Street food prices creep upwards


This looks like the exception rather than the rule as street food prices inch up.

Curry Mee in Penang
Still a few bargains around – but extra charge for toppings! – Photograph: Papa Sensible

These are the prices we are seeing these days, while others have hiked their prices even further.

Won Ton Mee
These are the sort of prices we are seeing these days, and even higher – Photograph: Papa Sensible

Thanks to blog visitor Papa Sensible for the photos.

In places where the prices haven’t increased, chances are serving portions have grown smaller. I know the local thosais have shrunk to about two thirds their previous size, the coconut chutneys look a bit more watery …

Tell me, what is it like elsewhere in Malaysia?

READ MORE:  Why Penang is no. 2 in CNN's best places to visit in 2017
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    • Times are bad now, eh?

      I suppose still better than the miserable packet of peanuts they serve you on domestic flights!

      • This is another MAS fiasco after the infamous video from the MAS steward.yang terlampau.
        MAS cannot do well on its flight business, but cetus kontroversi!

    • This is a reflection of MAS share price. Used to be RM5.50 not too long ago, now only 31 sen!
      It does not help when your PM has no confidence to fly on MAS.

  1. Price hike is unavoidable as these hawkers need to feed their family too.
    The Pantau Harga Squad should check on IPPs and toll operators.

  2. It’s also cost-push inflation (e.g. higher cost of sugar, higher cost of petrol for one’s business van, higher electricity bill for one’s shop) plus an individuals not wanting to “lose out”, so the individual also raises prices.

    • Yes, I imagine the higher costs have to be spread out over a lower number of customers (compared to fast-food restaurants). Also, like everyone else, the hawkers are also hit by the higher cost of housing, and some of them could also bee involved in panic buying of houses before prices gos beyond the reach of their children.

      • if higher cost of living persists for long, more will be choosy of what and where to eat.
        Survival of the fittest may result in the demise of mediocre hawker business especially those who charge more yet the food not up to standard.

        Today the traffic is horrendous in downtown Penang. Street food business as busy these days ? May be tunglang could provide his latest updates on street food in 2014 ?

      • Any price increase of nasi kandar in Penang?
        Roti Canai now is so small that you need at least 3 pieces to fill your stomach.

  3. It’s like Mom-and-Pop corner sundry shops (higher prices, better service, friendly to regular shoppers) versus the big hypermarkets (lower prices, customers are friends? are you crazy?).

    But the former provide jobs for locals who can also be owners/entrepreneurs. While the latter provide McJobs.

    (It’s similar to the “Is Walmart good for the local economy?” type arguments in the USA. Squeezing local small businesses out of existence, while providing poorly-paying jobs with poor working conditions to its employees).

    Street hawkers provide skillfully cooked food (assuming the food is also hygienically prepared) while
    food courts are more likely to, increasingly, provide processed foods that come straight from cans and tubs.

    The latter (assembly line type production of goods and services and yes, food too) has been called the McDonaldization of the world by sociologist George Ritzer. Lower prices, but uniform and bland.

    I highly recommend the documentary “Supersize Me” which I show to our first year med students.
    In one section, the “school lunch” food served to US school kids in one school come almost all from cans and tubs! Not healthy too.

    • And then there’s the question of how the fast food livestock (chicken and cattle) are mass produced .. and what goes into your burgers and nuggets.

      • Not to miss out the GM (genetically modified) food in distribution worldwide including to fast food joints. Though as a way to increase food supplies, I doubt its genetic safety & sincerity wholesomely to solve global food problems while some profiteering producers just destroy what’s deemed as oversupply of edible food stocks to maintain or manipulate food prices.

        In the food serving business, beyond enjoyment of gastronomical delights, it’s better to leave it to the chefs / ori-maestros (or Penang street hawkers) & restaurants / kopitiams to determine the quality & pricing & business direction without the big-boys-big-corporation cartel control of pricing or overwhelmingly monopolistic ‘mafia’-style promotion+distribution to edge out the small timers. These big fellas can’t cook up some decent food to qualify as heavenly. Maybe can-can in SingLand, BUT not so convincingly in Penang.

        So far, the heavenly Penang street hawker cuisine is not a main-masak-masak playground of big corps like McDon’tNutsMe or CanTuckMeFriedChickCan. PapaWealthy (a local entity) tried very hard (with cheap foreign chefs) to recreate the heavenly local hawker cuisine at bin chui pricing but still leave doubts in the stomachs of hard-core Tham Chiah Kuis whose over-pampered dancing taste buds can smell an ori-maestro recipe from a kopitiam away.

        Fuel price & TNB increase aside, are the food ingredients justified as one of the genuine causes for ‘proportionate increase’ in hawker food which I doubt very much? How much of white sugar goes into a cuppa of Kopi-O kau kau to justify a 40cents increase? And does minimum salary affect greatly the cost of business when these foreign workers are maxed-out doing more than serving 8 hrs at the hawker stalls like washing the hawker’s MercS100L or cleaning his richie Mah-MahSing condo in-time for Chinese New Year celebration of galloping-away street hawker food prices.

        The only way to placate our anxiety of such unheavenly hawker food price increases is to convince our dancing taste buds to go on hunger strikes or abstinence of makan-makan until these hawkers & food supply chains ‘be-tahan’ but to bring down to earth these disproportionately increased prices.

        My limit to unheavenly street hawker food pricing (both ori-maestros’ or wannabes’):
        anything served (basic without ‘ke-liao’) & charged more than Rm4.00 is ‘no-eat’.
        Kopi-O kau kau @ more than Rm1.10 or Kopi Susu @ more than Rm1.40 is ‘no-drink’.

  4. A plate of the Char Kueh Teow from the street vendors in Penang starts from rm 7.50 and beyond.
    Add in a glass of beverage/drinks and there goes another rm 2.50.
    Patrons have to endure dust and hazards
    Slightly cheaper to order a set meal from the fast food restaurant.which offers air-conditioning ,proper lighting & chairs ,clean toilet facilities and WiFi.
    Something is wrong with the pricing.
    .And street vendors normally blame the high cost of raw materials and difficulty hiring helpers.
    When fast food chain of restaurants are able to offer lower price, something is not right with the street vendors.

    • The fast food chains probably have a higher number of customers, which means they have more people to divide their fixed overheads against. Also they probably buy their raw materials at wholesale prices or even lower. Some of the supplies (e.g. chilli sauce) may even be outsourced to contract manufacturers or even purchased internally. So the fast food MNCs have the advantage of economies of scale.

      • Pretty decent understanding of fast food economics. So what can you conclude is going on? 1) The rising cost is NOT about material or commodities 2) its definitely partly about wages and logistics. 3) But MOST importantly, its about falling competitiveness in PRODUCTIVITY – which is why UMNO/BN is at fault..

      • Street food vendors must innovate otherwise they r gonna lose out many customers (apart from die-hard fans like tunglang).
        Once street food raised to beyond RM5/plate (minus drinks), most younger generations would have opted for MNC fast foods like some claimed healthier sandwiches.
        At home if turn on air-con must pay tenaga. At fast food, good lighting, free wifi, free aircon; and the ambiance condusive to social networking !!!

    • in fact Penang food I would say more expensive due to small portion, sometime one bowl just cant feel the stomach you need 2 bowl that add up almost equivalent to KL standard of one bowl. That’s why food in Penang more expensive…


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