Wednesday, March 7, 2012

How to make "Economic Rice" even more economical [Singapore]

In Singapore 'economic rice' is sold at hawker centres, where customers can order a myriad of cooked toppings to be served with their rice. 
Are you the kind of person for whom every penny counts?  I have a friend who refuses to pay more than $2 for his mixed vege rice (or economical rice).  He may pay up to $3.50 once in a while, but he'll make a big fuss out of it.  Don't get me wrong - I love him for it.  There's something to be said about his dedication to finding the cheapest stall out there.  There's an art to making economical rice even more economical - after a while, the dollars and cents do add up.

Another friend alerted to me a post about this art, sharing his "personal experience on how to maximize the value of a plate of mixed vege rice."  The original tongue-in-cheek post can be found here.

He gives clever little tricks, including advice such as visiting near the end of lunch or dinner time.  While some dishes may be sold out, the stall owners will try to get rid the last of the remaining dishes, thus serving you bigger portions.  This works especially well if it looks like the dish is about to run out.

Other tricks include your phrasing: 'more rice' rather than 'add rice' implying a bigger scoop of rice for no charge, rather than a second scoop of rice, sometimes resulting in an extra charge.  Or watch your timing: order the meat first, so the stall owner knows you're not there to be a cheap skate, resulting in larger portions because of a better mood.  And order only one dish at a time.  If you don't rush him, the author surmises, "This gives more time for the stall owner to serve your previous dish which likely will result in a larger portion. When he is finished and noticed that you are still pondering over your next order, he may feel bored and add a few more slices of your previous dish while waiting for you to make your next choice."

He also speculates that male customers get served larger portions than female customers, despite the lack of price difference.  So ladies, he advises that you get your male colleagues to order for you.  Ordering vegetable dishes that contain meat sauces is also more bang for your buck, since you're paying cheaper vege-prices for a dish that's half meat.  For the same reason, meat dishes that contain vegetables are 'not worthwhile' for your wallet.

Most importantly, becoming a regular customer is a win-win for both you and the stall owner.

P.S. For those who are curious about how my friend manages to get a full box of economical rice for $2 all the time, he finds the cheapest stall, then only orders the vegetables (with meat sauce!).

Also see this post at


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