In Singapore’s kiasu rat race culture, everyone aspires (or needs) to attain prestigious degrees at good universities in hopes of becoming a glorified corporate slave.
However, this National University of Singapore (NUS) graduate does not feel the same. Despite holding degrees in sought-after, high-paying fields like Law and Economics, she decided to quit her corporate job to pursue a career as a hawker.
Getting into law school may be difficult, but staying true to yourself is harder—major kudos to her for chasing her dreams.
Almost Everything is Priced At $2.50
Ms Hani Isnin, 40, ensures that her stall’s food is affordable for all.
As everyone knows, things in Singapore are getting more expensive—our core inflation, unfortunately, soared to a 14-year-high of 5.5% this year.
To cope with the rising cost of living, most stalls have raised food prices to stay afloat. Ms Isnin, conversely, lowered her family’s prices at their Muslim food stall—most of their food costs only $2.50, which is honestly a steal in this economy.
At first, their food was priced at around $3 to $4.50, but they decided to lower their prices after realising many of their patrons were from lower-income families and could not afford their meals.
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Their stall, situated in Jalan Kukoh Food Centre, is aptly named the $2.50 shop, and sells traditional Malay/ Muslim food items like nasi padang, mee rebus and lontong.
In an interview with Berita Harian, Ms Hani distinctly recalls an experience where a patron presented her with a two-dollar note because that was all they could afford then.
She also cited her experiences meeting patrons who lived in rental flats nearby, who could not afford to buy a meal there.
In light of all this, she and her family decided to lower their prices—now, most of their food items are priced at $2.50.
Has To Work Harder To Keep Prices Low
Keeping prices low in this economy is no easy feat—to achieve this, Ms Hani and her family need to work longer hours. Typically, they start preparing food at 1.30 am daily, so their stall can open at 3.30 am.
And we complain about waking up at eight in the morning for our 9-5.
According to Ms Hani, people around her were doubtful of her decision to lower the stall’s prices, considering Singapore’s high inflation rates and the rising cost of living.
However, she remained adamant on this, wanting to make sure that everyone could afford a meal at their stall.
Of course, keeping her prices low requires hard work and sacrifice. Her family’s stall operates daily, and they do not take days off, except for certain holidays like Raya.
She and her family also hope that their stall will feel like a family to her patrons, and they see it as a community.
She hopes that customers will be able to go there during times of difficulty if they need help and support—clearly, Ms Hani is truly dedicated to helping the community around her.
Holds Multiple Degrees But Chose To Become Hawker
A choice like hers is probably rare in Singapore today, where everyone dreams of climbing to the top of the corporate ladder and earning big bucks in a soulless job.
Ms Hani actually holds degrees in Law and Economics from NUS—prospective local university students should know how difficult it’s becoming to get into the so-called “big three” universities in Singapore, especially popular faculties like Law.
Before she became a hawker, Ms Hani worked as a corporate worker but quit after just two months to pursue her love for cooking.
She ran a food stall at Queensway Secondary School, then decided to join her parents and help them run her family’s stall, which they established relatively recently in 2020.
Even so, in classic Asian-parent fashion, her parents didn’t approve of her decision—Ms Hani also admits that being a hawker isn’t easy. However, she feels that her satisfaction and passion right now would not be attainable if she were working a corporate job, and her parents, noticing this, have come around to her decision.
Her journey has been challenging, but Ms Hani is determined to persevere, citing her happiness when she sees her customers smile at the low prices and good food.
The stall’s located at #01-16 Jalan Kukoh Food Centre, 1 Jln Kukoh, Singapore 161001, if you’d like to drop by. It’s near Chinatown Station and is open daily from 3.30 am to 2.30 pm.
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