[dropcap size=small]T[/dropcap]here’s little to no chance of getting lost in the spanking new Bukit Panjang Hawker Centre, the second of 20 new hawker centres the Government pledged to build by 2027. Here, colourful directional arrows hang overhead, some bearing a cheeky scrawl of local slang like “sedap (delicious)” corner. It’s how we find our way easily to Afiq Anuar’s nasi padang stall, Harummanis Junior. The stall was named after his parents’ stall in Teck Whye, where Afiq helped out at for four years, before deciding to strike out here on his own.
The 26-year-old displays enticing dishes that “follow (his) mother’s recipes as closely as possible”. Assam padas (a spicy, sour fish), for instance, is made using fresh fish he gets from a supplier every morning, something his mother insists on. “It’s what makes the gravy so sweet,” shares Afiq, the youngest of two sons. His mother also makes sure that he tastes everything he makes. While Afiq gets to decide the prices for dishes like his assam padas, the mee siam and mee rebus at his stall are priced at $2.50, as part of price moderation by NTUC Foodfare, which manages the new hawker centre. These measures are put in place to ensure the elderly and less fortunate get to enjoy a decent meal.
Though his elder brother worked at Iggy’s and is now a chef at a high-end restaurant in Dubai, Afiq is adamant that such a path is not for him.
“I’m more into cooking traditional food and chatting with regulars I see every day,” says Afiq. “If I threw my brother into my stall’s kitchen, he wouldn’t know what to do. Vice versa, for me.”
Despite his experience, working alone still has its challenges. “In the past, I could tell my mum I wanted to come in late if I was tired. I can’t do that anymore.” He also has to work harder to build up his own stream of regular customers, instead of relying on his mother’s 25 years of experience to win regulars.
If I threw my brother (who used to work at Iggy’s) into my stall’s kitchen, he wouldn’t know what to do.
– Mohamad Afiq Mohammed Anuar
Though he admits that social media has been helpful in putting the Harummanis Junior name out there, it also has its drawbacks. Once, a young lady posted a photo of the mee rebus from his stall on its Facebook page, alongside some negative comments about the taste.
“It was just two months after I opened and I panicked,” says Afiq, who had wanted to reply and justify himself. “But my parents taught me to learn to accept criticism and just do my job well. So, I’m working on that,” he says sheepishly. “I know my food and I am more confident now.”
#01-03 Bukit Panjang Hawker Centre
10 Ring Road