Learning > Inspiration

Aunties have fun learning how to cook up a storm

Dignity Kitchen conducts lessons for people to pick up skills on how to be a hawker

Gavin Foo on 15 Oct 2018

The Straits Times


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Do you thirst for a cup of Clementi (iced lemon tea) or ma-ha teh (pronounced Mahathir, with macadamia oil and ginger tea)?


Mr Loy Teck Wee, 65, head of training at Dignity Kitchen, was teaching his class of seven how to brew and serve these fancy concoctions in his local beverage and teh-tarik class recently.


The two-day course was held at Dignity Kitchen's foodcourt at Block 267, Serangoon Avenue 3.


Dignity Kitchen is the food and beverage arm of Project Dignity, a social project started in 2010 to create jobs for the disabled and disadvantaged. There is also a hawker training programme for the disabled and disadvantaged.


Dignity Kitchen, the hawker training centre, is also Singapore's first social enterprise foodcourt.


Mr Loy, known to his students as Uncle Loy, said: "Yuan yang siu dai gao ga C peng is the most difficult to blend." The popular beverage, originally from Hong Kong, is a coffee-and-tea-mixture, less sweet, stronger, with evaporated milk and ice.


"It consists of all the ingredients with different combinations, proportions and thickness. With 'peng' (ice), the proportion is also different from preparing a hot drink."


The monthly course, which was started in 2013, costs $550. After a subsidy from the Singapore Skills Framework, Singaporeans can use their SkillsFuture credits to offset the rest of the course fee.


Mr Loy's student, Madam Helen Han, in her 60s, said: "It's our local knowledge. We should acquire the knowledge first. Do not wait until the last moment when you need the skill before trying to go and learn."


She volunteers at different organisations and often visits the elderly in their homes. She hopes to prepare drinks better for the old folk when they want a cup of coffee made to their preference.


The hawker training school also holds cooking, baking and pastry classes. Retiree Hoo Jan Wah, 77, signed up for a dim sum making class in July. She learnt how to make lo mai kai (steamed glutinous rice with chicken) and soon kueh (a dumpling-like bamboo shoot rice cake).


She liked the training so much that she asked two of her friends, Madam Heng Tang Kwee, 69, and Madam Ng Siew Tim, 60, along for more classes.


After the subsidy from the Singapore Skills Framework, they each paid about $15 to $30 using their SkillsFuture credits.


"I have nothing to do at home, and I like to make dim sum. So I decided to come and learn how to cook," said Madam Hoo as she creased the edge of the flattened dough into a har gao (steamed crystal prawn dumpling).


Each cooking or baking course lasts from two to five days. These part-time classes for all ages are open to the public.


F&B industries in need of employees also look out for those who have gone through such courses and have learnt the relevant skills.


Dignity Kitchen's executive director Koh Seng Choon, 59, said its modular curriculum can cater for those with different levels of understanding, and with varying time available.


Students are assessed at the end of the lesson. If they pass, they will receive a certificate by the Singapore Workforce Skills Qualification.


The classes are not only theoretical and practical but can also lead to incubation: Students can ask to try out their business in the foodcourt for a short period. Dignity Kitchen also helps the students look and tender for a hawker food stall.


Source: The Straits Times © Singapore Press Holdings Limited. Reproduced with permission.


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