Mr Lim observes that Hainanese chicken rice stalls are becoming much more common than Hainanese curry rice hawker stalls. Making curry rice is hard work, requiring long hours in a typically hot, uncomfortable environment. This deters young people from taking up or persevering in the trade. However, for some stalls—such as Tian Tian Curry Rice, Truly Curry Rice, and Mr Lim’s Hong Seng Curry Rice—members of the next generation have taken over the reins from their older family members. Some of them have introduced measures to promote, safeguard, and change perceptions of Hainanese curry rice.
For instance, Hong Seng Curry Rice now has a central kitchen where 70 percent of the preparation work can take place in a more comfortable setting, rather than at the stalls, so that Mr Lim and his employees only need to arrive at the stalls two hours before opening time, rather than five or six in the morning. Hong Seng Curry Rice has stalls at Redhill Food Centre, the Singapore Management University (SMU), and the Northpoint City mall in Yishun.
For a while, Mr Lim also organised tours to Tekka Market and the SMU stall, giving participants a first-hand experience of Singaporean cuisine and curry rice. He plans to resume these tours in the future. For now, he has made changes to appeal to the younger customers, hoping that these will eventually interest them in trying traditional curry rice. At SMU, students can get a healthier side of salad topped with sesame dressing or curry. And, at National University of Singapore (NUS,) Mr Lim is experimenting with a food kiosk where he has rebranded curry rice as “Hainanese donburi”. With that, Mr Lim hopes to promote curry rice to more Singaporeans, especially youth, in the future. Given these initiatives, the future of curry rice in Singapore looks bright indeed.