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Entertainment, Food & Beverage

Ponggol Nasi Lemak owners unfazed by copycat stalls

The 22-year-old establishment packs people in from the moment it opens its doors.
January 8, 2013
By: Debbie Yong
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Ponggol Nasi Lemak owners unfazed by copycat stalls

SINGAPOREANS love a good queue, and when it comes to hawker fare, a queue of a decent length signals quality. Ponggol Nasi Lemak is renowned for its snaking queues.

The 22-year-old establishment packs people in from the moment it opens its doors in the early evening to the early hours of the morning.

Its loyal patrons often queue for up to an hour at its outlets in Katong and Upper Serangoon (everyone else bearing a similar name is an imitator), and keep coming back for more.

Ang Siew Lay and her mother run the Upper Serangoon Road branch while her elder brother Ching Chua and his wife run the Katong outlet.

The latter started the business in 1990 from a humble hawker stall on Old Tampines Road, before moving to the now-defunct Brighton Crescent premises in 1994 and then its current two outlets.

Though the recipes are "largely the same" - including the one for the sambal chilli which is freshly made each week - the outlets are run independently of each other, which explains the slight variance in taste, says Madam Ang.

Pricing is slightly different, too, though average spend is about the same at both locations.

"We only have two outlets for now, so it's not necessary to set up a central kitchen," she says, hinting that there are plans to expand the business next year.

So successful is the business, Madam Ang is unfazed by the dozens of copycat nasi lemak stalls springing up all over the island.

"I think customers can tell the difference just by tasting the food. If they have any doubts, they can come and ask us directly how many other outlets we have," she says.

Prices range from 70 cents to $1.50 for each item. Customers spend $5 to $6 on average, slightly pricier than at most other outlets.

"We are sticking with our original philosophy of not selling set meals so that customers have the freedom to choose what they like. So how expensive our food is depends on how much you eat," Madam Ang explains.

"We don't want to cut back on quality just to lower prices for a few customers who think we are pricey and in turn short-change our regulars," she adds.

debyong@sph.com.sg

238 Tanjong Katong Road and 965 Upper Serangoon Road
6281 0020
5.30pm to 3.30am

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