Hard fact to swallow

With the way food prices are climbing up day by day, it’s no wonder that many of us are choking on the high costs

27 Mar 2019 / 15:20 H.

BY JEFF YONG

EATING out has its joys. We get to taste interesting cuisines that we often cannot reproduce in our kitchens.

Best of all, we don’t have to toil over the ‘cauldron’ for hours to produce gastronomic delights. Or as someone once said, eating out is the best way of preventing kitchen fires!

On the other hand, eating out also puts us at the mercy of restaurant owners out to exploit diners.

As I’ve been eating out more these days, I’ve been mostly paying with my credit card in order to keep track of my spending.

But with my fading eyesight, I’ve also been not tracking properly.

As long as my credit card doesn’t get rejected, I do tend to let my guard down.

My bad – to use the current fad term in admitting mistakes committed.

At times, I do use cash when the convenient plastic isn’t accepted.

When that happens, sometimes, I am brought to my senses by the shocking prices charged by certain food stalls.

Although I do have a big tummy, trying to stomach those rocket-high prices is another thing!

There’s this push-cart rojak and cendol stall in Bukit Damansara, one of the most upmarket areas in Kuala Lumpur.

I’m not sure if that stallholder is dreaming of owning one of the bungalows in that area, but judging from what he charges, I think I’m not that far off target.

His rojak with noodles (rojak mi) costs RM7, while rojak with some sotong (cuttlefish) is also RM7.

His watery cendol costs RM3.

Don’t you think that is on the high side for a push-cart stall? Maybe it’s debatable. You tell me!

But the stall that takes the cake for over-pricing is located at a food court in an upscale shopping mall right in the city centre. It sells nasi campur (curried mixed rice).

Some five years ago, I thought it was overpriced when a plate of rice, vegetables, half a salted egg and a whole catfish cost RM19.

Recently I was again ‘stung’ by the same stall when the price of a plate of a tiny slab of stingray with some fried cuttlefish, half a salted egg, some vegetables and rice came to RM36!

Unlike most other stalls there, its dishes are presented in trays that don’t have price tags. We wouldn’t be lulled into thinking that we were paying around ‘gerai warung’ (roadside stall) prices if we could see the real prices displayed!

This is kampung fare, at non-kampung prices!

Maybe some relevant enforcement officers should have lunch there someday.

I’d also like to park myself there until closing time to spy on which brand-name handbag or apparel the owner is wearing, since the mall features many top luxury brands.

The above example should remind us of a durian stall in Malacca, which at least had its high prices displayed prominently, although one irate customer kicked up a fuss on social media.

The pleasantly-surprised stall owner subsequently thanked netizens for helping to publicise the name and location of his stall!

Other than food, the price of drinking water is also getting people worked up.

Some outlets don’t serve boiled drinking water, only bottled mineral water. Worse are those that only serve expensive brands from Europe!

Then there are those who charge 80 sen to RM1 per tiny glass, which you can easily finish in one or two gulps!

Since there’s a campaign against sugary drinks which can contribute to obesity and other undesirables, we should change our mindset that it’s ‘de rigueur’ or socially obligatory to have sugared drinks when eating out.

How about just ordering reasonably priced or free water in large pitchers, which are served at some progressive restaurants?

Jeff Yong, after making his mark in the twisty maze of mainstream journalism, has finally decided to enjoy what he does best – observing the unusual and recounting the gleeful. He can be contacted at lifestyle.borak@gmail.com.

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