S$1 nasi lemak in Toa Payoh almost closed, but sincere customer demand kept it going

A real social enterprise.

Belmont Lay | January 11, 2019, 06:19 PM

The most famous nasi lemak in Singapore is arguably the traditional S$1 variety found at Block 20 Toa Payoh Lorong 7.

The humble nasi lemak sold there is made up of coconut rice with fish, egg, cucumber and sambal chilli.

Most amazing of all is that its S$1 price has remained unchanged in 32 years

Run by makcik

The food stall Kedai Makan Muhajirin is run by Zaliah Ishak.

She almost closed her stall down in December 2018.

This was after her stall's unit at Block 18, Lorong 7 shut down after she received a notice to move out of the premises.

Zaliah took it as a chance to retire.

She revealed in a Our Grandfather Story video: "I didn't want to sell anymore."

Customers love it

But many customers contacted her, asking questions.

These include, "Where are you auntie? I want to eat your S$1 nasi lemak," as well as "How are we going to find S$1 nasi lemak?"

The stall owner added: "My husband also encouraged me to continue. He said it's better if we work. If we work every day, our health will not deteriorate."

Not only did the stall carry on operating, it remained in the vicinity of the original outlet.

Kedai Makan Muhajirin reopened at block 20, a stone's throw away.

The stall serves 300 to 500 portions of nasi lemak in half a day.

Queues often stretch outside the coffee shop.

Low cost food for elderly residents

The stall also sells mee rebus, mee siam and lontong at S$2.50.

Food sold at low prices are to cater to the elderly residents in the estate.

Zaliah also said money is secondary: "Money alone cannot make us happy. The satisfaction that we get from running our business comes from being sincere. This is very important to me."

What's more important is customer satisfaction.

"It's true that I get tired, but I like what I am doing," she said in the interview.

"When people get to eat my food every day, I feel happy and motivated."

Zaliah said her daughter-in-law Nana Azlina is set to take over the business and has been told to keep nasi lemak at S$1.

Where to go: 20 Toa Payoh Lorong 7, Singapore 310020