Singapore’s hawker culture is officially on the Unesco Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity, so its craft should be preserved and protected. In a bid to preserve his legacy, this hawker is looking for a successor to pass down his 80-year-old brand and recipe – and he feels it’s worth the hefty price tag of a million dollars.
Frequent diners of the bustling Maxwell Food Centre may have chanced upon the famous ngoh hiang from China Street Fritters. The stall is helmed by 64-year-old Huang Guo Hua, who inherited the business from his father some 20 years ago.
With the help of his wife and brothers, Huang has tirelessly churned out plates of freshly fried traditional ngoh hiang fritters for years. However, everyone needs to retire someday, and Huang hopes to be able to hang up his apron by March 2022, he told Shin Min Daily News.
While fans of the traditional dish may be devastated by the news, there may be some hope for the business to remain alive — but at a rather costly price. A hefty one million dollars, to be exact.
Yes, that is the amount that the family hopes to sell their secret recipe and China Street Fritters brand for. While a million dollars may seem steep, Huang firmly believes that the price is justified.
“Over the years, we have accumulated a large number of regular customers. If the successor maintains the same standard of food, I believe that he can make up the cost in three years.”
He also feels that if the new successor considers expanding the business, it will definitely do well.
According to Huang, he’s retiring as the journey of a hawker hasn’t been an easy one for himself and his family, and the nature of the job has taken a toll on their health.
“We work about 10 hours every day, with almost no rest days in a year. It’s very taxing on the body. Now that we’re old, we aren’t as strong physically. We can’t work even if we want to,” he lamented to the Chinese daily.
Unfortunately, none of his three children plan to take over the business either as they have no interest in joining the hawker scene.
He has also attempted to ask his younger family members to consider the role, but none of them seem keen on the idea either, Huang said.
“We can’t force the younger generation to take over, so we hope to find someone who is really interested to do so.”
When it comes to choosing the right candidate, there are a few qualities that Huang is looking out for.
The most important thing to him is finding a young and passionate candidate to inherit and grow the brand.
“He must have a passion for the industry and not just spend the money (to buy the recipe), only to hand it over to workers who will do the job for him.”
This isn’t the first time that a hawker has sold their recipe for a hefty amount. The owners of 50-year-old Joo Chiat Hokkien Mee managed to sell their store, as well as their mee sua, char kway teow and Hokkien mee recipes for a total of $20,000 to a new owner who took over in August last year.
This is significantly lower than their initial asking price of $50,000, but due to the poor economic situation and the pandemic, they reportedly settled for less.
Conglomerate Aztech Group also famously bought Kay Lee Roast Meat Joint’s recipe and premises for $4 million in 2014.
Text: Melissa Teo/AsiaOne