Selegie kacang puteh stall survives pandemic downturn
This may well be Singapore’s last kacang puteh stall, and the Covid-19 pandemic nearly finished it off.
Times were so bad that the owner’s family had to sell property in India to pull through.
But this Indian trade that came over to Singapore still survives, in a tiny rented space on Selegie Road.
The kacang puteh seller, once a common sight, especially outside cinemas, has all but vanished.
Except for Mr Amirthaalangaram Moorthy, who sells his peanuts, chickpeas and other snacks from the space marked out at the entrance of Peace Centre.
In 2018, the Michelin Guide called his pushcart “the last bastion of Singapore’s yesteryear snack culture”.
Mr Amirthaalangaram is a third-generation kacang puteh seller.
His grandfather came to Singapore from the Indian state of Tamil Nadu, where hot roasted peanuts sold in paper cones has for long been a popular street snack.
The business started around Hougang in the 1960s.
Later, Mr Amirthaalangaram’s father picked it up, selling the snacks outside the Hoover Theatre in Balestier. After the cinema was demolished, the stall moved to Peace Centre.
Mr Amirthaalangaram himself took over in 2004. The 54-year-old is now a permanent resident in Singapore.
“Last time, there were many kachang puteh sellers outside cinemas in areas such as Yishun and Ang Mo Kio. There were many other kachang puteh sellers outside Hoover Theatre too. Now, there is nobody,” he was quoted as telling the Michelin Guide.
Times and tastes change. Movies moved into malls and multiplexes. Snacks changed to popcorn and nachos.
But he was still surviving - till the pandemic hit in 2020.
During the circuit breaker period that year he couldn’t operate at all. And when he reopened, most people were working from home, and there were few customers.
“Every day I open, but two years no business. Very very difficult,” he told 8 Days.
The rent for his space alone is $600 a month.
His father sold a house in India and lent him the money so that he could keep going.
Now things are looking up again. “Business now okay lah, slowly,” 8 Days quoted him as saying.
Mr Amirthaalangaram is married and has a 25-year-old daughter and a 20-year-old son.
Any chance of their joining him to keep the traditional business going?
It doesn’t look like it. They have gone into other fields - nursing and hotel management, 8 Days reported.
But he won’t give up, not yet.
"I prefer to stay on the streets, which is where kachang puteh should be," Michelin had quoted him as saying.