SINGAPORE - Potatoes, cucumbers, carrots and tomatoes - none of them are a match for the $2,000 commercial-grade vegetable cutter from Spain, which can slice up to 300kg of vegetables in an hour.
From Monday (Oct 9), eligible hawkers might now pay only 20 per cent for such kitchen automation equipment that helps them prepare such ingredients, by tapping a government grant announced in March.
The Hawkers' Productivity Grant, administered by the National Environment Agency (NEA), allows stallholders to claim 80 per cent of the unit cost of equipment on a reimbursement basis, up to a total of $5,000 within a three-year time period.
As part of the Government's efforts to sustain the hawker trade and attract more new hawkers, Senior Minister of State for the Environment and Water Resources Amy Khor launchedthe grant at the opening of a one-stop information and service centre for hawkers on Monday.
Located at the revamped Customer Service Centre at the HDB Hub in Toa Payoh, the centre provides information on the hawker trade for both aspiring and current hawkers, such as how to tender for a stall, where to take courses on food hygiene, and how to apply for the productivity grant.
Sharing sessions by veteran hawkers and courses related to the trade, such as on how to improve a stall's signboard and menu, are also in the works, said Dr Khor.
On some of the uses of the centre, Dr Khor said: "Apart from training, some hawkers are unaware of resources such as various types of equipment that can help in food preparation and suppliers' contacts for raw ingredients, which would be particularly helpful."
Dr Khor added that the NEA will be conducting briefings at hawker centres to help hawkers understand the types of equipment that are available to help them reduce their workload, especially for repetitive tasks such as chopping of vegetables.
Other than a vegetable cutter, the functions of a food processor and a potato peeler were also demonstrated at the event. The food processor is able to grind and chop ingredients such as dried shrimp, parsley and garlic.
While some hawkers welcomed the move to make such equipment available at a lower cost, others think that being able to prepare food by hand is still an important skill.
Madam Muthuletchmi Veerapan, 55, who currently mashes potatoes by hand for her masala dosa dish, said that she has to wake up at 3.30am six days a week to prepare food for her vegetarian food stall at Ghim Moh Food Centre.
"With this new equipment, I could save five to six hours every day, and no longer have to spend time cutting the ingredients the night before," she said.
Third-generation hawker Afiq Rezza, 27, was interested in some of the equipment, but added: "If you put in the effort with your hands, it's so much more sincere."