Quite a few of the food stall vendors in SP have been here for decades, so it’s only natural that these folks are practically bubbling over with memories. Three vendors who’ve been here since the 1970s tell us what’s been cooking.
From chicken rice to “I do.”
Little did Mdm Mary Chan, 51, expect that her adult working life and married life would both begin at SP.
Mdm Chan, with her signature plate of chicken rice, which she has been serving to the SP community for over 30 years
In 1972, Mdm Chan’s mother started running a chicken rice stall in the Prince Edward Campus. By the time Mdm Chan was 17, in 1979, she too started to help her mother out at the stall. By then, SP had already moved to Dover.
“Back then, we used to serve the customers. Not like today where it’s self-service,” she says, speaking at the chicken rice stall she now runs in Food Court 6. “There was one particular boy. He would come to the stall nearly every day.
“At that time, to me, he was just one of the many students. Then, one day, he asked me to go out with him and his friends.” Mdm Chan didn’t think too much of it when she said yes. To her, it was just a group of teens hanging out.
Mary and her family (Clockwise from top left: Mary, her mother, father, husband, daughter, son and grandson)
Yet, those meetings became more frequent, and over time, it wasn’t him asking her for a plate of chicken rice or an afternoon out together…
It was for her hand in marriage.
Up to today, those times when her then-boyfriend and now-husband patronised the stall just to see her are still beautiful memories that bring a smile to Mdm Chan’s face.
In the 35 years she has been working at the chicken rice stall, waking up at 4am every day and serving over a hundred plates of chicken rice to famished students, Mdm Chan still remembers that boy she met all those years ago. The boy who became her husband, father to her two children, and today, a grandfather to their little grandson.
And it all started with a plate of chicken rice.
All Juiced Up
好喝的 Hao He De [nice to drink] and 清凉解渴 Qing Liang Jie Ke [refreshing and thirst-quenching] are but two of the quirky fruit juice concoctions Mdm Lee Geok Eng serves daily from her fruit stall.
Mdm Lee at her stall at Foodcourt 5, with two of her juicy concoctions
“Students here are adorable,” Mdm Lee shares, “every year, there’s bound to be a group of students who are more playful and chatty. They are the ones who will suggest all these new names and mixtures for the drinks. Over time, people will start ordering them using these nicknames.”
For the uninitiated, Hao He De is a trio of carrot, red apple and pineapple. As for Qing Liang Jie Ke, it’s made up of star fruit, pineapple, lime, green apple and a dash of salt.
You’re welcome to make it for yourself at home, but only “Aunty Lee” makes the originals, which are much beloved SP favourites, simply perfect for cooling down with and chillaxing on a humid day.
After all, Aunty Lee has had tonnes of practice. She is an SP mainstay who has been here since its early days. Her stall at Food Court 1 was one of the oldest, and she ran it for 38 years before making the move to Food Court 5 while Food Court 1 is being renovated.
So, for, quite literally, a taste of SP’s traditions and heritage, be sure to try out one of Aunty Lee’s fruity elixirs when you get a chance.
We promise it’ll be hao he de and qing liang jie ke to the maximum!
Soup-er Duper Yummy!
Mdm Tan Choi Han has spent nearly her whole life on SP’s grounds. Her father was a technical officer in SP, and her mother opened a food stall in SP selling soups and noodles. Growing up, Mdm Tan would help her mother at the stall. That was over 40 years ago.
Mdm Tan and her younger brother, with whom she runs the stall with
“Every day, we would wake up at about 4am to get ingredients from the market. Sometimes, we’d walk to SP from our home in Ghim Moh. We’d then prepare the food for the day and be ready for business by 7:30am,” Mdm Tan shares.
Today, it’s pretty much the same routine, sans the walk. She wakes up before the crack of dawn and begins dishing out delicious portions of aromatic pig’s organ soup and prawn noodle soup, all served piping hot from her stall at Food Court 6.
And it's popular. On a good day, she sells over 300 servings to her eager customers.
Take Mr Lim Cheng Chong, 35, who works at the School of Business. He makes it a point to get his fix of Mdm Tan’s pig’s organ soup regularly.
“The soup is their selling point. I like it very much. So at least once a week, I’ll be eating this.”
Mr Lim isn’t the only hardcore fan. Mdm Tan’s fondest memories from over four decades in the food business are of her many regular customers. With her mix of both soup and rice and noodle dishes, she has been the everyday go-to stall for quite a number of hungry SP students.
“Some people eat here nearly every day for three years. We even have customers that come back after graduating. They could be working in Jurong and still come back for a meal when they can.
“We will chat a little when these customers return. We always share a laugh, saying we haven’t really changed that much over the years,” says Mdm Tan, who also says that good relationships with customers are all part of the recipe for good business.
She chuckles, “Some of the regulars here will sometimes say, ‘Aunty, give me free, leh. I eat here every day for three years. Can?’ I’m fine with that. I appreciate their business, so sometimes I will indeed treat them. But not all the time lah!”
Share Your Own Makan Memories
From memories of your favourite foods at SP, to goings-on at or around our food spots, we would love to hear about them. Pop us vids, pics, stories and share a makan memory with us!