Tired of overpriced food? You can get $2.50 briyani at this hawker stall

Syarafana Shafeeq
The Straits Times
January 2, 2024

In the face of soaring food prices and the GST hike, one hawker near Chinatown still hopes to keep the prices of her hearty Malay food low for the less fortunate.

As its name suggests, The $2.50 Shop at Jalan Kukoh Food Centre sells almost all its dishes, including lontong and briyani, for $2.50.

Ms Hani Isnin-Racine, 40, said the Jan 1 increase in the goods and services tax to 9 per cent will make it harder for her and her elderly parents to sustain their stall, which they have been running since 2019.

Ms Hani and her parents slashed prices at their stall in 2021 after noticing residents around the area who could not afford to buy a meal, dropping prices by $1 to $3. Jalan Kukoh Food Centre is located near many public rental flats.

Her parents were on board with the idea, even though they knew selling food at a low cost would affect profits.

One of the many experiences that inspired them to make the change was an elderly man who would sit at the food centre for nearly an hour because he wanted to eat but did not have much money.

Ms Hani’s heart also especially went out to single parents. One woman who visited the stall asked for whatever she could get for $10 to feed herself and her four children.

“We just want to be able to do what we can for the community here.”

After the stall lowered its prices, footfall increased but earnings took a hit by almost half.

Ms Hani, who is married, said: “There are days when we have no take-home pay. We earn minimally, but the satisfaction of making a slight difference in people’s lives is worthwhile.”

Operating the stall is hard work, she added. The stall operates from 3.30am to 2.30pm.

Ms Hani Isnin-Racine and her parents slashed prices at their stall in 2021 after noticing residents around the area who could not afford to buy a meal. ST PHOTO: JASON QUAH

Ms Hani holds a double degree in law and economics from the National University of Singapore, but her love for cooking drew her to the food and beverage business.

She wanted to follow in the footsteps of her parent, who ran a catering business for more than 20 years.

She took up a corporate job after graduating, but left after just two months to set up a canteen stall at Queensway Secondary School. After six years, she decided to help her elderly parents run their hawker stall in Jalan Kukoh in August 2022.

Ms Hani said she and her parents want to push forward and continue serving the people who need them, even amid hurdles such as the increasing cost of running the business, and her parents’ old age and health issues.

She added: “Uncles and aunties tell us they have no food to eat when we are closed. Everything is expensive, and they eat bread and biscuits when the shop is not open.

“This is a senior-dominated place. We see them today and they might be gone the next. It reminds me of my parents. So while these old folks are around, I’ll do my best to provide affordable and nutritious food for them.”

Ms Hani and her parents Madam Munah and Mr Isnin (pictured), said they do not know if they can sustain the shop amid the challenges. ST PHOTO: JASON QUAH

Sometimes, members of the community also chip in, with some giving money to Ms Hani to pay in advance for customers in need.

Ms Hani and her parents said they do not know if they can sustain the shop amid the challenges, adding that they would be sad to have to raise prices at the stall.

She said: “To be honest, I have no idea what we may do to stay afloat. We hope to continue this journey with all of them for as long as we can.”

The Straits Times

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