Chef Allen Lo is very much at home in Orlando, Florida, having lived here since he was seventeen. His cooking skills came from growing up in his parent’s restaurant, watching them cook.
He would go to the restaurant after school and do his homework as they were there “seven days a week twelve hours a day.” He would “go in the back and help prep vegetables and fry fried rice and spring rolls.”
The most important ingredient to him is the aroma, the smell of the cooking. “What I really remember from my childhood is just all the smells… when we go back to Malaysia you walk the streets you just get hit with all these smells and whether you’re hungry, you’re not hungry you will be after you smell” the food there.
To develop the Hawkers menu Chef Allen drew from all the foods that he missed and loved eating, wanting to recreate “some of those dishes and some of those flavors is what really drove my passion.” His inspiration is drawn from “all the travels and with again the aroma, the smells the taste… the dishes that I’ve had on my travels and trying to recreate it here and making it approachable for the demographic.” He is pleased by how excited everyone has been about the menus. Chef Allen listens to comments that he receives about the food in order to further develop the menu and determine what new direction it should take. Hawkers comes out with a new menu every six months, and they try to keep it as authentic as possible.
The title of the restaurant itself is drawn from the colloquial term for a street vendor in Asia. In America “a hawker would be your Sabra’s hot dog vendor or maybe a taco vendor or something that they serve on the streets right, in Asia most of the foods are served on the street.” When he visits family in Malaysia or traveling to Singapore or Thailand, most frequently he and his family will go to a hawker center where “individual hawkers have their stalls or their carts” lined up and “everybody kind of disperses and they can go and get what they’re feeling that night or what they’re in the mood for” and
they reunite at the table and everyone shares what they’ve selected.
The symbol in the logo for the restaurant is drawn from the Chinese style of Kanji characters, but really represents the silhouette of a traditional hawker “when they’re walking down the street and selling goods with a stick on their shoulder and a basket hanging like a fender or mobile and balancing that… so if you see this cross mark with the two dots on it that’s just [the hawker] with his two baskets” and “a straw bamboo hat so it symbolizes the traditional Hawker.”
Come have a good night out by visiting Hawkers and try Chef Allen’s traditional yet creative dishes to transport yourself to the streets of Malaysia . “When a guest comes to Hawkers they should expect a wide variety of small plate offerings. Hawkers is an amazing experience with great ambiance. “You can have some good drinks, have some good food… have a good two three hours with friends… when you’re here we’re all going to enjoy the food enjoy the energy and the drinks and have a good time.”
Produced by: Irina Pabis
Photo/Video by: Richard Pabis
Written by: Katrina Belle