Singapore is well-known for it’s melting pot culture with a rich diversity in culture and races. It’s no surprise that we have a great variety of food as well.
In order to taste such delights, perhaps the best (and also most uniquely Singaporean) place to go would be – hawker centres.
The hawker trade is on a league of its own, known for its long working hours in a small constrained stall.
Not many adults are keen to take on the job, let alone youngsters, with the tough working environment and hard work involved.
As we all know, the hawker trade is dying out gradually – the older generations are unable to work for such long hours, and the younger generation do not want to take over the business.
Thankfully, there are still millennials who are not afraid to get their hands dirty and want to make an impact by keeping our hawker culture alive for future generations.
Siblings Kenny Ngoo and Naomi Ngoo, 24 and 31 respectively, are such examples. They are the proud owners of SALT located at Old Airport Food Centre.
They chose to pursue their dreams of being their own bosses and have a fiery passion for food.
Changes For The Better
With all start up businesses, it was a struggle to get things going and to make their business sustainable.
Previously named as MOMO Chicken, Naomi and her ex business partner started their own hawker stall in 2014.
The venture was a risk and with different directions on how should the business should run, her business partner pulled out.
Unfazed, Naomi enlisted the help of her brother Kenny once he had completed his National Service. The sibling duo work well with each other and continue to bring flavourful and innovative creations to the table.
With the start of 2018, the duo decided to rebrand to SALT, and focus on being a family run business instead.
12 Hour Shifts, 6 Days A Week
Committing to 12 hours shifts and working 6 days a week is no easy feat. Preparations usually start the night before to ensure that all the ingredients prepared and ready for operations the next day.
Other constant preparations are also done to ensure that all ingredients are fresh.
One may wonder, how do they manage to pull through such tough working environment and long working hours?
Naomi and Kenny replied:
“Passion and the drive to come up with innovative, quality dishes available for the average Singaporeans.”
The duo have been working relentlessly towards their dream of being their own bosses. They crave for the freedom and unlimited possibilities it comes with.
Being your own boss comes with benefits – you can enjoy a long holiday without worrying about annual leaves or coming up with new and creative food items without anybody holding you back. The sky is the limit.
With that in mind, the duo admitted that you also have to be disciplined enough to stick to a routine and expect a rocky road ahead with little financial stability.
Naomi, who has a degree in hospitality also received comments such as”Wah, you’re a degree holder. Why downgrade yourself to be a hawker?”
Even so, she does not let these setbacks deter her.
SALT’s Main Dish
SALT’s main source of protein is chicken.
When I ask the duo why they chose chicken, they say that it’s because “chicken is an all rounder protein where anyone and everyone can eat.”
SALT also has a “no pork, no lard” policy, and prides itself on not having any artificial ingredients used.
On top of that, SALT uses only fresh chicken wings and premium ingredients such as Sarawak Peppers and Extra Virgin Olive Oil for their food – giving your tastebuds a treat.
Food From The Heart
Having special requests or customised pastas for customers can be done at SALT as they believe in giving their customers the best. You can request for healthier options such as having less salt as well.
Both of them share the rationale behind this.
“No customer deserves to have bad service. You’ll always enjoy food more with better service.”
Naomi has a 10 year background in hospitality but experienced a ‘culture shock’ when she first joined the hawker trade. While the environment of a hawker centre may differ from a restaurant, she believes that customers still deserve quality food and service.
“Everyone was so rude. Most hawkers are like, ‘Want to eat, eat. Mai jiak, sua’ “(If you want to eat my food, go ahead. If not, go away.)
Both Naomi & Kenny believe in providing affordable, delicious food without compromising on the quality and service.
Although the siblings do not draw a fixed salary and still face negative stereotypical remarks of working at a hawker centre, both Naomi & Kenny are undeterred and believes in leaving a legacy for themselves and the future generation.
I ask if they have any words of advice for younger aspiring hawkers, to which they reply:
“Never lose focus and always keep the bigger picture in mind. You may be faced with even more tougher times but don’t lose the vision and the end goal.”
The duo’s journey thus far has only been made possible because they are passionate about the food and quality instead of the profits. So why not pop by and have a taste of their food for yourself?