By Hannah Lee
The peak of the pandemic made Hawkers brand chef Allen Lo nostalgic for his childhood favorites – specifically the dishes he made when his parents were at work. Growing up as a restaurant kid, Allen could always find delicious gems in the pantry. He remembers his makeshift morning meals: lap cheong (Chinese sausage), an egg and rice. “Boom, I had my breakfast,” he says. “That’s what I ate a lot. And it was one of my favorites. I loved it and thought, ‘Hey, let’s put it on the menu.’”
Boom, Hawkers’ brunch was born. Now you, too, can order the first dish Allen learned how to cook – “The Traditional” – every Saturday and Sunday.
Allen combined his experiences as a Chinese Malaysian and a U.S. transplant to curate the perfect Asian American brunch menu over some six months during the pandemic. Of course, that meant he had to include dim sum – Chinese small plates (typically dumplings) that are intended to be shared and passed around the table. Since debuting the menu in May, Allen says “the soup dumplings have been the clear winner. That took a long, long time to nail.” The 17-ingredient broth alone starts with 100 gallons of liquid and is reduced to about 40 gallons after it simmers for eight hours.
Hawkers Chapel Hill was the Orlando-based restaurant’s first location in the country to offer brunch – mostly in part because the University Place location opened just a week before pandemic shutdowns. “Chapel Hill didn’t get the proper opening,” Allen says. “We’ve been fortunate enough to where we didn’t have to close our doors. We didn’t have to lay anybody off. So, we really just wanted to get back and say thanks to the Chapel Hill community.”
Hawkers Asian Street Food
201 S. Estes Dr., Ste. 400A, Chapel Hill