think i'll cjeck out the food centre as well. cheers!

Victor said...

Peter, my guess is the janitor.

Haha... only kidding. You already told me the answer that day.

Anonymous said...

the other night, i went dinner with my parents at whampoa hawker centre, and i am eating a bowl of fishball,meat dried noodle dry(bak zou mee),out of curiousity, i asked my dad how much does a bowl of such noodle cost in the 1950s 1960s... 30cents, 60cents!
the bowl of noodle i am eating cost $3! .. does anyone mind to share how much other food selling at those old days.. what other food are there available besides the usual fried hokkien mee, fried carrot cake... is there any food 'extinct' today?

em

Tom said...

Tom said ...
Looking at photos again of old Bedok corner, that is Beddok I remember, and photo no. 4 I like that one,no oil lamps hanging up in the new place wow what a change from the 1960s, and photo no. 3had another wee look, I realy now think the man with the blue shirt on is the boss yep he is definitely the CSM. he looks tough. Peter are we getting to know who the CSM. is?

peter said...

The CSM is the one in pink shirt. He has a string of honors including a "US Airbone Ranger" batch.

The time I had an encounter with him or rather his Commando unit was in 1974. An Infantry unit clashed with the Commandos in Pasir Laba during a military exercise. That military exercise finally put a stop to all SAF exercise using commandos to role-play as the enemy to harass infantrymen during company defense.

peter said...

My mistake in the above comment. The clash was not in Pasir Laba but in the Marsiling area - "Hill 265" I believe. It is now the Singapore Sports School site

Tom said...

TOM said ...
My first choice was correct about who was the CSM,And I had other look and fell for the lad in the blue shirt,
da da da.People always say you should stick to your first choice,da.

Marhamah said...

...and we can bring our own eggs for prata and mee goreng!!! I grew up in Kampung Bedok for the first 14 years of my life...was even born in that kampung house I grew up in, in 1970...my late grandfather used to bring me to the hawker centre for breakfast, and sometimes we would cycle to the beach passing by the army camp....
Ah Lek's son who continued his legacy with chng teng and rojak sotong still remember me when I go there for makan.....and the mutton soup Makcik too....the prata stall mamak Ali's children now run the ikan bakar stall...
How nostalgic...