facebookThink Ma La Is Expensive AF? Hacks To Maximising Your Ma La Xiang Guo Order



How to maximise your ma la xiang guo order

Think Ma La Is Expensive AF? Hacks To Maximising Your Ma La Xiang Guo Order

profileMing Feng


I arrived at my destination and waited anxiously for my turn.

I have done this numerous times, but the anxiety just won’t go away.

This “nose to nose” confrontation with the enemy’s rigged (I suspect) weighing scale and ever-changing pricelist is the ultimate test of nerve and skill.

As always, this scenario is loaded with uncertainties.

Eyes gazed on the weighing scale, my palms are sweaty, knees weak, arms are heavy. I’m nervous, but on the surface, I look calm and ready. I took out my wallet.

Pictured above: don’t let all that green fool you, there’s nothing healthy about this

Ah Boy! Your Ma La Xiang Guo is $11.20!” 

My heart sank.

I blew my daily meal budget on ONE Ma La Xiang Guo meal… again!

Hacks To Maximise Your Ma La Xiang Guo Order

Ma La Xiang Guo can be really expensive.

In fact, it has moved up the league to become one of the high SES food which you can enjoy at the food court or kopitiam – joining the ranks of economic rice (cai png) with fish.

However, this does little to deter my addiction.

In fact, it has spurred me on to uncover as many hacks as I can find with regard to what’re the most cost-effective ways to order Ma La Xiang Guo.

After ordering and having what seemed like a neverending amount of Ma La Xiang Guo – all done in the name of science and research of course.

I present to you: hacks to save money on your Ma La Xiang Guo order!

Bring Your Own Rice From Home

Ma La Xiang Guo stalls tend to overcharge for rice.

The craziest I have seen ranges from $0.50 to $1 for one bowl of rice.

Save that money and bring your own rice from home if you’re planning to get some Ma La Xiang Guo for lunch!

Instant Noodles Below, Wet Food On Top

If you are looking to order Instant or Maggie noodles with your Ma La Xiang Guo… use it to your advantage!

Place the noodles below, and food with moisture such as meat or seafood on top of it when selecting your dish. This way, it allows the noodles to absorb a little bit of the water content.

Given that the vendors usually charge the noodles as a “per item” selection and then weigh the meat to decide the cost, this method might help you shave off a few cents from your total bill.

Always Take Note Of The Price Before Picking Anything

It’s really simple. By being more aware of the prices of the ingredients can prevent you from over-ordering.

This might sound like common sense, but when you’re hungry and everything looks good, you’ll tend to throw all reason out.

Ask For Free Peanuts And Coriander

This varies from stall to stall.

There are some stalls that do not charge for additional peanuts and coriander (aka xiang cai). If that’s the case, go on and ask for more!

Only Choose One Type Of Bean Curd Skin

If bean curd skin is your must-have for every Ma La Xiang Guo meal, do take note!

You will be presented with various forms of bean curd skin at the Ma La stall, some of the more common forms include bean curd sheets, dried bean curd sticks, and bean curd sheets. On top of that, frozen and fresh tofu, as well as taupok, are actually all very similar.

So don’t go crazy and choose the same stuff, albeit in different forms, and pay more for the same taste… Just choose one!

Always Use Your Kopitiam Card

We are starting to see Ma La Xiang Guo popping up at almost all corners of Singapore. If your favourite stall turns out to be at a Kopitiam outlet, remember to get the Kopitiam card to shave 10% off your purchases.

Take Note Of The Amount Of Fat When Picking Meat

We know that fat shrinks or ‘disappears’ under high heat.

And guess what? The vendors know this too.

In fact, some of them specifically offer meats that are high in fat because they are cheaper.

The fat will still add weight to the overall cost of your Ma La meal, but actually doesn’t cost as much as actual meat will do. Worse, it’ll shrink drastically after your Ma La Xiang Guo is stirred fried to lip-smacking perfection.

So if you notice that most of the meats have a high-fat content, consider substitutes such as meatballs or luncheon meat for a more filling meal at a lower cost.

How Is My Ma La Xiang Guo Order Priced?

Source: kopifolks.com

Unlike your usual chicken rice or laksa order, Ma La Xiang Guo does not come with a fixed price. The amount you pay depends on the type of ingredients you pick or how heavy the various ingredients are.

There are two ways which a Ma La Xiang Guo stall will charge you:

  • Price by weight where a fixed price rate is given to each 100g of each ingredient.
  • A fixed price for each portion of the ingredients.
    (The Ma La Xiang Guo stall would have prepared some of the ingredients in fixed portions)

No matter what the pricing method may be, it is important to check the pricing!

As a general guideline: seafood is usually the most expensive, followed by meat, whereas vegetables are usually the cheapest.

In Order Of PriceTypes Of Ingredient
Most ExpensiveSeafood

Why Is Ma La Xiang Guo So Expensive?

Source: shout.sg

Ma La Xiang Guo, like our Zi Char dishes, is process intensive. As different ingredients have different cooking time, the chef needs to know the ingredients well.

For ingredients that require a longer time to cook, cooking them in boiling water is necessary. Such ingredients include eggplant, potato, lotus root, instant and potato noodles.

There are also ingredients which generally require less cooking time such as luncheon meat, cucumber, and tomatoes.

Stir-frying the ingredients over high heat (read: you’ll need to work with hot oil), and seasoning it according to the level of spiciness which a customer ordered, takes skill.

Oh yeah, if you’ve never had Ma La Xiang Guo, you can usually choose from four different levels of spiciness:

Level Of SpicinessWhat To Tell The Ma La Xiang Guo Stall
Minimum SpicyWei La
Less SpicyXiao La
Medium SpicyZhong La
Maximum SpicyDa La

Lastly, the reason why Ma La Xiang Guo is so expensive is due to… Hype.


Ma La Xiang Guo is one of the most hyped about food in Singapore today.

Remember bubble tea, truffle fries, and mookata?

So is it any surprise that it’s going to cost you to indulge in it?

How To Cook Ma La Xiang Guo At Home?

If you are craving for Ma La Xiang Guo after reading this, you might want to check out our Compilation of The Best Ma La Xiang Guo in Singapore.

But if your bank account doesn’t allow you to indulge, you can actually prepare your very own Ma La Xiang Guo at home. It’ll probably be more economical (and healthier since you can control how much salt and oil goes into it) anyway.

Ma La ProductPrice on FairpricePrice on redmart
Hai Di Lao Basic Stir Fry Sauce - Spicy Ma La Xiang Guo$3.95
(2 x 110g)
Ba Shu Self Heating Ma La Hot Pot$7.95-
Hand In Hand Seasoning Paste - Spicy Ma La Hotpot$3.60
(2 x 200g)
Chuan Wei Wang Hot And Spicy Stir-Fry Mala Pot-$2.95

Choose between the self-heating pot or invest a little bit of effort to stir fry your own Ma La at home.

If all else fails, there are always Ma La flavoured snacks to satisfy your cravings.

Here are some of my personal favourites recommendations:

Ma La ProductPrice on FairPricePrice on redmart
Crusty's Salted Eggs Fish Skin$6.80-
London Fat Duck Sichuan Mala Fish Skin-$8.00
Fragrance Salted Egg Fish Skin - Mala-$10.80
Huang Fei Hong Ma La Peanut-$1.80
Guan Yuan Ma La Peanut-$1.12
Tasto Devil Mala Emperor Chilli Potato Chips-$2.50
About Ming Feng
A stint in Bloomberg gifted me with a beer belly, which only grew larger when I moved on to become a Professional Trader. Now I turn caffeine into digestible finance-related content.
You can contribute your thoughts like Ming Feng here.

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