Foodways in Singapore embody the anxieties of the island-state—namely heritage, race, identity, and authenticity. Hawking in Singapore was initially seen as a nuisance that had to be tolerated and later regulated by both the colonial administration and newly independent government. The relocation of hawkers to centralized food centers marked the imposition of order and hygiene onto a squalid industry. Street peddlers, once an administrative problem, were refashioned into a potent symbol of Singapore's heritage. Hawker food has also been used as a trope of multiculturalism to unite a racially diverse people. The influx of foreign workers from the mid-1980s presented new tensions that shed light on the cultural power of food to articulate inclusion and exclusion. Markers of authenticity, namely historical traditions and artisanal expertise, map haphazardly onto the realities of actual foodways. Finally, a breed of connoisseurs, who grew up in a cosmopolitan nation-state, was birthed in the 1990s. Embracing the low culture of hawker food, local foodies impute new cultural meanings to hawker food that embody the tension between distinction and democracy.

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