Hawker opens stall selling $26 prawn noodles in New York, says he has to pay kitchen assistant $7,000 salary

How much would you pay to get a taste of home while overseas?

Well, if you’re hankering after a piping hot bowl of prawn noodles while in New York, be prepared to dig deep into your pocket. 

One hawker has recently opened a stall in midtown Manhattan, one of 17 in a Singapore-style street food market known as Urban Hawker which will officially open next week. 

To get a taste of this authentic prawn mee, be prepared to pay a whooping US$18 (S$26) for it.

The owner of Prawnaholic Collections, Alan Choong, explained the reasons for the eyebrow-raising price to Shin Min Daily News in an interview published on Friday (Sept 23). 

For starters, he said he has to pay his kitchen assistant some US$5,000 (S$7,150) every month. He currently has three on his payroll. 

“Hawkers here have long working hours, and the law here Iimits the number of hours each person can work, so I have two teams who work shifts.”

Choong, 26, said he has also struggled to find a Chinese chef who communicates well and can cook Chinese food, and has only managed to hire one so far.

He also attributed his high prices to the rising cost of ingredients and the rental there, citing that his stall is located in a prime area.

“But the food prices here are around this standard,” he added.

Aside from prawn mee (known as “prawn ramen” in New York), Choong’s New York stall also has wok fried hokkien prawn noodle (US$18), and their signature torched sesame pork rib ramen (US$22).

Choong started his Prawnaholic Collections back in 2018 at Pasir Ris Hawker Centre and thankfully the prices there are more sane, starting from $7. 

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Shin Min also spoke to Victor Tay, the managing director of another Singaporean stall White Restaurant which specialises in white beehoon with seafood. 

Tay shared that he brought over three chefs from Singapore, and intends to hire New Yorkers to take orders and cashier. 

The 41-year old added that manpower costs are higher in New York due to minimum wage laws, and ingredients cost more as well. 

Citing an example, he said that while a plate of white bee hoon costs about $7 to $8 in Singapore, the same plate costs US$13 to US $14 in New York. 

However, the portions over there are about 15 per cent larger. 

Urban Hawker is spearheaded by local food critic KF Seetoh who teamed up with New York food hall operator Urbanspace for the venture.

Of the 17 stalls there, 11 come directly from Singapore.

They include names such as Wok & Staple by heritage Chinese restaurant Dragon Phoenix and hawkers including Ashes Burnnit, a halal burger chain that started in Golden Mile Food Centre and Mr. Fried Rice, reported The Straits Times earlier this week. 

According to a report by New York Daily News, this idea came about when Seetoh met the late celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain at the World Street Food Congress in Singapore back in 2013.

Bourdain had reportedly wanted to open a Singapore-style hawker food hall at New York’s Pier 57, but failed to sign a lease for the location before he died in 2018.

On this new food hall, Seetoh said: “New York has a vast enough diaspora of international palates and is ever-curious. We’re just selling good food from a reputable foodie nation.”

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He added that when something happens in New York City, “the world takes note and our hawkers are something we are proud to show off”. 

The 14,000 sqft space currently has a seating capacity of 200 and its soft opening was on Sept 22, said Seetoh on his Instagram

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