Maxwell Food Centre



Maxwell Food Centre (originally known as Maxwell Market), located at the junction of South Bridge Road and Maxwell Road, is a popular hawker centre near the Central Business District.1

History
Maxwell Market was opened on 17 November 1928.2 During the Japanese Occupation, the market housed a government co-operative store, known as Kumiai, that controlled certain types of wholesale and retail trade.3 Wartime privation drove many to scavenge for discarded vegetables and fruits at the market.4 After the war, the Social Welfare Department set up People’s Restaurants to provide cheap and nutritious meals to the masses.5 The first Family Restaurant, which served meals at 8 cents per plate, opened at Maxwell Market on 18 December 1946.6


The wet market was converted into a food centre in 1987, housing hawkers who were relocated from China Square.7 Although the structure was spruced up, individual stalls did not have running water and hawkers had to share common washing areas that were originally meant for washing raw market produce.8 Cooking ingredients and dirty utensils would be piled side-by-side at these washing points in full view of diners.9 In addition, the concrete floor was perpetually wet and littered with cigarette butts, used tissues and spilled food.10

Despite its squalid conditions, Maxwell Food Centre was popular for serving cheap and delicious fare as well as traditional dishes that were rarely found elsewhere.11 One of these was kangchia mee or rickshaw noodles, a dish consisting of Hokkien noodles in a clear broth, which was a favourite of rickshaw-pullers in the past.12 Other long-time favourites at the food centre were peanut soup and ham chin peng, a deep fried dough snack.13

In 1991, plans were announced to relocate the hawker centre to make way for the new Urban Redevelopment Authority headquarters.14 However, the plans were shelved in 1993.15 In 2000, the Ministry of Environment decided to upgrade the market after redevelopment plans for the area were deferred.16 Maxwell Food Centre closed in September 2000 for a S$3.2-million revamp, and reopened in May 2001.17

Maxwell Food Centre was voted Singapore’s favourite hawker centre in the 2014, 2015 and 2016 editions of City Hawker Food Hunt, which aims to recognise the best hawker stalls and celebrate local hawker food culture.18 Many of the hawkers at this food centre are second- and third-generation owners who inherited their parents’ businesses and traditional recipes.19 One of them, China Street Fritters – famous for its handmade sausages, ngoh hiang (fried meat roll), liver roll and egg slices – won the Heritage Hawker Stall award in the 2015 City Hawker Food Hunt, for serving good hawker fare for more than 50 years.20 Another favourite is Tian Tian Chicken Rice, which was one of 34 recipients of the “Bib Gourmand” award in the inaugural Michelin Guide Singapore 2016.21



Author

Bonny Tan



References
1. Singapore Tourism Board. (2016, July 4). Sniffing out local food in Singapore. Retrieved 2016, November 21 from Singapore Tourism Board website: http://www.yoursingapore.com/editorials/the-street-food-of-singapore.html; Singapore Land Authority. (2016). OneMap. Retrieved from One Map website: https://www.onemap.sg/?SearchVal=MAXWELL%20FOOD%20CENTRE,%20%201%20KADAYANALLUR%20STREET,%20%20SINGAPORE%20069184%20(AXS%20STATION)&LW:Y&wO5d:JbabJ_I,JbRqR_f,JRbJb_R,JRfYh_q,c
2. Singapore Municipality. (1929). Administration report of the Singapore Municipality for the year 1928 [Microfilm nos.: NL 3412, 3414]. Singapore: Printed by C. A. Ribeiro & Co., Ltd, p. 110-D.
3. Chan, M. (2000, September 18). Ah, sweet scents of nostalgia for Maxwell Market. The Straits Times, p. 18. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Wong, H. S. (2009). Wartime kitchen: Food and eating in Singapore, 1942—1950. Singapore: Editions Didier Millet and National Museum of Singapore, p. 19. (Call no.: RSING 641.30095957 WON)
4. Chan, M. (2000, September 18). Ah, sweet scents of nostalgia for Maxwell Market. The Straits Times, p. 18. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
5. 35-cent lunch is a reality. (1946, June 28). The Straits Times, p. 3. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
6. Eight-cent family meals for S’pore. (1946, December 14). The Straits Times, p. 5; Big rush for 8-cent meals. (1946, December 19). The Straits Times, p. 7. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
7. Tan, D. (1987, March 18). Maxwell hawker centre a hit after facelift. The Straits Times, p. 26. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
8. Treasure trove of old favourites. (1987, April 19). The Straits Times, p. 4; Chan, M. (2000, September 18). Ah, sweet scents of nostalgia for Maxwell Market. The Straits Times, p. 18. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
9. Kwek, K. (2000, September 3). Bye, Max, see you real soon. The Straits Times, p. 8; Goh, D. (2000, August 19). Makeover for old Maxwell Rd market. The Straits Times, p. 57. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
10. Tan, M. (1999, September 5). Fried snack for 10 cents. The Straits Times, p. 8. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
11. Goh, D. (2000, August 19). Makeover for old Maxwell Rd market. The Straits Times, p. 57; Tee, H. C. (2001, May 20). Generation Max. The Straits Times, p. 12; Tan, M. (1999, September 5). Fried snack for 10 cents. The Straits Times, p. 8. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
12. Khng, E. M. (1988, February 11). Goodness, it’s rickshaw noodles. The Straits Times, p. 18; Tan, M. (1999, September 5). Fried snack for 10 cents. The Straits Times, p. 8; These stalls may soon disappear. (2008, August 3). The Straits Times, p. 65. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
13. Lum, M. (1994, May 29). Want some fast food? Fry it yourself. The Straits Times, p. 61; Tan, M. (1999, September 5). Fried snack for 10 cents. The Straits Times, p. 8. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
14. Toh, E. (1991, October 16). URA to build new $240m headquarters at site of Maxwell Rd Hawker Centre. The Straits Times, p. 40; Maxwell hawkers fear relocation will split them up. (1991, October 23). The Straits Times, p. 21. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
15. Toh, E. (1993, July 8). URA puts on hold its plans to build new Hq. The Straits Times, p. 36. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
16. Goh, D. (2000, August 19). Makeover for old Maxwell Rd market. The Straits Times, p. 57. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
17. Kwek, K. (2000, September 3). Bye, Max, see you real soon. The Straits Times, p. 8; Tee, H. C. (2001, May 20). Generation Max. The Straits Times, p. 12. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
18. Chan, L. E. (2016, November 7). Maxwell Food Centre named top local food haunt for third year running. Today. Retrieved from Factiva via NLB’s eResources website: http://eresources.nlb.gov.sg/; City Gas. (n.d.). About City Hawker Food Hunt. Retrieved from City Hawker Food Hunt website: http://www.cityhawkerfoodhunt.com/about-us/
19. Goh, D. (2000, August 19). Makeover for old Maxwell Rd market. The Straits Times, p. 57. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
20. Lee, V. (2015, November 9). Maxwell is tops again. The Straits Times; Siau, M. E. (2015, November 9). 70-year-old hawker stalls win heritage award. Today. Retrieved from Factiva via NLB’s eResources website: http://eresources.nlb.gov.sg/
21. Tan, H. Y. (2016, July 15). Hawkers galore on Michelin’s Bib list. The Straits Times. Retrieved from Factiva via NLB’s eResources website: http://eresources.nlb.gov.sg/




The information in this article is valid as at 2016 and correct as far as we can ascertain from our sources. It is not intended to be an exhaustive or complete history of the subject. Please contact the Library for further reading materials on the topic.

 

Subject
Ethnic Communities>>Food
Peddlers and peddling--Singapore
Streets and Places
Buildings--Singapore
Commercial buildings
Business, finance and industry>>Industry>>Services>>Retail and wholesale
Architecture and Landscape>>Building Types>>Commercial Buildings
Heritage and Culture
Food--Singapore
Architecture and Landscape>>Streets and Places
Arts>>Architecture>>Public and commercial buildings
Ethnic foods