Despite COVID-19 Sitch, Our Fave Ah Beng Opens A Mee Hoon Kueh Stall
"Siao ah? Open a hawker stall now?"
You won't be faulted if that was your first thought, given how badly the food and beverage industry has been hit by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Amid this landscape of restaurant closures and layoffs, opening a hawker stall might not be the wisest move, but Aaron Wong - the host of our video series "Aaron Wong's Stay-Home Survival Cookbook" or, as he refers to himself in the videos, "your friendly neighbourhood Ah Beng" - thinks otherwise.
"One simple fact still remains: people still need to eat! So if you serve humble food to everyday people, you are okay," he says.
"Upmarket restaurants will suffer due to the lack of spending power because of this pandemic and the painful fact that seating capacity is slashed by half due to safe distancing. But this means nothing to a hawker because we sell affordable, everyday food with tons of free seating everywhere!"
Writes the soon-to-be 43-year-old in his latest Facebook post about his new mee hoon kueh stall which officially opens this Saturday (29 Aug; his birthday): "After years of talking, I have decided to put my money where my mouth is and support the hawker culture in Singapore with my first humble little hawker stall. Pandemic or NOT."
And what's so special about the mee hoon kueh that Aaron is offering?
"For a start, we really took the old-school approach. We make our dough by hand right in front of you. Seondly, all the other components in the dish - like meat balls, fish slices and shrimp balls - are each in a class of their own, items you can literally eat on their own," says Aaron.
"In short, as simple as it looks, it’s packed full of love!"
Located at Telok Blangah Crescent Block 11 Market And Food Centre (the hawker centre opposite Safra Mount Faber), the stall is called "Jiak Song" (Hokkien for "eat until shiok") - which kind of gives the finger to the pandemic and is like a clarion call to rally food lovers to just eat and be merry (and maintain social distancing and safety measures, of course).
And true to the MasterChef Singapore finalist's personality, the food is a no-nonsense bowl of local goodness.
"It’s no secret since my Masterchef days that I’m a hawker food kinda guy and lover of all things local," says in his FB post. "No matter how hard I try, I’m just not a fan of fancy pants stuff and in my humble opinion, a good old-school hawker stall beats any atas joint anytime."
But does this mean the commercial photographer is giving up his day job? That's not likely. "I’m still a photographer first and a hawker second," says Aaron.
For now, you'll find Aaron at the stall every day, although that scenario will change once he is able to find a passionate young chef who is keen to explore getting into the hawker business.
"I’m not here to just open one stall but to start a new movement to reinvent the way people look at hawkers. This stall is more of a proof of concept, if you will, and once people see what we are trying to do and wish to join, I will be more than happy to train them and grow together. The main thing is to get young and dynamic people into this extremely doable business. It's doable if done right!" says Aaron.
"So if you are reading this and feel you want to give it a try, CALL ME! I am keen to hire and train!"
Jiak Song Mee Hoon Kway
Address: Telok Blangah Crescent Block 11 Market and Food Centre, #01-108, Singapore 090011
Opening Hours: From 9am on weekdays and from 8am on weekends until the food is sold out
Note from Aaron: "Based on our ‘soft opening’ we usually sell out by 1-ish or earlier on weekends. So come early!"