Makansutra: Cafe-quality kopi in a hawker centre
Get your daily fix of good strong cuppa at just $1.50 from Golden Mile Food Centre
Order a cuppa at the hawker centres, and out comes the steel snout pot with a coffee sock.
Locally ground coffee powder mix is spooned in, and hot water is poured in to shock the flavour of the powder.
Then, depending on whether it is kopi-o kosong (black sugarless coffee), gao (thicker), siu dai (less sugar), ga dai (sweeter), C (with evaporated milk) , or peng (iced) - you will get your drink in a minute or so.
Scenario two: The barista cleans his European espresso machine, pads the portafilter and locks it onto the group head (where hot water is forced through) and the brew drips into a cup. Fresh cream is added.
This is what you would expect from a hipster coffee joint or chain outlet like Starbucks. But this is happening in a hawker stall near town.
"I was retrenched over a year ago and at my age, it is hard to get back into my old petroleum broker business," said Mr Lawrence Tan, 43.
He researched for a few months before setting up the Kopi More stall in Golden Mile Food Centre.
He received a few stares from hawker regulars initially as they thought the coffee would be overpriced, but at a mere $1.50 for a cup of cafe-quality coffee, he now has regular customers.
He uses a Robusta and Arabica powder mix. The taste is rich, and with some imagination, it is just like a sipping a cuppa at an alfresco cafe. I kid you not.
"I had to go into this business for practical reasons, as coffee is something many drink on a daily basis," said Mr Tan.
At that price and using beans that are a few notches better than the nearby kopi stall, one wondered about viability.
Said Mr Tan: "This is about the maximum price point for kopi in a hawker centre... I am targeting regulars who will order two cups at a go."
I was surprised by how fast a cup is brewed - as fast as a typical cup of kopi. He makes them one or two at a time, and each cup is done individually, unlike the mass coffee socks methods.
I had to check out Mr Tan's stall because two older retirees told me about it on two separate occasions. I have respected their views for decades and they rarely fail me.
505, Beach Road, #B1-49
Golden Mile Food Centre
10am to 10pm daily
KF Seetoh, the founder of Makansutra, dabbles in street food businesses like Food Markets and has his own TV shows on cable. He publishes food guides and online content. He is also the creator of the World Street Food Congress. Follow him on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.