Two paid $42,800 each for chicken rice recipe

42,800 - that was his late father's favourite number. So after much contemplation in 2014, that was the price Mr Niven Leong (left) put on the recipe of Sin Kee Famous Chicken Rice which his father, Mr Leong Fook Wing, founded in Margaret Drive in th
Mr Niven Leong (left), safety officer Koh Teng Loke (middle) and IT consultant Cheong Wai Fong (right). ST PHOTO: DIOS VINCOY JR
Mr Niven Leong (centre), who sold the recipe to Mr Koh Teng Loke and Ms Cheong Wai Fong, will also teach them “the A to Z of running a chicken rice stall”. PHOTO: DIOS VINCOY JR FOR THE STRAITS TIMES

They are new to cooking, but workplace safety officer Koh Teng Loke and information technology consultant Cheong Wai Fong have been working hard to perfect chicken rice.

Both have paid $42,800 each for the recipe, which is from Mr Niven Leong, 56, owner of Uncle Chicken Rice stall at The Bedok Marketplace.

In 2014, he announced that he was selling his late father's Sin Kee Famous Chicken Rice recipe for $42,800, adding that the number combination was his father's favourite.

After rejecting business partnership opportunities, he decided to manage the sale of the recipe himself.

Since then, he has received 18 inquiries to buy the recipe, including one from "a big-time chicken rice brand". However, they fell through as he found the prospective buyers unsuitable or too commercially driven.

However, he accepted Mr Koh as his trainee in December last year and Ms Cheong in June this year, saying despite their lack of experience, they are sincere about learning the recipe and sharing his "passion and commitment to serve good food".

Under his tutelage, the trainees are taught "the A to Z of running a chicken rice stall".

This includes cooking the chicken, rice and condiments such as chilli and ginger sauces. They are also taught how to chop the chickens, serve customers and manage inventory.

Mr Leong adds that he will also stay on as business adviser for at least 11/2 years after they start their eateries. They can also associate their businesses with Sin Kee Famous Chicken Rice and Uncle Chicken Rice, which he started in 2006 in Clementi West.

Sin Kee is a prominent name among chicken rice stalls here. It started in 1971 at the now-defunct Margaret Drive Hawker Centre. In 2002, it relocated to Mei Ling Street Food Centre and was helmed by Mr Leong's younger brother, Benson, until last year. He now runs Sin Kee Famous Cantonese Chicken Rice at Block 40 Holland Drive, with a business partner from the finance industry.

Mr Koh, 34, says he is a fan of Sin Kee's chicken rice and that prompted him to buy the recipe.

The father of a 11/2-year-old boy has been a regular at the stall since his primary school days, when he lived in Margaret Drive estate. He also frequented the stall once a week when it moved to Mei Ling Street Food Centre.

"I dream about the chicken rice every night and cannot get enough of it. I love how the natural taste of the chicken is brought out without using much seasoning."

On the other hand, Ms Cheong, 36, did not know much about Sin Kee until she started helping out at her family's fruit juice and claypot frog leg porridge stalls at The Bedok Marketplace on weekends two years ago. After hitting it off with Mr Leong, whose stall is located near her family's, she took a year to decide whether to buy the recipe.

"My family plans to start another food business and we are looking to add variety to the menu. It is good to learn a recipe and new skills. Besides, I am young and can afford the time to learn," says the mother of two boys, aged 10 and five. Her 42-year-old husband is a project manager.

Both of them find it "tough and tiring" to juggle their full-time jobs, spending time with their children and working at Mr Leong's stall on weekends.

Mr Koh has been attending training sessions since December last year, while Ms Cheong started hers two months ago. The hands-on training is open-ended and they can consult Mr Leong until he is satisfied with the quality of their food, and they are ready to start their businesses.

Mr Koh says the most challenging part is cooking the chicken.

"Besides controlling the heat, it requires skill to transport the boiled chicken into cold water while ensuring that the chicken retains its shape."

He intends to leave his full-time job eventually to set up his eatery.

Mr Koh says his wife, a 29-year- old personal assistant, supports his career switch.

He adds: "Although it may take three to five years to recover the start-up cost, I am confident that this recipe can help me earn money as Sin Kee serves one of the best chicken rice here."

Ms Cheong has yet to decide on leaving her day job, as she says she may be able to work part-time.

Despite having sold the recipe, Mr Leong, who will continue to run his stall, is open to accepting more trainees.

He is even receptive to his trainees reselling the recipe that they have bought.

"As long as they are capable, they can share and carry on my father's recipe."

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 06, 2016, with the headline Two paid $42,800 each for chicken rice recipe. Subscribe