Here In My Home - Malaysian Artistes For Unity

Sunday, 8 June 2008

Rise Of The Under The Tree Stalls?

With the recent rice in the fuel and energy bill, ordinary people may no longer be able to afford buying their meals at regular restaurants that will surely mark up their food prices at prices that may not really reflect the actual quantum in the rise of their costs but rather attempt to become profiteers in stealth. They will give excuses like rise in raw materials, energy, rent and such to justify their increase quantum even though they may actually reflect the willing buyer price threshold in the area. I can confidently talk about this as the Mamak restaurants within the vicinity of KLCC are charging KLCC prices for their food, even though their overheads are surely less. Therefore I would assume that by having less overhead than these fixed location premises, people will now try to patronise more under the tree establishments that even though they will raise their prices in tandem, the quantum would be more realistic and reflective of the actual price increases. The problem is that within Kuala Lumpur itself, it is now very difficult to find such premises, much less the temporary stalls that used to mushrooms at the roadsides to cater for breakfast and lunch crowds with their economic meals, that are usually much tastier than those at restaurants actually as these are usually home cooked pots of food, cooked in smaller quantities and therefore their recipes can remain true to the original measurements and maintain authenticity. Alas in the name of development and so called cleanliness, these small entrepreneurs that would be perfect outlet to support reasonable food pricing has been pushed out from our food schemes by the city authorities, and even though some may be able to comply with the regulations that in order to become mobile food operators they have to operate from catering vans, the reality is that locations for these vans to set up shop are very limited and will not be able to replicate the numeriourity of the road side temporary stalls. So the ball is now in your court, dear Ministers. You want to help the people, rethink your strategies and return to food disbursement methods that have demonstrated well their ability to provide meals at reasonable cost to ordinary folks, as they have done in previous economic downturns as these are methods that the ordinary people have created to resolve the situation.

A case in point is this roti canai stall in my wife’s kampong. Set up by the roadside under the trees of the owner’s courtyard, Mr Karim sells about 200 pieces of roti canai a day supplemented with villagers supplied nasi lemak packs and Malay kuehs. He does all this in his self built stall with adjoining drinks station, with tables set up under awnings installed under his fruit trees. With this set up, he is able to offer old style roti canai that even a mamak stall owner from the nearby town comes to his stall for his fix and he was coincidentally was waiting for his order with me. Authentic means fluffy flavourful roti canai as he does stinge on the dough ingredients but there is a caveat, as he runs his stall alone he does prepare in advance some half cooked roti for frying upon receipt of order in order to cut down waiting town, but this remains fluffy as he maintains the old way of fluffing up the roti by smashing the rotis before serving or packed. The smashing action breaks up the gluten in the bread but as you can see the roti canai still maintains its shape and becomes fluffy.

Meanwhile his roti telur is also made old style, with cut onions and chillis mixed in the salted egg stuffing that when fried creates an aroma that is oh so rare nowadays. So when you take it home, upon opening the package your kitchen will be filled a most appetising aroma that spells good roti canai is to be had. And talking about the gravy you will get both the parpu dalcha that is chockfull of beef and vegetables, the fish curry gravy full of coconut milk and the sambal provided is actually real nasi lemak sambal instead of fried chilli paste that is normal elsewhere, so you can actually eat the roti with the sambal only. And Mr. Karim can offer his roti canai for only eighty cents each at size that he proudly declares is larger than what you can get in town, while his roti telur only cost a ringgit fourty each. Nonetheless he says that he is adoting a wait and see attitude with regards to increasing his food prices as he he says his raw material prices has not actually risen yet, but he is confident that he can still undercut his restaurant rivals. Does this not make a strong case for encouraging this entepreneurs under the tree who can sell their meals at a more economic and realistic prices, if only they are allowed the opportunity to do so more easily.

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