Economic rice, economy rice, mixed vegetable rice, or otherwise better known locally as cai png (Hokkien: vegetable rice; literally).
Is the backbone of most Singaporeans’ diets.
Consisting of rice and a selection of dishes that are prepared and ready to go at a moment’s notice.
It’s a meal which can be found in almost every hawker centre and food court.
Best of all, there’s always a huge variety of ingredients to choose from.
Which means that you can mix it up and try something new every time your order cai png.
Whether it’s 1 meat 2 veggies or 2 meat 2 veggies, the permutations are endless.
Although it’s a relatively affordable option, there are always ways to make your economic rice order even more economical.
Or at least more worth your money.
Lai (Chinese: come)…
Let me show you the ways of the cai png.
TL;DR: How to Maximise Your Cai Png Order Like a Pro!
Don’t be a cai png noob.
Here are some tips to order economic rice like a pro:
- Order the most expensive dish first
- Keep pointing at the dish and don’t rush your order
- Ask for “a little more rice” instead of “add more rice”
- Order dishes that are next to each other
- Look for dishes that are running out
- Order dishes that are less quantifiable
But seriously, these tips may or may not work.
Although it doesn’t hurt to try them out anyways…
You could also try being nice, remember to greet, and always smile at the economic rice auntie or uncle when ordering.
If they like or recognise you, who’s to say that you won’t get an extra piece of sweet and sour pork?
Note: we conducted this test waaaay before the whole COVID-19 situation hit us.
If you’d like to support your local hawker or kopitiam while staying home, you can also do so through these hawker food delivery options and promos!
Life Hacks to Maximise Your Economic Rice (Cai Png) Order
To get the most out of your money, here are some tips and tricks when it comes to ordering cai png.
In order to verify that these hacks really work, we tested each hack separately by getting the Seedly team to order the same ingredients from the same economic rice stall on different days.
If you’re curious as to what we ordered for hacks which needed us to order the same thing, it was:
- White rice with curry gravy
- Ginger soy steamed fish fillet
- Egg Tofu
- Stir-fried kai lan
1. Always Order the Most Expensive Dish First
While waiting in line for your turn, you should already have an idea of what you’d like to order.
When it’s finally your turn to rattle off your order to the economic rice stall auntie, make sure you give it to her in this order:
- Seafood or fish (most expensive)
- Vegetables (least expensive)
By ordering the most expensive dish first, you’re giving the economic rice stall auntie a positive impression that you’re a baller who’s willing to spend.
The stall owner, in turn, will be more than happy to give you more ingredients than usual, thinking that you are a big spender.
Protip: ask the stall owner to drizzle gravy or curry on your rice BEFORE they pile your ingredients on. That way, you’ll get a more evenly sauce drenched rice.
Does This Work?
We tried this hack on Day One.
I received a medium-sized slice of fish as compared to Rachel‘s.
Meanwhile the editor, Ken, received the largest slice of fish.
He also got more vegetables and tofu than any of us did…
2. Keep Pointing at the Dish and Do Not Rush Your Order
The point here is simple.
By not rushing your order when moving from one dish to another, the stall owner will not feel pressured to move quickly.
This way he or she will have adequate time to give you a proper serving of the dish of your choice.
If you’re constantly pointing at the dish, it might also subconsciously prompt the stall owner to keep scooping (read: more food!).
Does This Work?
We tried this on Day Two.
The auntie thought I wanted double portions of tofu when I lingered so I got charged more…
Rachel received what looked like the standard amount.
While Ken, again, received a heaping serving of tofu.
With EXTRA tofu sauce some more…
3. The Difference Between “More” and “Add”
If you want more rice, always say “a little more rice” instead of “add rice”.
The word ” add” suggests an extra full scoop of rice which comes at an additional cost.
By phrasing your order a little differently, you may find yourself getting an extra half scoop of rice for free.
Does This Work?
Ken and Rachel both received almost an extra half a bowl of rice.
Meanwhile, I received almost a whole extra bowl of rice and this comment, “Boy, you need to eat more rice.”
4. Order Dishes That Are Next to Each Other
If you aren’t fussy and are fine with any dish as long as it fills your stomach, try this approach.
By ordering dishes that are next to each other (or at least close to each other), it makes things easier for the stall owner.
If you make it extra convenient so the server doesn’t have to walk from one end to another.
Or have to stretch out to scoop another dish for you, they’ll be more likely to give you a proper serving of the dishes you ordered
Does This Work?
Rachel was happy as she received 2 generous portions of vegetables because her choices were right next to each other.
Ken had his box piled sky-high with meat and vegetables (I’m starting to see a pattern here…).
Meanwhile, I just got standard-sized portions of whatever I chose.
5. Look for Dishes That Are Running Out
If you come across dishes that barely make up a portion, chances are, the stall owner will empty all of it if you choose it.
And if you’re lucky, he or she might even top it up with something else.
A small problem with doing this is that the last portion is usually where most of the oil, drippings, and salt in a dish can be found.
But if you’re aren’t picky, then go for it!
Does This Work?
This was Day Five of the challenge and Rachel has sworn off economic rice for at least two months.
Ken ordered the last bit of sweet and sour pork and the economic rice stall auntie even gave him a small piece of pork cutlet to make up for the “lacking” portion.
I ordered the last bit of beansprouts and was not given anything else to make up the meagre portion…
Although the auntie did ask me if I wanted a bit more rice again because I must’ve looked like I’ve been starved for months.
6. Order Dishes That Are Less Quantifiable
If you have to choose between a dish like Gong Bao Chicken Cubes or Fried Chicken Cutlet.
Pick something which the stall owner cannot count easily.
For something like Gong Bao Chicken Cubes or Sweet and Sour Pork Cubes, the stall owner would need to use a scoop to give you a portion.
So if he or she is feeling generous, you might get a bigger portion than usual.
But when it comes to something like Fried Chicken Cutlet, it comes in large pieces that are usually pre-cut.
So there’s usually no way they’ll be giving you more than one piece if that’s the standard portion.
Does This Work?
It was Day Six of the challenge and it was down to Ken and me.
I ordered Gong Bao Chicken Cubes and got a standard portion.
Whereas Ken ordered a Fried Pork Cutlet.
But it was a damn HUGE piece, please.
(Editor’s note: don’t jealous leh…)
The auntie didn’t even bother cutting it into two standard portions and just gave him the whole damned thing?!
HOW CAN DIS BE ALLOW…
So… Do These Cai Png Hacks Really Work?
As our little experiment has shown.
Some of these economic rice hacks do work.
Well… kind of.
But the surest thing is this: if the economic rice auntie likes you for some reason, you’ll always get more than what you ordered.
Or just get Ken to order for you next time.
Confirm enough for lunch and dinner.