Lessons from the prata man

It was a dripping wet morning when we tried to look for this place. When we finally got there, I could not find a place to park nearby. After going around a few times, I decided to leave as my food-tasting accomplice had to go to work and risked being late. So we left — a case of so near and yet so far. Today was when I realised that Singaporeans REALLY love their food if they can get out of bed on a cold wet Saturday morning to eat out instead of eating at home. Many have nothing at home to eat — such is life here, where good food at affordable prices can be found not far away.

We returned again the next day, it was less wet and less crowded. I found out later that most of the lunch crowd had already left. It was not even 1p.m. yet. In fact both the stalls we patronised had already sold out on their key items. The nasi lemak stall had sold out on their nasi lemak. They only had white rice left. The prata stall had also sold out their pratas. They were into their second batch of pratas and had to make some more fish curry.

I had looked up this place to try their pratas. They were slightly crispy (I like my pratas crispy) and not oily even though they had been fried in oil. I have eaten crispier prata elsewhere and frankly, couldn’t really tell the difference between this prata and some of the other crispy pratas sold elsewhere. The fish curry was made from sardines but I was surprised that I couldn’t really taste the canned sardine smell which I don’t really like, in it. We actually tried the nasi lemak first (from the stall next to the prata stall) and that was when we realised the rice had no lemak in it. It was just plain rice. The beef rendang, peanuts and anchovies were good. I do not usually eat brinjal but they did not have any other vegetables and claimed that their brinjals were nice. I decided to have them. It was soft and tasty. I still don’t like the soft texture of brinjal but at least it was not mushy soft.

As the lady who served us our prata was going about serving and clearing plates, I decided to strike up a conversation with her. That was when I realised that this prata stall IS different. The man and his wife (the lady was his wife) both run the stall with the help of a helper. The man does the actual kneading of the dough and cooking. The wife serves and collects the money. She also clears the plates. They have been at this outlet for five years and the man has been making prata for 30 years! They are both rather polite folks, unlike the many other prata stalls that I’ve been to where the person serving barely speaks English and one wonders whether the order has even been recorded correctly in the first place. When I told her this was my second attempt at coming, she thanked me for the support! The prata may not be crispier but the service was certainly better.

Then I had a lesson in life from the prata man. He only makes and sells prata. And he only makes them in three versions — kosong, egg and bawang(with onions). He doesn’t make thosai, murtabak or other pratas with fancy toppings like chocolate or strawberries, or innings like cheese, banana, mushrooms, etc. He doesn’t do tissue or boms either. He only makes good ole prata!

A dear friend of mine once told me that in the US, they learn a skill, become good at it and then use that skill to make a living. That was how she had grown up and how she made her living. Here was the prata man, perfecting his art of prata-making for 30 years and using that skill to feed many and making a living out of it. There were no credentials or paper accolades. His stall was very basic with only the main ingredients. His publicity were the queues of people buying his prata for the past five years and counting, and sharing their experience via word-of-mouth. Here was a lesson in hard work, doggedness and consistency, from a simple man. Thank you.

Oh, and before I forget, the tea from the coffeeshop was not very good. One could hardly taste the tea in it. And no, it’s not from the prata stall.

Mr Mohgan’s Prata Stall, Poh Ho Restaurant, 7 Crane Road, Singapore. The nasi lemak stall is just next to the prata stall. They sell out by about lunch. There is also a Chinese noodle stall here that looked good and value for money but it was not open. I’ll visit them another time.

Nasi lemak. The rendang was good, as was the sweet sambal.

Closer shot of the rendang and peanuts and anchovies.

Prata dough before it is kneaded flat and fried.

One prata kosong and one with egg, with curry on the side.

Two prata kosong.

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