Amid the onslaught of rising prices, people in Butterworth, Penang, seek comfort at a lok lok – or skewered food – stall that will not bust their wallets.
This stall is known simply as the “30 sen lok lok” because the hawker has kept to this price since he set up shop in 1983. Pupils from Kwong Hwa Primary School on Jalan Raja Uda would all know hawker Lee Koon Huat because he has been selling his skewered goodies outside their school for 33 years.
“Before, I had 20sen sticks too but they have all been 30sen since 1994,” says Lim. Other lok lok hawkers charge at least 50sen per stick.
Lee offers all the usual lok lok fare except for more expensive seafood such as prawn and squid. But regulars know he has a stash of mantis prawns that he keeps for those in the know.
The 67-year-old hawker says he can afford not to raise his prices because he is not looking to make a huge profit as all his four children are grown up and independent. They want him to retire and enjoy his golden years, but Lee would rather wheel his pushcart from his home nearby and set up stall every afternoon.
He opens at 2pm and usually sells out in about two hours. Customers appreciate Lee maintaining his price at 30sen at a time when price hikes are so rampant. They come non-stop, snapping everything up in no time.
Although business is good, Lee does not increase the amount he sells.
“We are doing this to pass our days. My wife still makes the chili sauce at home. When we feel tired, we just won’t open for business that day,” says the affable Lee, whom everyone calls uncle. Even though he has many customers, he is good at remembering their faces.
“It’s nice to eat here because we can eat without worrying that it’ll cost a lot. I have been eating this uncle’s lok lok since I was in primary school. His son was my classmate. It may be cheap, but it’s tasty,” says regular Jonas Hong, 40, who was enjoying his lok lok with his wife and son.