'It's not the same at Jalan Besar anymore': The famous Hainan Chicken Rice Ball has quietly moved to a new location

PHOTO: AsiaOne

For almost 40 years, the famous Hainan Chicken Rice Ball called Shing Boon Hwa Food Centre at Jalan Besar its home. That is, until last month.  

On May 12, the chicken rice specialist quietly opened at Maddox Canteen Bar — which is located in Bukit Merah — days after shuttering their decades-old stall on May 8. 

But why the move, especially since its location at Jalan Besar was pretty much synonymous with its brand?

Danny Tan, 46, the owner of the stall, told AsiaOne that after Covid-19 hit, things took a turn for the worst. 

"Somehow, it is not the same at Jalan Besar anymore, the crowd at Jalan Besar has changed since the pandemic," Danny shared.  

"Veteran hawkers like me depend on footfall and I feel that Covid has changed customer behaviour and they would prefer the convenience of delivery apps versus buying directly from the stalls." 

Due to this, Danny even had to dig deep into his own pockets to keep Hainan Chicken Rice Ball afloat. 

"Despite the slow business, I have remained committed to carrying on, despite making a loss, with my own savings. And, I tell you, it is not an easy decision after spending an entire life as a hawker," he said bluntly. 

So, when he was approached by Maddox Canteen Bar's operator, Danny jumped at the opportunity to make the move.

Freshly prepared chicken before the lunch crowd comes in. PHOTO: AsiaOne/Melissa Teo 

However, while the move was necessary, he and his business partner, Ba Chin Fong, 62, the grand-nephew of Hainan Chicken Rice Ball's founder, admitted that it was hard on them. 

"It wasn't an easy decision to move, especially when we've gained loyalty from regular customers throughout almost 40 years of operations around Jalan Besar," said Chin Fong, who is also fondly known to regulars as Uncle Ba. 

Despite that, it seems like they've made the right decision — Danny shared that business has been "not too bad for now", especially since some of his regulars have made an effort to visit and support him. 

He's also thankful for food influencers who have been encouraging their followers to support him.

Articles by food bloggers line the walls of the storefront. PHOTO: AsiaOne/Melissa Teo

"I am not a big business with a huge amount of money to spend, so I am happy if they are willing to help me out to expand my business," he said.

For the uninitiated, Hainan Chicken Rice Ball specialises in, well, Hainanese chicken rice balls, a traditional dish that is more commonly found in Malacca.

Hainan Chicken Rice Ball boasts a 105-year-old recipe, and is also one of the few places in Singapore to sell the dish. 

ALSO READ: 'It pains me to charge a higher price': Hawkers tell us how they're coping with the chicken export halt

Address: 1002 Jalan Bukit Merah, #01-3752, Singapore 159456

melissateo@asiaone.com