It’s crunchtime for famed hawkers

Local favourite: A customer packing cendol at the Penang Road famous Teochew Chendul stall along Lebuh Keng Kwee in George Town, Penang. — KT GOH/The Star

GEORGE TOWN: They were considered the No.1 street food vendors during the pre-pandemic days, but like everyone else now, they, too, are struggling to survive.

All the food operators here are now trying hard to keep the crowd coming during the lockdown.

Popular cendol operator Tan Chong Kim, 63, said due to the no dine-in law, he now relies on the law of thermodynamics to ensure his takeaway customers enjoy a good bowl of cendol at home.

“The shaved ice must be densely packed into a uniform ball. This is the most efficient shape for reducing surface area, which is critical in slowing down the melting rate,” he said.

Tan will also keep several shaved ice balls in the freezer, to stabilise them even further.

“In this way, the shaved ice will stay frozen for up to 45 minutes, enough time for customers to bring it home and mix in the coconut milk and other cendol ingredients,” said Tan, who owns Penang Road Famous Teochew Chendol stall in Keng Kwee Street.

Tan said he felt thankful to locals who continue to patronise his stalls and keep his business afloat.

This generations-old cendol stall is a star attraction at the edge of the George Town heritage enclave and during the good times, tour buses would unload their wide-eyed tourists, who would then make long queues all day at the stall for a taste of this cold dessert.

To keep customers happy and coming back for more, Tan said he puts extra ingredients while keeping the price the same.

“It’s always best to eat freshly made cendol, but since this can’t happen now, we put extra cooked kidney beans and coconut milk to give more oomph,” Tan added.

Not far away, in Lorong Selamat, another star hawker attraction is still holding on and selling to locals.

But it is a little harder for char koay teow hawker Soon Suan Choo, 73, to make sure the takeaway version of her char koay teow will be just as good as eating it fresh off the wok.

“Previously, during the good times, I got to sell more than 100 plates of char koay teow but now I only manage to sell around 30 packets a day.

“Since I am illiterate and not tech-savvy, I do not use delivery services or promote my food on social media.

“I only depend on walk-ins as well as my regular customers,” she said when met at her stall on Sunday.

Soon added that she did not apply for any grants or allocations from the government as she has no idea how to apply for them.

“I survive on my earnings from previous years,” she said.

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hawker , popular street food , Penang


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