My 72 yr old mum is currently working in a chain vegetable rice stall. She is still fit and healthy. She would rather work than stay at home. Every quarterly, the government even gives her some cash money credited to her POSB bank and CPF accounts. She belongs to a group of senior citizens who like to work even though the children give her monthly allowances to spend. She feels useful and independent working hard to earn some money.
After working for some time in one of the vegetable rice stalls – a chain of vegetable rice stalls all over the island owned by the same company, she found out lots of things happening behind the scene. Whenever I chat with her, she would provide me with details of the food preparation process, the number of staff running a typical stall, their nationalities, daily takings etc. In short, she gave me lots of insider information about her work there.
Basically, a typical vegetable stall in a HDB coffee shop is manned by 3 persons. The main player will be the cook who is the in-charge of the food stall. He is assisted by one staff in the morning and another in the afternoon until it closes for the day. Understandably, the in-charge works extra hard with the longest hours operating from about 8am till 9pm catering to the lunch and dinner customers. On top of their basic pay, they are also given incentive payment if collection exceeds the target. There are CCTV cameras all over the stall to monitor them. The boss hardly comes over except to collect the day’s takings. The cash register captures all transactions. The in-charge of the stall is usually a FT from neighboring countries and recently many from PRC. Few locals could undertake such a demanding job churning out simple meals at dirt cheap prices.
Due to time constraint with only one assistant, the in-charge who does the cooking of more than 20 dishes has got to be fast and energetic. As such, he is forced to take short cuts and cut corners. This is what is happening in the food preparation. For example, the vegetable is never washed at all. One method is to boil a big pot of water and dump the unwashed vegetable to half-cook it. Thereafter, it’s then stir fried to taste. I do not worry about dirt and slime on the stalks and leaves of the vegetables. I am more perturbed by the tons of insecticide residue on them. Just look at the beautiful green leaves where even worms would not feast. Surely it must be the insecticide that is keeping away the worms chewing on it. If it is not thoroughly washed and eaten by unsuspecting consumers, what would happen? Wonder no more why city folks like us are getting all kinds of illnesses especially colon cancer. Think of what I just sketched for your imagination. It is no joke and witnessed by my mum working there. As such, she always advises us not to consume green vegetable in a cooked stall except the bean sprouts where they got no choice but to wash them to clear the uneatable husks of the green sprouts. (tuagai)
Just to side track a little. When I was in Ipoh visiting the local eatery, I notice that the leaves of the vegetable are always punctured with holes and they don’t look appealing. When I commented about them comparing to those in Singapore that they are unattractive. The locals in Ipoh gave me an invaluable lesson telling me that it’s becuz tons of insecticide is sprayed on the vegetable that even worms avoid. In their case, no insecticide is used making it worm friendly. Which is more healthier in the long run? I was told that no matter how much you wash your insecticide laced greens, the chemicals will never go away completely. In the case of the typical food stall quoted above, it’s far worst than that.
Of course, the other option is to cook your own vegetable at home. But then that is not always possible due to our long hours of work, we simply do not have the luxury. As a last resort, maybe the organic vegetable which is far more expensive will be a much healthier choice since it is not grown in the soil and no insecticide is needed to keep away the worms.
I have elaborated on the no-washing of the vegetable in a typical food stall. What about the manner of preparation for other food such as chicken wings, meat, fish etc. Yup, they simply throw into the hot boiling oil in the wok and deep fry them. Rice is never washed at all before it’s put in the rice cooker to steam. Another observation made by my mum is that all those ingredients and condiments such as salt, oil, sugar, black or light soy sauce kept in small containers meant for cooking are all left overnight without any lids to secure them. Lizards, rats, cockroaches having a big party throughout the night and then they are used in the cooking the next day for our own consumption. Frightening? Flabbergasted? That is why my mum brings her own food to work even though free meals are provided. She would keep far away from those cooked food cuz she knows how they are prepared.
When I wonder why NEA is not taking enforcement action? Maybe, they just look at the appearance of the stall, the dressing of the staff, ensure that there is no rat running around and no cockroaches flying about and they deem to have done their job. Some time ago, I did blog about how drinks such as coffee or tea are prepared by hawkers with pictures taken but there seems to be no action taken. Pls refer to the the article here. Link
From my observation, only those Malay stalls seem more hygienic than the Chinese or Indian food stalls. I have yet to come across Malay stalls out-sourced to FTs. The Malay stalls are usually run by locals. That is why Malay food usually costs more than Chinese food. I would rather pay more for Malay cooked food than those Chinese cooked food which is comparatively cheaper. Just be more observant and look out for yourself the next time you consume your food in a hawker centre or coffee shop. Watch what you eat.
Read related article here link.