New site lists cheapest local hawker food

SINGAPORE (THE NEW PAPER) - The neverending Singapore quest for cheap and good hawker food has become easier.

Earlier this month, the Ministry of Trade of Industry (MTI) launched on its website a directory of some of the cheapest hawker food available around the island.

Called the Islandwide List Of Hawker Food, it features 22 popular local dishes available at hawker centres managed by the National Environment Agency.

Among the dishes listed are chicken rice, roti prata, mee siam and ban mian.

From late March to early April this year, MTI conducted a survey of prices at 103 hawker centres that sell cooked food. They then determined the cheapest 30 per cent of each dish and listed them in the directory.

In an e-mail reply to The New Paper, an MTI spokesman said the list was created to help members of the public find comparatively lower-priced hawker food and make more informed choices that would suit their budget.

When searching the directory, choose the hawker dish you crave - only three choices are allowed at one time - and a location. The search then churns out a list of places where you can get the cheapest versions of your selections.

For example, the cheapest roti prata in the Raffles Place, Cecil, Marina and People's Park area would be at Market Street Food Centre, popularly known as Golden Shoe.

Golden Nur Nasi Briyani Special Crispy Chicken Rice & Roti Prata sells one piece of plain prata for 80 cents.

NOT ON MOBILE

Although using the directory is quite simple, the website is not optimised for mobile phones, making it tough to navigate on the go.

When TNP tried to do a taste test on the dishes listed, some of the information compiled during the MTI survey was already outdated.

For example, the stall listed as selling the cheapest lontong in the Raffles Place, Cecil, Marina and People's Park area has since raised its prices from $2 to $2.50 .

The stall identified as selling the cheapest fishball noodles at Maxwell Food Centre now sells sliced fish soup.

Mr John Tan, a chicken rice seller at Maxwell Food Centre, praised the initiative - even though his stall is wrongly listed as selling the cheapest duck rice in the area.

"I don't sell duck rice at my stall," said the 54-year-old, who has been selling chicken rice there for six years.

An MTI spokesman said: "The project is a pilot initiative. MTI welcomes feedback and suggestions from the public on how we can improve this online list."

Although the ministry did not indicate how long the pilot period would last, it will evaluate the public's feedback and suggestions to study its long-term feasibility.

TNP food columnist Yeoh Wee Teck said the initiative is a good start.

"There will be days when you have to dine on a budget," he said, adding that there's room for improvement such as including vital information like the stalls' opening hours.

"They could also turn to crowdsourcing information from social media so that the list can be regularly updated.

"Users can also upload pictures or videos of the food or the stall to make the site more interesting."

Miss Karen Lim, mobile editor of AsiaOne's SoShiok, a Singapore Press Holding app that provides food-related news and reviews, agreed.

"Visual representation is important, especially when it comes to food, since everyone likes to see mouth-watering images. So, it'd be good if there are pictures of the dishes," she said.

Marketing vice-president Jayne Tan of Burpple, the company that created an app that lists and recommends food to users, said that while focusing on the lower-priced food items was a good direction to take, merely listing the food stalls is not the best way to sell the concept.

"The results are difficult to absorb at a glance. Things like which neighbourhood the stall is located in is not shown, so people don't really know what to focus on," she added.

But Miss Tan agreed that keeping up with the changes in the hawker scene to ensure database accuracy is especially challenging.

"We tackle this with a combination of technology, in-house curators as well as our Burpple community's contributions," she revealed.