The Hawker Connoisseur

From a personal hobby to the definitive hawker blog, Miss Tam Chiak has made waves on social media with her distinctive coverage of Singapore's culinary landscape.

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Lim’s Fried Oyster, a 40-year-old hawker stall operated by a couple at Jalan Besar, was on the verge of closing down earlier this year. The long days of sweating it out at the stove were getting difficult for them to manage.

This was until food blogger Maureen Ow (CS‘09) featured its signature “orh luak” (fried oyster) via a 15-second Instavideo on Facebook. Since then, the video has garnered over 220,000 views and 3,000 shares on social media.

Customers’ responses had been so good that the couple have changed their minds. They now realise how much people appreciate their food and told Ow they planned to continue serving up plates of “orh luak.”
 

At Jalan Besar's food centre, there is a hidden gem - Lim's Fried Oyster (unit: 01-32). The oysters are from Korea, they are so fat and juicy with soft, fragrant folds of faintly charred eggs. You can have the normal oyster omelette or the traditional 唐山炒 (as seen in the video). Damn good!

Posted by Miss Tam Chiak on Thursday, June 25, 2015

VIDEO COURTESY OF MISS TAM CHIAK/FACEBOOK

“I just wanted to give them that bit of hope to continue their trade and not lose any motivation, because people actually love their food,” says the 30-year-old alumna. For her, moments like these are one of the most rewarding parts of being a food blogger.

Ow — better known on social media as Miss Tam Chiak — has come a long way in influencing the tastebuds of Singaporeans. It started as a personal hobby, but with more than 18,000 followers on Facebook and over 32,000 followers on Instagram today, Miss Tam Chiak has grown to become one of the leading food blogs that Singaporeans, and even foreigners, turn to when looking for recommendations on local fare.

Food blogging has become deeply entrenched in the food culture here. With the advent of social media, many are taking pictures and posting reviews of their meals online. While most cover the aesthetically pleasing, carefully plated cafe fare, Ow differentiates herself by focusing heavily on hawker fare, which she holds close to her heart, as she feels it is distinctly Singaporean.

“Covering cafes is so boring. It is only about scrambled eggs and eggs benedict,” she remarks.

“I just wanted to give them that bit of hope to continue their trade and not lose any motivation, because people actually love their food."

Ow also sets herself apart by uncovering the colourful stories behind the hawkers and their trade. “You’ll definitely see me in hawker centres entering stalls in the middle of long queues, talking to them or taking photos of them in action,” she says.

For Ow, her venture into food blogging is rooted  in a now-defunct Chinese food magazine, where she interned at  in 2007. Her blog originally served as her portfolio, where she posted articles that she wrote for the magazine. Her original blog was called “j’amie la nourrituri” — a French phrase that translates to “I like food,” and her posts were only in Chinese.

But in 2010, Ow decided to take food blogging up a notch when she revamped her blog, renaming it Miss Tam Chiak — a Hokkien expression that translates to ‘glutton,’ and posting in English so that she would cater to a wider audience. This was while she worked concurrently  as a lifestyle writer for MyPaper. In 2013, she became a full-time blogger to explore the possibilities of what food blogging could bring.

Ow, a broadcast major while at WKWSCI, credits what she learnt in school as a huge asset to her blogging career. The modules — News Reporting and Writing, and Broadcast Journalism — were particularly useful as she learnt how to structure her posts and link images with the written word. Media law knowledge has also proved crucial in her current job, as she now “knows her rights when people steal her photos.”
 

 To Ow, visuals are one of the most important features of a food blog. PHOTO: JUSTIN KOR

Social media was not as popular when Ow started out as a food blogger, but today, it is a different story. She notes the new challenges and observes that people now prefer bite-sized information as compared to long posts. However, she is unfazed by such challenges, as she believes her unique focus on hawker fare and unwavering passion for food make her stand out.

It is this passion that has led food to become an integral part of her life. Tapping on her resources as a food blogger, Ow occasionally runs hawker-themed food tours in Singapore for foreigners. She has also ventured into food photography and styling.

Food blogging has even cast Ow in the international spotlight. In October, she was selected to be a judge for the Europe Best Food Blog Award in Berlin, an award organised by the Singapore Tourism Board. She was the only Singaporean to judge at the awards.

Despite gaining such worldwide recognition, she keeps herself grounded.

“At the end of the day, blogging to me is still viewed as a hobby and not as a full-time job. What matters is the passion that I have for food, and that is what will keep me going,” she says. 

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