Much noise was recently ventilated regarding the social enterprise hawker centre controversy especially over the high cost of rentals. These hawkers are charged above market rate prices, with a tight leash on operation freedom and are also obliged to offer a least one dish at $3 or below. Of course this will yield a few problems. Dishes using more expensive seafood and meats and require longer and more complex cooking will slowly disappear as it eats into cost and hence the price. But I note that many hawkers, on their own, and without the need for regulations and contract obligations, are already offering comforting meals at below $3 on their own accord. They know their position, location and demographics and know how to make some monies offering cheap or cheaper fare, deliciously too, I must add.
The two Malay sisters here are joy to watch. They work very closely and are very proud of their kitchen and food. When asked, with the biggest TV personality smile I could muster, they said “no photos or interviews please!” with an even bigger smile. But their food speaks for themselves, it brought a smile when I slurped it. All their items, from Mee Rebus, Mee Soto, Soto Ayam and Gado Gado, hits you at only $2.50 each. Pause a while here- this is what’s offered in the world’s most expensive city and even our developing neighbours in the region cannot beat this, dollar to value. I salute these hawkers who know their regulars well and adjust accordingly. This stall was once competing in the shadows of their very popular mee rebus stall, the defunct Selera Rasa. And they only open 3 days a week so as not to directly compete with their famous peers then. But now, the queue has jumped over and the customers are not complaining- it’s as good, many tell me.
The Soto Ayam, comes with generous chunks of torn chicken pieces and will fill you up with huge blocks of lontong or rice cakes and greens. The magic, is not just the rempah they swirl into the chicken soup, with a wistful hint of blue ginger. It the spoon of coconut milk released in to thicken the broth just a bit and bind the rempah in so nicely. The soup looks thick and rich, but one advice here- go a little after the stall opens and let the broth simmer out all the flavours. The signature Mee Rebus, does remind me somewhat of their erstwhile old neighbour’s. It is smooth, light and easy with seafood stock accents and hardly sweet as some are wont to be. I am fussy about how well the yellow noodles are blanched,- too little and the raw factory taste takes over and too much it turns into soft rickshaw noodle texture. This one sits right between and the thick sauce coats it well when you fork it up. The toppings of egg, fried shallots and little squares of tau kwa with lime is totally unimportant in this case. The Mee Soto, comes with that rich soto ayam broth and is topped with happy chunks of chicken and the noodles are also nicely blanched- not soft nor hard. You have to remember, all this at only $2.50 a portion and it keeps the budget feeder and the fussy food hunter like me, very happy.
Be warned, their opening hours can be erratic and when asked why it was 2 hours later than usual, last week, she said “over beauty sleep la and the princess did not wake me up”. As to why only 3 days a week, “cos we have to go to the spa and shopping’. Stay true and chantik, sisters!
Warong HJ Sukarjo
01-183, Blk 58, Upper Changi Road Hawker Centre
9am-12noon (or till sold out)
Fridays to Sundays only.