Cai png or economic mixed rice is a common meal in local markets and coffee shops. Some get more attention for the quality and taste, others get attention for overcharging.
So what’s cai png (pronounced Chai Peng for Anglophiles)?
It’s a meal (excluding drinks) that comes with porridge or rice (either brown or white rice, subject to availability) and a selection of either pork, chicken, fish and vegetables. All the dishes are laid out in front of you and you basically point to the dish you want. The sequence starts like this.
At the start of queue, you inform the human server whether do you want it to go. If you wanted the meal to go, he (nearly always a he) will pick up a takeaway styrofoam box or else a plate, then scoops rice onto it (White rice is default unless you want porridge). Next you point at the dishes you want and it gets added to the plate or takeaway box.
Once you are done, the server will usually ask if you want curry or braised pork sauce to drench your selection. (you don’t get to have these two to come as separate sides)
It’s well known that cai png or economic mixed rice is a dynamically priced meal. To me, it’s a dynamically priced meal in more ways than just price.
1. Your amount of food piled on your plate could very well be controlled by a foreign manufacturer. For example, the ladle or extra large spoon used by the human server to courier the selected dish to your plate. Its scooping capacity is determined at the time of manufacturing. What I’ve observed over the years, human servers will pick up one scoop and it goes straight to the plate. If the scoop is of a slightly smaller size, guess what you will receive?
And the passivity of locals in challenging the human server for more serving only serves to embolden certain human servers to disburse what’s “fair”.
2. Once you get to the cash register (there’s always a cash register), the cashier is always there to price your meal. (Independent valuation, some say 🙄) Some cai png shops may have different pricing practice, where the cashier would ask the human server for the meal pricing instead.
So what can you do if you feel you have been overcharged? Here are my recommendations.
1. Ask how the meats/veg get added up to the meal price. Some times the human server will come back and say he had miscalculated.
2. Listen intently for each announced meat/veg price, ask if any of the quoted prices are off. (again, most people would shy away from asking, “so not to create a scene”. I wouldn’t mind holding up the cai png line quite frankly.)
3. Get the cashier to remove the more expensive meat selection off your plate. (Some patrons think this is quite awkward. I think you’ve just got to stick to your meal budget.)
4. I go to tasty and value-for-money cai png shops.
This is my favourite. Beware, the line is long during lunch time.
Long Ji Cooked Food
14 Haig Road, Haig Road Market and Food Centre
#01-66 Singapore 430014