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What do you do when the 14-outlet mala xiang guo chain you founded – serving a spicy, numbing Sichuan stir-fry of mala spices and assorted ingredients like meat and veg – is losing favour in an oversaturated market, exacerbated by Covid-19 woes? You scale down operations and open an affordable Japanese tonkotsu ramen hawker stall instead. At least that’s what Chongqing-born Yang Jian, the owner of one of Singapore’s largest mala xiang guo chains You Ma You La, did. He explains: “There is mala xiang guo in almost every corner of Singapore. I had to think of something new. You can mostly only find a bowl of ramen for $13 minimum. I wanted to sell it at half that price.”

Thus, the 42-year-old, who became a Singaporean citizen in 2018, opened Kumamoto Ramen on August 15 in a dingy, old kopitiam in Serangoon North. Diners are treated to a bowl of tonkotsu (pork bone soup) ramen – including a marinated egg and two slices of cha shu – for $6.80. The most atas ramen variation at his stall goes for $9.80.

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