Johor Kaki Travels for Food

johorkaki@gmail celebrates retirement in Singapore travels to Johor Malaysia & worldwide for food

Tuesday, 9 July 2019

When the Customer is God of Fortune. Three Hawker Success Stories from Singapore, Malaysia & Taiwan

When the Customer is God of Fortune. Three Success Hawker Stories from Singapore, Malaysia & Taiwan
Public domain photo

Through the years of chatting with many hawkers, I enjoyed the privilege of hearing many interesting stories they shared. One of the things that struck me was how sometimes, just one honest comment from a customer can change the fortunes of food stalls or restaurants. During blogging, I came across a few and these are just three at top of my mind. (If you have other success stories, please share them with us.)

Sometimes, God of Fortune visits hawkers disguised as a picky customer 😄


"Chicken Boy" used to serve old school Cantonese steam song fish head with fermented bean paste or ginger sauce at his stall Seng Kee in Singapore's Chinatown. Every steam song fish head shop was serving the dish the same old way, from Guangzhou to Hong Kong, Malaysia and Singapore.

Then one day, a regular customer of "Chicken Boy" commented that it's getting boring with just these same few traditional sauces... "can you come up with something different?"


This got Chicken Boy thinking. He went to work on the sauce and came up with a Thai inspired "hot sauce". The savoury spicy hot sauce was an instant hit, well received by customers. The hot sauce quickly outsold the traditional old school sauces and Chicken Boy's Seng Kee stall became the top song fish head stall in Chinatown.

Seng Kee's pioneering savoury spicy hot sauce was quickly copied by many other shops but the "Chicken Boy" original is still the best to me lah.

Hin Hock Bak Kut Teh in Johor Bahru - Chinese Liquorice

If you go to Hin Hock Bak Kut Teh in Johor Bahru now, you may think that it is a steamed fish shop because you will see fish on almost every table. Ah Hock founded Hin Hock Bak Kut Teh to sell BKT. Business was okay, some people like Ah Hock's herbal bak kut teh stock which has a strong Chinese liquorice taste. But, not that many.

One day, one of Ah Hock's regulars suggested "why don't you also sell fish?"

Hin Hock Bak Kut Teh in Johor Bahru - Chinese Liquorice

Ah Hock got to work and developed his unique fish dish where the fresh fish is cooked by dunking it in boiling water (instead of steaming). The boiled fish is served with lots of sloshy savoury sauce and smothered with a thick golden brown blanket of fried garlic bits and chopped spring onion.


Ah Hock's boiled fish was a huge success. Ah Hock still sells his bak kut teh (he is proud of it) but you can be forgiven for thinking that Hin Hock BKT is a fish shop. The booming restaurant is always packed to the rafters during lunch for Ah Hock's famous boiled fish.

When 林英芳 opened Ching Cheng Hainanese Chicken Rice stall in Taipei, he served his tender poached chicken with Thai style spicy sour hot sauce as he learnt how to make chicken rice in Bangkok. Business wasn't good as locals weren't accustomed to the spicy hot Thai sauce.

Then one day, a customer said to 林英芳 "why don't you serve your chicken with Cantonese spring onion and ginger sauce?"

林英芳 took the feedback seriously and set about developing his own spring onion and ginger sauce. When 林英芳 served his chicken with his hand made spring onion and ginger sauce, his fortunes turned around completely. Customers liked his sauce so much that his signature spring onion and ginger sauce became the soul of his chicken rice dish. Now, queues form before the stall opens and 林英芳 sells more than 1,000 servings a day.

More on Singapore Seng Kee's story 👈
More on Johor Bahru Hin Hock's story 👈
More on Taipei Ching Cheng's story 👈

What do you think about constructive customer feedback? Please share similar success stories with us. Thank you 🤟

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for sharing these feel good stories. I think customers' feedback should always be taken seriously as they have been around, and eaten at many places already, so they know what's good, what's not, or how to stand out. Kudos to these hawkers for taking on the challenge to step out of their comfort zone.


I share hoping that everyone will have a good time but your experience may differ from mine. I love to know how you enjoyed yourself or if you didn't. All comments with genuine identities are published.