You may have come across an article on AsiaOne featuring an irate netizen’s mum encounter with a hawker at People’s Park Food Centre. The netizen’s frustration arose when the hawker from Super Star Original Famous Penang Laksa declined her mother’s request for an additional bowl due to the stall’s Halal certification.
The netizen’s mum had forgotten to check the price of the laksa which cost S$10. She went on saying that charging her mum that price for a bowl of laksa was too much.
I reached out to the owner of the 5-year-old laksa stall, Miss Pat, who provided further insight to this incident.
“Yes, I did not allow her to take the bowl due to the risk of her consuming non-Halal food with it,” she explained.
She added, “However, I didn’t shout at her or tell her mother to cook it herself. I just told her, if she was capable she should run the business herself. We did not quarrel nor talk very loud, it was just an exchange of words.”
According to Miss Pat, she initially used metal cutlery for her stall, but the increased likelihood of customers using these utensils for food from other vendors prompted her to switch to disposable cutlery instead. As for the bowls, she stuck to proper ones as they looked nicer and were more suitable for serving hot food.
I shared with Miss Pat, “There were online comments saying that if a customer wanted to consume his piece of char siew on that very same bowl that he had just had his laksa, it wouldn’t make a difference.”
To which she replied, “Yes I know, it’s impossible for me to monitor every customer and what food they eat on my bowls. Ultimately, it comes down to their own integrity. It’s the same logic of paying or not paying the 10-cent fee to access a public restroom in the absence of an attendant.”
Miss Pat explains that if her Muslim customers are worried that her bowls are not cleaned properly, she will even allow them to use her disposable bowls to dine there for free; she doesn’t charge extra for her takeaway containers anyway.
She explained that she has raised the prices of her Penang assam laksa to S$10 per bowl due to inflation. Miss Pat uses a total of 26 ingredients including fresh Ikan Kembung (Indian mackerel), asam keping and kampung chilli padi. She also freshly prepares the chilli paste and broth daily.
Her noodles are imported, and she even rented a freezer storage space just to store 1,000 packets of it as she has to order in bulk each time, which lasts her about 3 months.
As I conversed with her, I got the feeling that Miss Pat holds a lot of pride in her food, stating that her laksa is popular with local celebrities like Joanne Peh and Fann Wong, and even the staff of Fullerton Hotel will take away her laksa for their hotel guests— very impressive.
The question of whether Miss Pat was right or wrong is subjective and depends on one’s perspective. Given the strict regulations and inspections associated with Halal certification, her actions may have been justified in preventing customers from taking extra bowls to ensure the integrity of her Halal status.
However, customer service and satisfaction are also vital in the food industry, so finding a balance between adhering to certification requirements and accommodating customer requests can be challenging.
Will pasting a sign saying “No taking extra bowls” at her storefront prevent such incidences from occurring again? Let me know what you think in the comments.
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