Giving hawker food a high-end makeover, Latest Makan News - The New Paper

Giving hawker food a high-end makeover

Dabaogram replates local delights bought from hawker centres

The dishes look like they are from a fine-dining restaurant.

Yet the food on the plates was bought at ordinary hawker centres.

Boasting close to 4,000 followers, Instagram account Dabaogram, was started two years ago by co-creators, Mr Brian Don, 28; Mr Daren Yap, 28 and Mr Joshua Tan, 29. It features local delights plated in a high-end style.

While they have day jobs at an arts and media production agency, Dabaogram is a passion project. 

The aim of the account is to keep hawker culture alive in the eyes of young Singaporeans, whom the trio believe are not experiencing hawker centres as much as previous generations.

On their motivation, Mr Yap told The New Paper: “The three of us really love hawker food. The intention here is to glorify the hawker culture in Singapore.”

The process of creating the up market-styled dishes first involves a discussion over the dish to feature. Once they settle on the “relatable yet impactful” styling to implement, they hit the hawker stalls – usually in the west of Singapore – to get the food.

The food stylists then take about 20 to 30 minutes to plate the food – depending on the complexity of the ingredients – before the finished product is photographed and posted.

The images gaining likes on the image-sharing platform look a world away from the plastic plates and Styrofoam boxes one might usually receive the dishes on. 

Chee Kueh replated by Dabaogram
Chee Kueh replated by DabaogramPHOTO: DABAOGRAM

Mr Yap shared: “We try our best to not add additional ingredients and stay true to the original dish.”

Singapore’s hawker culture has been nominated to be added to the UNESCO Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. 

Regarding the nomination, Mr Yap said: “Hawker culture here is unique in that there are a lot of different dishes in one location.
“It’s good that the concept of Singapore’s hawker culture will be known throughout the world.” 

Dabaogram has it’s own global reach. It often receives messages from Singaporeans overseas, who reveal that they, upon seeing the pictures, miss home.

These messages encourage the team, who find them “heartwarming”. 

Dabaogram has also been chosen to feature in the 2019 Singapore Heritage Festival (SHF).

Over the weekend, Dabaogram will have a photo exhibition and a demonstration of their styling process at Bedok Town Square from March 22 to March 24 as part of the festival.

Ms Kezia Toh, SHFFestival Programmer, told TNP: “Hawker centres and hawker food are important parts of our social fabric and our shared heritage, and we hope Dabaogram's exhibition and talk will contribute to the ongoing conversation about our Hawker Culture.” 

Details can be found at

 Brian Don, Joshua Tan and Daren Yap
The Dabaogram crew: Brian Don, Joshua Tan and Daren YapPHOTO: DABAOGRAM


Food & Drink