Hawker culture emerged in Southeast Asian urban areas following the rapid urbanization in the 1950s and 1960s, especially in Singapore and Malaysia. They are typically found in city centers, near public housing estates or transport hubs. Instead of mobile food carts, permanent stalls in open air buildings are provided for the hawkers.
In Singapore, for example, the legislation of hawker licensing laws helps the hawkers build an organized and hygienic business. Hawker centers can provide a one-stop destination with a good variety of high quality, sanitary food at inexpensive prices for everyone.
As of 2016, two Singaporean food stands, both located in hawker centers, became the first street food vendors to be awarded a Michelin Star for excellence in eating. The model Singapore established eliminated stereotypes of hawkers as cheap food sellers. Modern hawker centers are not only decked up in stylish furnishings, they also sell food commonly found in restaurants and cafes, and try to define hawker as a unique genre of local culture.
However, Singapore's bid has received some criticism from across the border. Some Malaysians have claimed that their country is a street food paradise and that Singapore's hawker version is not that special. As a response, Singapore reiterates that hawker centers serve as community dining spaces for everyone, and how it reflects Singapore's multicultural society.