Singaporeans living in New York City were in for a treat when Singapore’s first locally brewed beer, Tiger Beer, invited Michael Ker, third-generation hawker of popular popiah-maker Kway Guan Huat, to the Big Apple. Using the freshest ingredients available, Michael wowed some of the harshest food critics around by serving one of Singapore’s best-loved hawker foods, popiah, at a pop-up store and at a surprise party for homesick Singaporeans craving for a piece of home.
To highlight the entrepreneurial spirit of Asians, 39-year-old Michael served his locally-renowned popiah at a pop-up store, Tiger Trading Co., which was launched in the heart of Chinatown to celebrate and honour the works of Asian and Asian-American artisans from all over the world. Open on 8 and 9 June 2016, and boasting over 800 Asian products featuring modern art, fashion, design and technology, Tiger Trading Co. was a two-day pop up store that aimed to debunk the stereotype that “made-in-Asia” goods are of low quality.
Head of Marketing at Asia Pacific Breweries (Singapore), Ms Venus Teoh said, “Inviting Michael Ker to showcase his craft in New York City was a decision we made to propel our unique street food culture into the international spotlight. With Michael’s visit, Tiger Beer hopes to show that our humble street food is not only loved by Singaporeans, but also by people all over the world, well deserving a spot in the international food scene.
To document Michael’s visit in Manhattan, Tiger Beer created a two-part series film – Popiah in New York and Popiah Surprise – which will be released on Tiger Beer’s digital platforms. Popiah in New York traces his journey from where he started shopping for ingredients to the preparation of his popiah skin, culminating in the day of the event where he demonstrates the making of the popiah skins. The guests’ reactions and their opinions of the traditional Singapore street food were captured, highlighting how far Michael’s family business has come – from a small food cart in Joo Chiat to receiving international acclaim for his craft.
Understanding that most Singaporeans who reside overseas for a long period of time will miss their beloved dishes back home, Tiger Beer worked with the NYU Singapore Students Association (SGSA) in the second video of this two-part series film to surprise homesick Singaporeans with an impromptu popiah party where these Singaporeans shared their thoughts on how much the popiah made them miss home.
Michael Ker, who has been helping out at his family’s business at Kway Guan Huat Joo Chiat Original Popiah and Kueh Pie Tee for more than ten years, is the perfect representation of the courage and entrepreneurial creativity that embodies Asia today. As Singapore faces the danger of a disappearing hawker culture, Michael is one of the few younger generation hawkers who has decided to take on this career option and continue his family business to help preserve Singapore’s unique food heritage.
As part of Tiger Beer’s street food movement that kicked off earlier in April, Michael was previously featured in one of three short films that brought to life the stories behind Singapore’s street food and the hard work that goes into sustaining this integral part of the nation’s culture. The street food movement aims to motivate Singaporeans to give it the appreciation and recognition it deserves by shining the spotlight on hawker fare.