Hawker In New York Sells Prawn Noodles For RM83 & Pays Kitchen Staff RM22,000 Per Month
The next time you happen to be in New York and are missing a taste of home, look no further!
A brand new hawker stall has opened in Midtown Manhattan, and the food costs about five times more than the equivalent back home.
A Singaporean eatery based in New York has garnered a mountain of press for their opening that took place late last week. Referred to as Urban Hawker, the eatery is said to resemble stalls from the UNESCO hawker centres of Singapore.
The outlet houses 17 vendors within its 14,000 square foot premises, representing cuisines from a plethora of cultures, including Malay, Peranakan, Chinese, and Indian, among others. The hawker stall itself is able to host an estimate of 200 people at a time.
While things kicked off on a positive note, the eatery became the talk of the town when Malaysians and Singaporeans alike discovered how much these dishes were priced at
A particular stall in Urban Hawker that was noted for their luxurious pricing is Prawnaholic Collections, which charges a whopping USD26 (approximately RM83) for a bowl of prawn mee, referred to on the menu as 'prawn ramen'. The dish itself is available in dry or soup options.
Among some of their other creations include pork belly ramen, oyster omelette, and wok-fried Hokkien prawn noodles, all priced at the same amount of RM83 per item. Their signature torched sesame pork rib ramen, on the other hand, is said to cost around USD31 a bowl (approximately RM100).
As stipulated on Urban Hawker's website, self-proclaimed noodle lover and the founder of Prawnaholics Collections, Alan Choong, opened his own stall at the age of 23 back in 2018.
He has since brought his dream concept of traditional prawn noodles with a twist to New York City.
The staggering prices of other dishes have also made its way to social media, which include white bee hoon at RM45 and chicken rice at RM54
Another stall within the complex, White Restaurant, is known for their white bee hoon with fresh squid, vegetables, prawns, and chicken stalk. One plate of this bee hoon here costs an estimate of USD13 to USD14 (approximately RM45).
On the other hand, photos of their signature chicken rice from the Hainan Jones stall is priced at USD17 (approximately RM54) a serving.
In an attempt to assemble more authentic food items, 11 of the stalls feature actual hawkers from Singapore, cooking up a storm of fried rice, satay, roti prata, mee rebus, chilli crab, and kaya toast.
Choong explained the factors that came into play when determining the steep price of his food, including paying his staff a five-figure salary in Malaysian ringgit
In an interview with Shin Min Daily News, Choong noted that in order to recoup for a bowl of prawn mee, which would ordinarily go for SGD7, would reasonably cost USD26 in New York.
A prime example of this was difficulty in finding manpower in New York. Taking him about a month to hire three kitchen assistants, each person on the payroll receives a whopping SGD7,000 (approximately RM22,000). Choong maintains methods to familiarise the three employees in ways of cooking Chinese food, still doing a bulk of the work himself while teaching the others as he goes along.
Choong also pointed out how limitations in the US labour law has inherently spilled over to affect the daily hours his employees are able to work, thereby forcing him to hire enough staff members to take turns at the stall for two shifts. "It's difficult to find Chinese chefs who can cook Chinese food and can communicate easily," he noted. Ultimately, Choong maintains that the food prices are standard considering the city.
Choong also noted that the prime location of Urban Hawker, which is in the heart of Manhattan, amplifies the rental price for the outlet, further increasing the overall cost.
On the flip side, Shin Min Daily News also spoke to Victor Tay, managing director of White Restaurant, who candidly shared in the notion that manpower costs are higher in New York City, as well as the minimum wage in the US. Having brought over three Singaporeans to act as chefs for White Restaurant, Tay noted that he intends to hire New Yorkers to take orders and work as cashiers eventually.
When speaking on the cost of white bee hoon at his store, Tay elaborated on how fresh ingredients used for the dish are generally more expensive in New York, but is balanced out by the fact that portion sizes are also 15% bigger than they would be in Singapore.
Nonetheless, a healthy ongoing crowd seems to signal that Urban Hawker is making quite a name for itself in The Big Apple
Packed to the brim, a recent clip uploaded to the Urban Hawker's Instagram page of their soft opening on 21 September is a clear display of how much of a hit the eatery has been in a short period of time.
Would you spend more than RM50 for a bowl of prawn noodles?
Here's where you can find Urban Hawker if you're planning a trip to New York: