A few minutes’ walk from Boon Keng MRT, Dignity Kitchen, established in 2010, has moved three times and this is its latest location. They train and hire disabled people for a career in hawkers. Dignity Kitchen is a social enterprise, not a charity: the difference is a social enterprise runs like a company and needs to make money whereas a charity is nonprofit.
When I walked in, I wanted to walk out immediately. Because it was so hot. I felt like I walked into a wall of heat. I felt like I was in Dubai desert. It was hotter inside the food court than under the blazing afternoon sun. No air con. There are glass windows at the roof, and the roof is covered with aluminium foil so the building becomes a glasshouse, trapping heat and stubbornly not letting heat out. Science is important, people! People were boiling alive in there. I was a 纸包鸡 (paper-wrapped chicken) in an oven.
But don’t let that deter you. Because the halal food is good. There are about 9 stalls here: malay, chicken rice, fruits, drinks, bakes, claypot rice, rojak, noodles, and western food. You order and pay at the central cashier who will give you a queue number on your receipt and when your food is ready and the queue number will appear on the LED board, you go to that particular stall to collect your food.
At the cashier, you may also donate meals through the pay-it-forward meal treats at $3.50 a meal. My cashier was new-ish, I think. I donated 5 meals but she seemed a little blur and I was worried that she didn’t key in properly because she made several mistakes in my orders. For example, I wanted iced coffee, she keyed in hot coffee. She also charged me a few cents more than my original order. I bought 3 cakes, but when she took the cakes from the display, she got all 3 wrong. I was very okay with her mistakes, just that I worried that my donations didn’t go through correctly.
Chinese always have the mindset that if it’s halal, it’s not delicious. This mentality needs to change. For instance, the kolo mee ($5) is delicious even without lard. The strands of egg noodles are coated evenly in (shallot?) oil. The bite of the noodles feels great.
Another dish that typically uses lard but Dignity Kitchen does away with it is claypot rice ($6). Funny story: I took the claypot rice to my table but a lady frantically came and replaced it, saying that they forgot to put something in my claypot so they replaced it with another. The claypot is done by an automated stove, the hawker just has to put ingredients into the claypot and the automaton does the job. The claypot is not particularly outstanding but it’s not bad too. I do feel the missing lard here.
The fish and chips ($6.50) is quite popular among youngsters and it is better than many Western hawker food stalls. Thinly battered crust, very crisp. Fish remains moist. Arrived steaming hot. And gave ample portions. It was the last dish to come but the wait was worth it. I didn’t mind waiting for them to work on it until they were satisfied.
The rojak ($4) is excellent too. They use a Malaccan hae ko (prawn paste) and together with the tamarind, they create a nice balance of sweet and sour.
I also bought home an oreo chocolate muffin ($2.50), a honey comb cake ($3) and banana cake ($2.50). They are competent. I didn’t feel like I wasted calories on them.
It takes some patience to eat here but your patience will be rewarded by good food. I will definitely return for more. We pay for our meals anonymously.
You may be interested in…
–Pope Jai Thai, Scape Orchard: They Employ Disabled, Special Needs, Mental Health Conditions, Deaf/Hard of Hearing, Visually-Impaired, Vulnerable, Disadvantaged People As Well As Youths-at-risk
–ART @ Assumption Pathway School, Cashew Road: $12 NETT Porridge Buffet Every Last Friday of the Month
–The Coffeeshop by Yaowarat, Kovan: Bringing Malaysian and Thai Food to Singapore
–Kaya Handle This?: 7 Old-School Kopitiams to Jiak Kaya Loti, Lim Kopi, and Instagram
Written by Dr. A. Nathanael Ho.