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Pictures | Fri Mar 8, 2019 | 4:35am IST

Ageing noodle vendor helps keep Singapore foodie culture alive

Hawker Leong Yuet Meng of Nam Seng Noodle House poses as she cooks noodles at her shop in Singapore February 22, 2019. Leong cannot walk more than 10 meters without assistance. Yet, the frail 90-year-old still runs a wonton noodle stall in downtown Singapore, selling at least 200 bowls on any given day.

REUTERS/Edgar Su

Hawker Leong Yuet Meng of Nam Seng Noodle House poses as she cooks noodles at her shop in Singapore February 22, 2019. Leong cannot walk more than 10 meters without assistance. Yet, the frail 90-year-old still runs a wonton noodle stall in downtown...more

Hawker Leong Yuet Meng of Nam Seng Noodle House poses as she cooks noodles at her shop in Singapore February 22, 2019. Leong cannot walk more than 10 meters without assistance. Yet, the frail 90-year-old still runs a wonton noodle stall in downtown Singapore, selling at least 200 bowls on any given day. REUTERS/Edgar Su
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Leong Yuet Meng does her daily shopping for ingredients at a market in Singapore. Leong rises around 4 a.m. to do some accounting and prayers before her son drives her to the local market to buy ingredients for the day ahead.

REUTERS/Edgar Su

Leong Yuet Meng does her daily shopping for ingredients at a market in Singapore. Leong rises around 4 a.m. to do some accounting and prayers before her son drives her to the local market to buy ingredients for the day ahead. REUTERS/Edgar Su

Leong Yuet Meng does her daily shopping for ingredients at a market in Singapore. Leong rises around 4 a.m. to do some accounting and prayers before her son drives her to the local market to buy ingredients for the day ahead. REUTERS/Edgar Su
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A bowl of Leong Yuet Meng's wonton noodle soup. From 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., she is hunched over a pot of simmering noodles, slicing char siu - barbecued pork belly - or serving bowls of bargain-price hot food.

REUTERS/Edgar Su

A bowl of Leong Yuet Meng's wonton noodle soup. From 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., she is hunched over a pot of simmering noodles, slicing char siu - barbecued pork belly - or serving bowls of bargain-price hot food. REUTERS/Edgar Su

A bowl of Leong Yuet Meng's wonton noodle soup. From 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., she is hunched over a pot of simmering noodles, slicing char siu - barbecued pork belly - or serving bowls of bargain-price hot food. REUTERS/Edgar Su
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Leong Yuet Meng prepares wonton. "I try to do this as long as I can, but I am old," said Leong, one of many older food vendors or 'hawkers' in the Asian city-state. "I am afraid that all the experience that I have accumulated over the years will be lost. None of my children can take over."

REUTERS/Edgar Su

Leong Yuet Meng prepares wonton. "I try to do this as long as I can, but I am old," said Leong, one of many older food vendors or 'hawkers' in the Asian city-state. "I am afraid that all the experience that I have accumulated over the years will be...more

Leong Yuet Meng prepares wonton. "I try to do this as long as I can, but I am old," said Leong, one of many older food vendors or 'hawkers' in the Asian city-state. "I am afraid that all the experience that I have accumulated over the years will be lost. None of my children can take over." REUTERS/Edgar Su
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Leong Yuet Meng sits in her home in Singapore. The city has about 110 hawker centres - open-air food courts set up to house former street vendors in an effort to clean up the island in the 1970s - and their over 6,000 stalls are mostly packed. The government has said it will submit a bid this month to add its hawker culture to UNESCO's Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.

REUTERS/Edgar Su

Leong Yuet Meng sits in her home in Singapore. The city has about 110 hawker centres - open-air food courts set up to house former street vendors in an effort to clean up the island in the 1970s - and their over 6,000 stalls are mostly packed. The...more

Leong Yuet Meng sits in her home in Singapore. The city has about 110 hawker centres - open-air food courts set up to house former street vendors in an effort to clean up the island in the 1970s - and their over 6,000 stalls are mostly packed. The government has said it will submit a bid this month to add its hawker culture to UNESCO's Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. REUTERS/Edgar Su
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Leong Yuet Meng discusses with a friend about what lottery numbers to buy at her shop. Celebrity chefs Anthony Bourdain and Gordon Ramsay have effused over typically Singaporean dishes like chicken rice; some hawker stalls serve up the cheapest Michelin star meals at $2; and last year's Hollywood hit film Crazy Rich Asians showed its stars tucking into heaped plates at a famous Singapore night market.

REUTERS/Edgar Su

Leong Yuet Meng discusses with a friend about what lottery numbers to buy at her shop. Celebrity chefs Anthony Bourdain and Gordon Ramsay have effused over typically Singaporean dishes like chicken rice; some hawker stalls serve up the cheapest...more

Leong Yuet Meng discusses with a friend about what lottery numbers to buy at her shop. Celebrity chefs Anthony Bourdain and Gordon Ramsay have effused over typically Singaporean dishes like chicken rice; some hawker stalls serve up the cheapest Michelin star meals at $2; and last year's Hollywood hit film Crazy Rich Asians showed its stars tucking into heaped plates at a famous Singapore night market. REUTERS/Edgar Su
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Leong Yuet Meng and her son Michael Tang, 66, prepare to open their shop for business. But the enthusiasm cannot mask one underlying problem - Singapore's hawkers are getting older and their better-educated sons and daughters are increasingly shunning cramped, sweaty kitchens for office jobs.

REUTERS/Edgar Su

Leong Yuet Meng and her son Michael Tang, 66, prepare to open their shop for business. But the enthusiasm cannot mask one underlying problem - Singapore's hawkers are getting older and their better-educated sons and daughters are increasingly...more

Leong Yuet Meng and her son Michael Tang, 66, prepare to open their shop for business. But the enthusiasm cannot mask one underlying problem - Singapore's hawkers are getting older and their better-educated sons and daughters are increasingly shunning cramped, sweaty kitchens for office jobs. REUTERS/Edgar Su
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Leong Yuet Meng prepares char siew or barbecued pork at her shop. The average age of hawkers is 59, according to a government report, well above the national workforce average of 43.

REUTERS/Edgar Su

Leong Yuet Meng prepares char siew or barbecued pork at her shop. The average age of hawkers is 59, according to a government report, well above the national workforce average of 43. REUTERS/Edgar Su

Leong Yuet Meng prepares char siew or barbecued pork at her shop. The average age of hawkers is 59, according to a government report, well above the national workforce average of 43. REUTERS/Edgar Su
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Leong Yuet Meng is greeted by longtime patrons and family friends outside her shop. To encourage Singapore's street hawkers to resettle into the centres in the 1970s, the government heavily subsidised hawker rentals. While around 40 percent of older hawkers still enjoy low rents, new hawker stalls are sold in an open bidding process, often making rentals much more expensive, especially at popular sites.

REUTERS/Edgar Su

Leong Yuet Meng is greeted by longtime patrons and family friends outside her shop. To encourage Singapore's street hawkers to resettle into the centres in the 1970s, the government heavily subsidised hawker rentals. While around 40 percent of older...more

Leong Yuet Meng is greeted by longtime patrons and family friends outside her shop. To encourage Singapore's street hawkers to resettle into the centres in the 1970s, the government heavily subsidised hawker rentals. While around 40 percent of older hawkers still enjoy low rents, new hawker stalls are sold in an open bidding process, often making rentals much more expensive, especially at popular sites. REUTERS/Edgar Su
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Leong Yuet Meng prepares char siew or barbecued pork at her shop. The government has introduced schemes in recent years to get veteran hawkers to pass on their skills to the next generation, teach business skills and subsidise equipment and rent to reduce overhead costs. This has attracted some young hawkers looking for an escape route from dead-end office jobs.

REUTERS/Edgar Su

Leong Yuet Meng prepares char siew or barbecued pork at her shop. The government has introduced schemes in recent years to get veteran hawkers to pass on their skills to the next generation, teach business skills and subsidise equipment and rent to...more

Leong Yuet Meng prepares char siew or barbecued pork at her shop. The government has introduced schemes in recent years to get veteran hawkers to pass on their skills to the next generation, teach business skills and subsidise equipment and rent to reduce overhead costs. This has attracted some young hawkers looking for an escape route from dead-end office jobs. REUTERS/Edgar Su
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Grandson Bryant Tang, 41, holds the hand of Leong Yuet Meng, 90, as they pack up to go home after a day of business at their shop. "A lot of young people do see it as an avenue to be able to create and be their own boss," 32 year-old coffee stall owner Faye Sai said. "This has attracted younger hawkers and career switchers but that's a minority." 

REUTERS/Edgar Su

Grandson Bryant Tang, 41, holds the hand of Leong Yuet Meng, 90, as they pack up to go home after a day of business at their shop. "A lot of young people do see it as an avenue to be able to create and be their own boss," 32 year-old coffee stall...more

Grandson Bryant Tang, 41, holds the hand of Leong Yuet Meng, 90, as they pack up to go home after a day of business at their shop. "A lot of young people do see it as an avenue to be able to create and be their own boss," 32 year-old coffee stall owner Faye Sai said. "This has attracted younger hawkers and career switchers but that's a minority." REUTERS/Edgar Su
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Leong Yuet Meng enjoys her weekly game of Mahjong with her friends at home. Others say more needs to be done to make the business more lucrative longer term. "Before applying for that (UNESCO), I think they have to settle the problems in front of them first. Twenty years down the road when all the older generation pass away, who is going to take over?," said Alan Choong, a 24-year-old owner of Sino-Japanese fusion food stall Prawnaholic.

REUTERS/Edgar Su

Leong Yuet Meng enjoys her weekly game of Mahjong with her friends at home. Others say more needs to be done to make the business more lucrative longer term. "Before applying for that (UNESCO), I think they have to settle the problems in front of...more

Leong Yuet Meng enjoys her weekly game of Mahjong with her friends at home. Others say more needs to be done to make the business more lucrative longer term. "Before applying for that (UNESCO), I think they have to settle the problems in front of them first. Twenty years down the road when all the older generation pass away, who is going to take over?," said Alan Choong, a 24-year-old owner of Sino-Japanese fusion food stall Prawnaholic. REUTERS/Edgar Su
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Leong Yuet Meng takes her vitamin as she waits to leave her house for the market with her son Michael in Singapore. REUTERS/Edgar Su

Leong Yuet Meng takes her vitamin as she waits to leave her house for the market with her son Michael in Singapore. REUTERS/Edgar Su

Leong Yuet Meng takes her vitamin as she waits to leave her house for the market with her son Michael in Singapore. REUTERS/Edgar Su
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A black and white photo of hawker Leong Yuet Meng in her youth is pictured among her family photos at her home. REUTERS/Edgar Su

A black and white photo of hawker Leong Yuet Meng in her youth is pictured among her family photos at her home. REUTERS/Edgar Su

A black and white photo of hawker Leong Yuet Meng in her youth is pictured among her family photos at her home. REUTERS/Edgar Su
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Leong Yuet Meng finds time to catch up with the news as she waits to be driven by her son to open her shop for business. REUTERS/Edgar Su

Leong Yuet Meng finds time to catch up with the news as she waits to be driven by her son to open her shop for business. REUTERS/Edgar Su

Leong Yuet Meng finds time to catch up with the news as she waits to be driven by her son to open her shop for business. REUTERS/Edgar Su
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Leong Yuet Meng is assisted by her son Michael Tang as they prepare to open their shop for business. Lee Sah Bah, a hawker in his late 60s who sells Chwee Kueh rice cakes at less than S$2 a portion, says he also faces the prospect of his legacy dying out. His two daughters - one a lecturer at a university in Melbourne and the other an accountant in Singapore - won't take over his business. "I don't think hawker centers will exist in the next 50 years," Lee said. "It's too much hard work, we have to put in 16 hours a day sometimes. It's hot. Kids nowadays wouldn't want to work here."

REUTERS/Edgar Su

Leong Yuet Meng is assisted by her son Michael Tang as they prepare to open their shop for business. Lee Sah Bah, a hawker in his late 60s who sells Chwee Kueh rice cakes at less than S$2 a portion, says he also faces the prospect of his legacy dying...more

Leong Yuet Meng is assisted by her son Michael Tang as they prepare to open their shop for business. Lee Sah Bah, a hawker in his late 60s who sells Chwee Kueh rice cakes at less than S$2 a portion, says he also faces the prospect of his legacy dying out. His two daughters - one a lecturer at a university in Melbourne and the other an accountant in Singapore - won't take over his business. "I don't think hawker centers will exist in the next 50 years," Lee said. "It's too much hard work, we have to put in 16 hours a day sometimes. It's hot. Kids nowadays wouldn't want to work here." REUTERS/Edgar Su
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Leong Yuet Meng does her daily shopping for ingredients at a market in Singapore. REUTERS/Edgar Su

Leong Yuet Meng does her daily shopping for ingredients at a market in Singapore. REUTERS/Edgar Su

Leong Yuet Meng does her daily shopping for ingredients at a market in Singapore. REUTERS/Edgar Su
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Leong Yuet Meng does her daily shopping for ingredients at a market in Singapore. REUTERS/Edgar Su

Leong Yuet Meng does her daily shopping for ingredients at a market in Singapore. REUTERS/Edgar Su

Leong Yuet Meng does her daily shopping for ingredients at a market in Singapore. REUTERS/Edgar Su
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