Distraught family determined to reopen stall nearby

Mr Soh Chun Wee (right) is proud that his father, Mr Soh Chin Soon's (left) Western food stall has helped to put him and his younger brother through university.
Mr Soh Chun Wee (right) is proud that his father, Mr Soh Chin Soon's (left) Western food stall has helped to put him and his younger brother through university.PHOTO: DIOS VINCOY JR FOR THE SUNDAY TIMES

When he was a teenager, Mr Soh Chun Wee ate chicken chop almost every day for several weeks as his dad tried to perfect the recipe.

Twelve years ago, his father, Mr Soh Chin Soon, had just started running his halal Western food stall at the Block 493 coffee shop in Jurong West Street 41.

"If it was too salty, I would give my feedback and dad would keep trying again and again," recalled his son, now a 27-year-old traffic engineer. "I remember being so sick of chicken chop after that."

His father's tenacity in whipping up the best dishes for his customers propelled his Western food business through the years.

Before the Oct 11 fire which ravaged the wet market and coffee shop, where Chicken Supremo Western Food was located, customers would flock from as far as Punggol to taste its signature chicken chop and coleslaw.

The stall has 3,819 followers on its Facebook page. Since the fire, several customers have visited the page to lament its loss.

 

However, it has not been easy.

Before he became a hawker in 1991, the elder Mr Soh, now 56, worked as a delivery driver. After his second son was born, he decided to start his own business to better support the family.

The younger Mr Soh remembers his dad working 11-hour shifts each day, sometimes returning home after midnight.

One of the lowest points for the family was when his dad had to undergo a heart bypass operation about 20 years ago. His mother ran the stall during the day and visited his dad in the hospital at night.

This went on for two months, with the younger Mr Soh tagging along with her. He said: "Although it was tough for us, giving up was not an option."

Seeing his father's hard work pay off, with the customer base growing each year, has been a proud moment in his life.

"My family is what it is today because of my dad's stall. It has helped put me and my brother through university," he said.

He graduated from Nanyang Technological University last year, while his 25-year-old brother is in his final year at the Singapore Institute of Management.

Though they were distraught after the fire, the family plans to reopen the stall nearby.

"My dad is an optimistic guy and has never complained," he said. "The fire is definitely a setback for him, but I am sure he can bounce back."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on October 23, 2016, with the headline 'Distraught family determined to reopen stall nearby'. Print Edition | Subscribe