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Hin Hollywood Canteen

Just before the Hari Raya Puasa holiday, my good friend Boon Hwee asked if Gilbert and I would like to shoot the Hin Hollywood Canteen, near the Paya Lebar/Tanjong Katong area. It was to be closed for redevelopment from 1 Sep 2011. Being a fan of historical places as well as an interest of documenting things and scenes which will be gone, I readily agreed.

We met at the Paya Lebar MRT Station and proceeded towards the Hin Hollywood Canteen which is opposite the City Plaza shopping mall.

City Plaza

The canteen, which is actually more of a traditional coffee shop is located near the Hollywood Theatre, hence the name. No longer a theatre, it used to house the City Harvest Church before they moved to their present location at Jurong West and now houses the Sheng Shiong Supermarket. This too, would be torn down for redevelopment come 1 Sep 2011.

Hollywood Theatre now houses the Sheng Shiong Supermarket.

The coffeeshop/canteen itself is a rectangular block at the edge of a carpark. A Chinese documentary featured the place and people swarmed to it after learning of the impending closure. This somewhat reminded us of the people swarming to the 2 railway stations just before their closure and the land returned to Singapore.

View of the Hin Hollywood Canteen from the carpark.

The prata stall and the wanton mee stall appear to have the longest queues. Three of us walked around, looking for a seat in the crowded coffee shop and sneaking a few shots in between.

Lots of people queueing up for roti prata.
Flipping the prata

I queued for the wanton mee stall while the other 2 took turns shooting and waiting since I am buying for them. The queue snakes around the chai tow kway (fried carrot cake) stall, where the owner is busy making plates of the chai tow kway.

The stall owner fries a small portion of carrot cake for a customer.
A customer collects his plate of fried carrot cake with black sauce while the stall owner gives him his change.

Meanwhile, behind the wanton mee stall, 2 women chit chats and reminisces the old times with an old customer while they make the wantons (dumplings) to go with the noodles.

An old customer chats and reminisces with the 2 women who were making the wantons for the wanton mee stall.

On the stall, I caught sight of this old school “tear a page a day” type of calendar. The stall owner must have been too busy to tear off the old pages.

An old tearaway calendar at the wanton mee stall. The stall owners were probably too busy to even tear away the pages to reveal today's date. This photo was shot on 30 Aug, but the calendar is still showing the 28th.

According to Boon Hwee, the stall is at least 50 years old, and a friend who was integrated into the family helped with the food preparations. After what seemed like eternity, it’s finally my turn to place my order for 3 plates of the noodles.

The stall assistant, a family friend of the owner of the wanton mee stall adds the char siew to a plate of wanton mee.
A view of the front of the stall.
The stall owner deftly cooks the noodles in a pot of boiling water, occassionally flipping it.
Like a factory's production line, the stall owner scoops the cooked noodles onto a plate of seasoning. The stall helper takes over from there, adding the other ingredient like char siew and vegetables.
The final product - a plate of wanton mee and dumpling soup.

After finishing the noodles, we decided to have a go at the prata too. Like typical Singaporeans, we believe that “if the queue is long, it must be good.” 🙂

Roti prata kosong (plain) and curry

Breakfast settled, we walked around the coffeeshop, taking more photos for posterity.

Interior view showing the drinks stall and some customers having a meal.
An old coin-operated phone and clock at the drinks stall.
Side view of the Hin Hollywood Canteen from the Haig Road side.
Side view of the Hin Hollywood Canteen from the junction of Haig Road and Tanjong Katong Road. Over the years, the signboard have almost faded.

With air-conditioned food courts becoming popular now, old coffee shops and hawker centres like this one are fast fading into oblivion. Before long, they’ll be entirely gone. I hope at least some of these will be preserved, but that’s probably a long shot given our rapid pace of redevelopment.

For more photos of the Hin Hollywood Canteen and surrounding area, do check out my Flickr set.

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