Budget fare on the menu at new hawker centre

PHOTO: The Straits Times

The new Bukit Panjang hawker centre will feature innovations to keep its fare tasty and affordable, The Straits Times has learnt.

All 28 cooked-food stalls will offer at least two low-cost main dishes and people on public assistance schemes will be able to have an economy-rice meal for just $1.50.

Social enterprise NTUC Foodfare will manage the centre, which is due to open by the end of the year.

It said it will reveal prices later, though The Straits Times understands that an example will be a basic economy-rice meal with one meat and two vegetable items available to all for much less than $2.90.

Fishball noodles, for example, will cost under $2.80. These prices are currently the lowest in the neighbourhood for those dishes, according to a survey of eateries in the area by NTUC Foodfare.

Other budget picks will include basic hawker fare such as chicken rice, prawn noodles, mee goreng, ban mian and char kway teow. NTUC Foodfare will also moderate the price of all other dishes.

The social enterprise will itself offer an additional one-meat, two- vegetable economy-rice meal at $1.50 for people on public assistance schemes through its Rice Garden stall at the centre and other places. The Rice Garden stalls, found across Singapore, already serve the same meal at $2 for students, senior citizens, full-time national servicemen and NTUC union members. Other diners pay $2.70.

NTUC Foodfare chief executive Perry Ong told The Straits Times: "People go to hawker centres for great food, variety and affordability and we think we can provide those things at Bukit Panjang."

The social enterprise will also help hawkers to keep costs low.

For instance, they will get help in applying for grants to set up shop. The hawkers may also be able to pay less for basic ingredients such as cooking oil, flour and eggs if they take advantage of NTUC Foodfare's bulk-purchasing power.

It currently operates a catering service and runs 71 foodcourts, coffee shops, food kiosks and cafes across the country.

The same help was also extended to the hawkers at the centre in Block 208B, New Upper Changi Road, in Bedok, which NTUC Foodfare also manages. However, no one took up the offer. Hawkers there said they preferred to stick with their long-time suppliers.

Mr Ong added that some were afraid their food would taste the same as their competitors' if they used the same ingredients.

NTUC Foodfare will also set aside a few stalls for new entrants to the hawker trade and those who want to run social programmes.

Bukit Panjang housewife Iris Chua, 55, who buys takeaway meals more than three times a week, said: "The prices sound quite reasonable and the fishball noodles are definitely cheaper.

"I just hope the food standard is good and there is enough parking space for everyone."


This article was first published on July 11, 2015.
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