'Hidden gem' dim sum stall reopens in Bukit Batok, chef-owner keeps prices low so families can afford to eat

'Hidden gem' dim sum stall reopens in Bukit Batok, chef-owner keeps prices low so families can afford to eat
PHOTO: Facebook/Joanne Lim

He had closed his dim sum stall in 2022 because of poor health, but found himself back in business barely a year later — thanks in part to the persistence of his former customers.

Owner Huang Hanying (transliteration), 67, had relocated to Singapore with his wife close to 40 years ago and helmed the kitchen at Cantonese restaurant Asia Grand for many years, Shin Min Daily News reported.

He later left the restaurant to open his own dim sum stall, Ji Tuo Hong Kong Style Dim Sum.

However in 2022, due to a heart problem and burgeoning rent, Hanying decided to call it a day, shuttering the stall for good — or so he thought.

In a Facebook post on May 16, 2022, they announced that the stall at Block 323 Bukit Batok Street 33 would be closing, but attributed it to "high inflation".

During the break of about six months, Huang was hospitalised for more than 10 days and currently still requires frequent checkups for his heart condition, reported Shin Min.

So what made Hanying decide to reopen for business?

He sheepishly told the Chinese evening daily that it was due to the constant cajoling by his regular customers, and also because he had managed to find a new location with affordable rent.

"Many of my regular customers kept calling me and asking me to reopen. Later on I found a space where the rent was low so I decided to start," said Hanying.

Despite rising costs, Hanying shared that he made the decision to maintain the price of his dim sum dishes, with several items such as char siew bao and siew mai priced at $2.50 for three pieces. The same price also gets you a large bowl of their century egg and lean pork congee.

He also shared that as their two children have all grown up with their own families, he's happy to make just enough to sustain the business.

"Prices of goods are very high these days and it's expensive to eat out now. We didn't raise our prices because we hope customers can bring their whole family here to eat and do so happily. That's what gives us the most satisfaction," added Hanying's wife, who helps out at the stall.

Worry over disappointing customers

In order to keep their costs low, the couple run the stall by themselves, relying on a part-time assistant only during busy weekends.

They head to the stall, located within an industrial estate in Bukit Batok, at around 5am every morning and close by about 3pm or 4pm. Thereafter, they continue to prepare ingredients for the next day, making every item by hand.

Hanying told Shin Min that business has been brisk, especially after the stall received some exposure on social media, following which one customer ordered 10 baskets of dim sum for take away.

What would ordinarily be a happy event left him with mixed emotions, however, as he became concerned about disappointing other customers if everyone did the same.

Shin Min reported that he had even requested for the reporter not to publish the address of his stall because of his worry about not being able to meet the demand for his dim sum.

Hanying's wife explained: "His heart is not in a good condition, and when there are too many customers, he gets anxious that there won't be enough food for them. I'm also worried that increasing production would also be detrimental to his health."

'Value for money'

But it seems customers have caught wind of the stall's reputation for selling delicious yet affordable dim sum, with some patrons willing to travel all the way from the East, Shin Min reported.

Said one regular customer interviewed by the Chinese evening daily: "For the price it's very good dim sum. It's value for money."

On Google, customers have also raved about discovering this "hidden gem". 

"So happy to find the new location of this best coffeeshop dim sum in Singapore, same taste, same price... still the best!" wrote one effusive supporter, adding: "Some of their dim sum tastes even better than at a restaurant, at half the price!"

The downside, of course, is that a long wait may be expected, with some reviews stating that the dim sum is "not worth" the travel and time.

Perhaps contributing to their desire to stay hidden is the fact that the stall's business page on Facebook is still marked as 'permanently closed' with no change of address. Only one post this year announced that they would be closed for a day because of an annual building power shutdown.

ALSO READ: With no successor, 42-year-old dim sum shop in Bedok set to close end March


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