Entrepreneur

12 Young Hawkerpreneurs Who Are Breathing Life Into Singapore's Hawker Culture Again

What was your dream career growing up?

For many born in the 1990s, it would have been “doctor”, “teacher” and “lawyer” – but now entrepreneurship has become one of the top career aspirations. It’s not a surprising result, as the prevalence of successful entrepreneurs like Mark Zuckerberg, Elon Musk, Jack Ma, and our local “chief gamer” Min-Liang Tan have made entrepreneurship a very attractive career indeed.

Many have taken the leap of faith and gone into F&B, with themed artisan cafes selling popular brunch items like Eggs Benedict, French Toast alongside “artisan” coffee concoctions.

However, there are some taking the road less glamourous as they venture into hawker centres and coffeeshops. Their presence comes as a breath of fresh air to the local hawker scene, which has been facing an “increasingly […] dire future” due to the lack of ownership succession (children taking over their parents’ business). Furthermore, the trade is not fancied one due to its gruelling hours of physical labour without the typical office comforts.

The Singapore Workforce Development Agency (WDA) and the National Environment Agency (NEA) jointly launched the Hawker Master Trainer Pilot Programme to try to combat the problem but the programme met with not-so-encouraging results. Few remain still in operation with ex-apprentices citing that financial constraints and the capital needed to start up being a barrier that couldn’t be overcome.

While the future of the programme and our hawker culture are still hard to determine, we decided to compile a list of young hawkerpreneurs currently doing their bit to make a difference:

1. Crab Meat Wanton Mee 

Image Credit: ieatishootipost.sg
Image Credit: ieatishootipost.sg

[Update: Restaurant is now permanently closed.]

Owner(s): Raymond, 28, who picked up his skills from Youtube videos.

Speciality: Crab meat-filled wantons with meat sourced fresh and daily from Jurong Port

Address: 560 Macpherson Road, Singapore 368233

2. Coffee Break

coffeebreak
Image Credit: TODAY

Owner(s): A trio of siblings who are the 3rd generation running the store (started in 1935 as San Hai Yuan at East Reclamation Road); Jack Sai, 32, and twins Faye and Anna, 29

Speciality: Traditional sock-brewed coffee and toasted kaya toast with a modern twist, for example, Black Sesame Toast and Iced Caramel Latte

Address: Amoy Street Food Centre, 7 Maxwell Road #02-78, Singapore 069111

3. Tom’s Citizoom Mee Pok Tar

Image Credit: hungrygowhere.com
Image Credit: hungrygowhere.com

Owner(s): Tom, 31, who already has 7 years of hawker experience under his belt

Speciality: Fish Chor Mee, a play on the usual Bak Chor Mee which is usually served with pork

Address: Blk 20, Ghim Moh Road #01-11

4. Truly Curry Rice

trulycurry
Image Credit: johorkaki.blogspot.sg

Owner(s): Ex-Forex traders Joel and Deniece, both under 30, and Joshua, Joel’s younger brother. They have since grown from their stall in Telok Blangah Food Centre to Truly Test Kitchen, a coffeeshop with stalls selling different items

Speciality: Hainanese curry rice with homecooked-style side dishes

Address: Truly Test Kitchen,#01-29 Telok Blangah Drive Food Center, 79 Telok Blangah Drive, 100079 [Relocated] 

5. Habib’s Rojak

Image Credit: ieatishootipost.sg
Image Credit: ieatishootipost.sg

Owner(s): Habib Mohamed, 28, a 2nd-generation hawker who took over the stall from his father, who opened the stall in 1988

Speciality: Indian-style rojak, which is painstakingly handmade by Habib from 3am each day

Address: Ayer Rajah Food Centre, Block 503 West Coast Drive, Stall 68

6. Lim Soup “The Art Of Soup”

Image Credit: danielfooddiary.com
Image Credit: danielfooddiary.com

Owner(s): Chong Chee Siang, 30 and ex-banker Eric Lim, 42

Speciality: Old Coconut Chicken Soup. Their soups are prided to contain no MSG or pre-made stocks of any kind

Address: Dong Fong Fatt Coffeeshop, 161 Bukit Merah Central, Singapore 150161

7. Jin Ji Braised Duck

Image Credit: misstamchiak.com
Image Credit: misstamchiak.com

Owner(s): Melvin, a 2nd-generation hawker who took over the business from his father who had been running the stall for over 30 years

Speciality: Duck Rice packed into a bento box, with Japanese Ramen-style runny yolk eggs

Address: Chinatown Complex, Blk 335 Smith Street #02-156, Singapore 050335

8. 545 Whampoa Prawn Noodles

Image Credit: thehoneycombers.com
Image Credit: thehoneycombers.com

Owner(s): Li Ruifang, the 3rd-generation owner who worked in an MNC before taking over the business which started in the 1950s

Speciality: Prawn Mee in soup and dry variations, which Ruifang starts preparation for from 3am

Address: Tekka Food Centre, 665 Buffalo Road, #01-326, Singapore 210665

9. L32 Geylang Handmade Noodles

l32
Image Credit: johorkaki.blogspot.com

Owner(s): Ben and Shirley, a couple in their 30s who took over the stall over 10 years ago from the previous owner, fuelled by Shirley’s love for the noodle dish

Speciality: Ban Mian with an emphasis on the pork used and ikan bilis for the soup base (cooked over 10 hours) and garnish

Address: 558 Geylang Lorong 32, Singapore 389509

10. Xiao Di Fried Hokkien Mee

Image Credit: ieatishootipost.sg
Image Credit: ieatishootipost.sg

Owner(s): Terence Chee, 26, who had over 8 years of experience working at different stalls before venturing out on his own

Speciality: Fried Hokkien Mee. He uses prawns from Thailand, ensures the soup stock is cooked for a minimum of 3 hours and chooses to fry only 6 servings per wok

Address: Blk 153, Serangoon North Ave 1, Singapore 550153

11. Heaven’s Indian Curry

Image Credit: ieatishootopost.sg
Image Credit: ieatishootopost.sg

Owner(s): Suren and Jesse, a couple who quit their comfortable jobs (Suren worked in a bar, Jesse worked in a bank) to start a branch of Suren’s mother’s famous Heaven’s Indian Curry

Speciality: Freshly-made Putu Mayam and Princess Appam, which is a twist on the traditional Appam. It is topped with egg, cheese and butter

Address: The franchise currently has 4 outlets in Ghim Moh Food Centre, Jurong Point, NUH and Changi Airport

12. Penang Kia Prawn Mee

Image Credit: allaboutceil.com
Image Credit: allaboutceil.com

Owner(s): Julyn Teoh, 33 and her boyfriend Gerald Goh, 37, who used to be Singapore Airlines flight attendants. Julyn learnt her skills from her father who used to sell prawn noodles in Penang

Speciality: Penang-style prawn noodles, which soup stock took the couple over 3 months to perfect

Address: Blk 205d, Compassvale Lane #01-02, Singapore 544207

New Hope For Singapore’s Hawker Culture

These young people have followed their passion and chosen the path less travelled by their peers in a bid to preserve the recipes crafted by generations past.

We wish them all the best, and thank them for helping keep Singapore’s beloved hawker culture alive.

If you have any stalls run by young hawkerpreneurs that you’d like to recommend, let us know!

Feature Image Credit: misstamchiak.com, ieatishootipost.sg, makansutra.com, allaboutceil.com, danielfooddiary.com, hungrygowhere.com

 

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