If failure stops you, then you are not much of an entrepreneur. The hard core ones are not even worried about their skill and knowledge level when they want to make things better for themselves and the world at large. When I first met Ms Raye Tan, I knew she had a lot more than the usual single minded business folks do, she had stubborn gumption and guts. This serial entrepreneur was the first to open a pet café in Singapore in 2001. She then sold it for a tidy sum in 2014, took a break and became stressed and depressed (I sense the entrepreneur itch was too intense). She set up a cookie café but had to close shortly because “the product had limited reach”. Two years ago, she set up her little hawker stall specialising in just 5 items where she “chiong (winged it) with my mother’s recipe”, and she doesn’t even cook then.
But this Hakka lass has “ownership” of this Hakka dish. She knew what good ones were like and went into the kitchen to recreate that sensation. Many commercial yong tau foo today are made with a strange stuffing which is supposed to be fish paste. They feel like it came off a petri dish in a science lab. Raye’s version, is hard core. The amount of effort she puts into hand blending bits of water chestnuts into the minced pork patty shows, when you take that first bite, especially of the stuffed bitter gourd slice. It comes chunky, meaty, soft and like how a good pork patty should be. It is turned into five items- stuffed bittergourd, small and large tau pok, tau kua and bean skin roll. Each piece is a joy to sink your teeth into and it reminds me of how it was back in the “authentic” day before fish paste entered the scene to please non pork lovers. Her soup, which her customers once said “feels very strange” but still came back for more, was because she tells them how it’s made- with lots of soy beans and bones with some basic seasoning. It was rich, flavourful and not out of the normal. Her Hakka noodles, and sometimes she blanches them a little softer than I like, comes with a rough pork mince, plus generous bits of black mushrooms done with rich and savoury seasoning. Blend them, and it all comes together, with the pieces of yong tau foo. Her sets start at $3.50 (3 pieces with Hakka noodles) and $4.50 (6 pieces with noodles). And beware her chilli sauce, it tastes nothing like the commercial same-old-same-old store bought familiar ones you get at most stalls. She blends garlic with chilli (this one rocks) and has an own made brown sauce.
But her little stall operation looks like some “pop-up” set up. You can tell by the simple induction pots and supermarket bought home steamers that warms her minced meat. But I think with the stress of handling a bigger crowd, all that will change, as this serial entrepreneur will bend and twist her way to get things right.
Chong’s Yong Tau Foo
Blk 3, St Georges Lane
Close when she’s tired.