A day in the life of a Singapore hawker

A day in the life of a Singapore hawker
Ms Kelly Wong, 27, who set up Wong Kee Wanton Noodles in 2013, gets about 200 customers every day at her stall at Timbre+ hawker centre in Ayer Rajah Crescent.
PHOTO: The Straits Times

After three years in the banking industry, Ms Kelly Wong decided to start learning how to make wonton noodles from her father around 2013, despite "knowing nuts" about the trade when she first started.

"I've been eating these noodles since I was young. We've got a very good product and it will be a waste if I don't learn, and take over from him," said the 27-year-old.

Her father, now 65, specialises in Cantonese dishes and has worked in the food and beverage industry since he was eight, cooking for canteen stalls and fine-dining restaurants.

He also runs a small business that manufactures and supplies noodles, including spinach and tomato noodles that she also uses in her dishes.

She did not just want to supply noodles, but wanted to also be able to cook them herself.

This is Kelly Wong @wongkeewantonnoodle and she sells wanton #noodles. Previously, she worked as a service banker, but her #passion for noodles has slowly developed since she was young. She has a huge change in #lifestyle now having to start her day at 4

This is Kelly Wong @wongkeewantonnoodle and she sells wanton #noodles. Previously, she worked as a service banker, but her #passion for noodles has slowly developed since she was young. She has a huge change in #lifestyle now having to start her day at 4.30am and end work around 8pm. To her, #cooking noodles is an #art - in the way the noodles are presented and its quality. But she faces #challenges such as #difficulties to find manpower, bad working environment, and a lot of hard work behind each and every plate of noodles. Kelly thinks doing something #different is part of shaping the world, especially when she’s doing something that will let people try different kinds or a new type of #food, and also carrying on an old #recipe. Kelly says the only woman she looks up to is her #mum who taught her to rely on herself and never be dependent on anybody else. “We should never differentiate a man and a woman. Whatever a man can achieve, a woman can do it too. You should always try to pursue a dream or a career for yourself. Never take failure as a failure. Failure is just a learning path.” Kelly is part of @ecco_sg #womenshapetheworld series. Watch her video at http://sg.ecco.com/home-bottom-shape-kelly.html Because everybody has a different #story to what is perceived. #raw #whatmakesyou If you have a friend you think is awesome and has a cool experience to share, why not tag us @sphasiaone to let us know and we may feature them.

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"I wanted to understand my product, so that I would know how to deal with problems that my customers may face," said Ms Wong, who does not mind her long 13-hour work days.

For about four years from 2013, she ran a stall at Maxwell Food Centre, but moved to a stall at hip hawker centre Timbre+ when it opened last April, pulling in an average of about 200 customers every day.

Business at the Maxwell stall had been partially affected by ongoing construction work for the Thomson-East Coast MRT Line, and Timbre+ in Ayer Rajah Crescent offered a fresh concept that was more appealing to young patrons.

At Timbre+, stallholders meet regularly with management about once a month to go through suggestions or air concerns that they have about the operations.

Read also: Braised duck stall owner retiring with no successor in sight

Ms Wong also appreciates the automated tray return system and help with cleaning the dishes at the hawker centre.

A challenge young hawkers like her face are tight profit margins, and the need to establish themselves against bigger brands.

She relies on social media for marketing, which Timbre+ also helps with by posting information on its website and social media channels.

"People will always think that older hawkers cook better than the young, because they have years and years of experience. But if you don't give us a chance, you will never be able to taste some dishes again. Such skills are built on experience, and we have to build it up slowly."

Read also: Hard slog must be worth it, say young hawkers


This article was first published on Feb 19, 2017.
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