It isn't often you find young hawkers. The trade has seen a sad decline due to the aging population. Without much of the younger generation to take the places of older, tired hawkers, the hawker food trade is at serious risk of being lost to foreign talent and also diminishing quality.
But hawker food is so deeply ingrained in the Singapore culture that it would be a waste to see it die off. This is something that Randall and Kai, who run the Roast Paradise hawker stall at the Old Airport Road Food Centre hopes to prevent. The 26 and 28 year-olds are a rare pair who dare (check out that rhyme, amiright?) to break out from the norm in pursuit of their dreams.
Both were from a PR background but wanted to switch trades. After training with a well-known char siu chef in Selangor for a mere 4 weeks, the duo were ready to take on the Singapore hawker scene by storm. At their corner stall in the food centre, located near the back, Randall and Kai expertly slice up char siu and roasted pork belly with the swiftness and precision of well-trained chefs.
According to Randall, for their char siu dishes, there are two types of cuts they use. One is a leaner, typical char siu cut and the other is a premium cut with more fats. The difference lies in how they are prepared. Though both carry the same sweet, flavourful body, the meats differ slightly in texture. The normal char siu, though already tender and juicy, almost pales in comparison to the premium cut, in which each bite absolutely melts in your mouth like butter.
The meats alone are enough to satiate a hungry belly, but what is also popular at their stall are the garlic rice and pork belly. In fact, they are so popular that it ran out by the time we went to their stall! But our tastebuds and appetites were well compensated with a piping hot bowl of mee poh. The springy noodles, also known as Hakka noodles, come with minced pork and spring onions. A dollop of chili sauce is added for those who like a little spice in their noodles.
Dishes at Roast Paradise start at a reasonable $2.20 (for the noodles). For the amount of love and passion that is translated into their dishes, I'm more than willing to pay twice that amount.
Randall (right), sharing his thoughts on the hawker scene in Singapore.