Great food, warm spirit

Great food, warm spirit
Janet Ang, 56, managing director of IBM Singapore, poses in front of the Church of St. Francis Xavier where she spent most of her youth involved in many community activities.

SINGAPORE - Amex is celebrating its 90th year here, together with Singapore's 50th birthday, with a series of heritage-themed articles. In the eighth of a 10-part series in which card members reflect on local heritage and the past, AUDREY NG talks to Janet Ang, managing director of IBM Singapore

Mention Chomp Chomp and many people will think of the mouth- watering sambal stingray, Hokkien noodles, barbecued chicken wings and giant mugs of sugarcane juice that are popular dishes at this famous hawker centre in Serangoon Garden.

With wafts of barbecue smoke from the grill and the ever present crowd, Chomp Chomp Food Centre is a landmark of the housing estate.

The neighbourhood also holds a special place in the heart of Ms Janet Ang, 56, managing director of IT company IBM Singapore, as it was where she grew up and experienced its strong sense of community.

"The community here is family," she says.

Although she now lives in a bungalow in Braddell Heights with her husband and four daughters aged 14 to 24, she goes back to Serangoon Garden regularly for the food and to attend church services.

Chomp Chomp is, for her, an integral part of the heritage of Serangoon Garden.

She says some of the stalls that were there in her youth are still there.

For instance, one of the char kway teow stalls has been handed down from father to son and the Hokkien mee hawker is still there, she says.

She remembers how, in the 1960s, stalls were set up under pitched tents where the bus stop and carpark are now located. It was a place for families in the neighbourhood to eat out. The fact that many people now come from all over Singapore to eat there adds to its uniqueness.

She adds: "I hope the spirit keeps this way."

Another landmark is the Serangoon Garden Market and Food Centre across the road from Chomp Chomp. Ms Ang used to shop for groceries there for her mother when she was about 12 and the shopkeepers all knew her.

Many of them remembered her on her visits after she married and moved out of the estate in 1989.

To her, what constitutes heritage is not just a location, but also, more importantly, the community of people there, she says.

Serangoon Garden represents such an idea of heritage, with the many schools and churches in the neighbourhood as well as its market, community centre and various eating spots, she says.

She remembers there were also street vendors who peddled their food around the estate back in the 1960s.

"I remember the 'kik-kok, kik-kok' sound from the prawn mee and carrot cake sellers as well as the bell of the ice-cream man," she says.

In 2013, Serangoon Garden was designated as an "identity node" by the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA).

The roundabout - called Serangoon Garden Circus - and Chomp Chomp will be preserved and the URA will design new guidelines to retain the character of the area.

Ms Ang is glad that the landmarks of the area will be preserved and adds that it would also help keep people coming back.

Her family moved to Serangoon Garden from Tiong Bahru when she was three years old.

The estate was built in the 1950s to house British army staff and their families.

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