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'I know what it feels like to be poor': Couple running old-school bakery at Upper Paya Lebar continues to sell buns priced from $1.30

'I know what it feels like to be poor': Couple running old-school bakery at Upper Paya Lebar continues to sell buns priced from $1.30
Husband-and-wife team Tan Li Hin (left) and Candy Ng (right) have operated Big Bakery for more than 30 years.
PHOTO: Shin Min Daily News

Concerned for blue-collar workers who patronise their shop, this couple who run a bakery in an Upper Paya Lebar industrial estate has continued to keep their prices low, selling buns and cakes from just $1.30.

Big Bakery, run by a husband-and-wife team, Tan Li Hin, 63, and Candy Ng, 57, has been in business for more than 30 years, reported Shin Min Daily News.

Besides old-school buns, the bakery offers a vast assortment of items, ranging from chiffon cakes, sugar rolls, a variety of tarts, cookies, as well as their signature crumble pies filled with fruit.

Their apple crumble pies are among the best selling, with one slice going for $2.80 and a whole pie at $27.

Other items, however, are priced more economically, starting from $1.30. These include buns with toppings or fillings such as cheese, curry, ham and sausages. For $1.50 one can get buns stuffed with char siew and tuna.

The couple shared that many of their customers are workers from the nearby factories who come to grab a bite just before daybreak.

"I know what it feels like to be poor as I was too, when I was young," Li Hin shared. "I will try to keep prices low for as long as I can."

According to 8days, both Li Hin and Candy are trained bakers. The former had learned the ropes early on in Taiwan, and had also apprenticed with a Hong Kong pastry chef who taught him how to make the crumble pies. Candy, who moved to Singapore from Malaysia, used to be a dim sum chef at The Westin Singapore hotel.

When interviewed by Shin Min, Candy admitted that higher food costs had driven them to raise prices for some of the items, such as their fruit pies, earlier this year.

"The pies use a lot of fresh fruits such as apples and blueberries, which are imported," said Candy, who added that prices of other essential ingredients such as eggs and flour have also gone up. "We have no choice but to increase our prices."

According to Shin Min, the bakery was buzzing with patrons on the weekend, with one customer even willing to wait for up to 1.5 hours for a pie.

The customer, Chen Huizhen (transliteration), 28, told the Chinese evening daily that the pies were sold out when she arrived at noon. She was told that they would only be ready after 1.5 hours and so she went to have lunch nearby before coming back to collect her order.

Huizhen added that she is "happy to support the business", due to the wide variety of old-school bakes sold as well as the friendliness of the bosses.

A typical day for the couple starts at 4.30am and ends at about 6pm. The bakery, located near Tai Seng MRT, is closed on Sundays.

There's also an interesting story as to how the bakery got its name.

Li Hin told Shin Min that the bakery had started with another partner, who later pulled out.

When they notified the Accounting and Corporate Regulatory Authority (Acra), they were told that they had to have a new name for the business.

The couple, who don't speak English, were stumped. A helpful Acra officer then suggested the auspicious-sounding name, "Big".

"We thought the word was simple and easy to remember, so we went ahead to register the company with the name," said Li Hin.

ALSO READ: Sold out in 2 hours: Toa Payoh baker hopes $1 buns can be reserved for low-income residents

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