The much publicised Bukit Panjang Hawker Centre & Market officially opened its doors on 29 December 2015. NTUC Foodfare which manages the new hawker centre had promised last year that the food outlet will not only have longer operating hours, but also one of the lowest food prices in the neighbourhood, with price ceilings imposed on at least two basic meals that are sold there.
A few days before the opening of the hawker centre, a Facebook page dedicated to Bukit Panjang constituency highlighted the prices of some of the hawker stalls in that centre, and among the low prices pointed-out was that of Bukit Panjang Nasi Padang. The hawker’s Nasi Lemak set is retailing for $2.50.
Today, a customer of the Nasi Padang stall in Bukit Panjang, Adelyn Tay, shared on her Facebook that it was her first time buying Nasi Lemak set from the stall, and that it will be her last.
She was given 2 ikan-bilis when she bought the set, and when she asked why there were only 2, the hawker replied that it’s like that.
Her plate of Nasi Lemak also does not look as sumptuous as the picture of the same Nasi Lemak set on their signage at their stall.
She is not the only customer to the hawker centre who had bad reviews about some hawker stalls in that food centre. 3 of of 5 customers who had reviewed the stalls in Bukit Panjang Hawker Centre and Market since its opening, have given food outlets there bad reviews.
A prominent food blogger, Dr Leslie Tay, commenting about the new Hawker Centre in his Facebook in November last year was critical of its objectives. He said:
“…They are asking prospective hawkers to submit their food prices and quality of food that they want to serve. They are also expecting them to open longer hours. Yes, it sounds really good on paper. A food centre where hard working hawkers work long hours and serve quality food at cheap prices.
In my opinion, it is hard to be able to hold all these three qualities in equilibrium. Something has got to give. You can expect a hawker to work long hours and serve quality food. You can’t expect the food to be cheap and at the same time use quality ingredients.
We are going to end up with hawkers buying cheap, factory made products to sell because they cannot afford to spend the time to make their own. They will also need to hire workers to work the long hours and you know the kind of food you get when that happens. This is going to be just a cheaper version of the current NTUC food courts!
What they need to put into the equation is whether the hawker is going to make his own carrot cake, ngor hiang, yong tau food, the heritage value of the dish and a focus on delivering quality food at reasonable, sustainable prices.”