26-Year-Old Works 15 Hours Daily As Ipoh Curry Mee Hawker & Delivery Driver To Repay Debt - 8days Skip to main content



26-Year-Old Works 15 Hours Daily As Ipoh Curry Mee Hawker & Delivery Driver To Repay Debt

The young towkay behind Wang Cai is double hatting as a hawker and driver to pay for the costs incurred after relocating his stall due to poor footfall.


Last year, Ipoh-born Tay Yee Sheng, 26, and his wife Ruby Thong, 24, quit their supervisor roles at Genki Sushi to become hawkers. They started their stall Wang Cai selling hearty Ipoh curry mee as well as other curry-centric dishes at a Jurong West coffeeshop in June.  

Despite rather good reviews, they shut their stall after just four months due to lacklustre business.

“Sales more than doubled after 8days.sg featured our stall last September and we made more than $1K a day. But when the hype died down after three weeks, things were back to how they were before,” laments Yee Sheng. 

“We didn’t get much footfall at the coffeeshop ’cos the location is quite ulu. Customers told us that our food is good, but they wouldn’t come if they didn’t have transport.”

The hawkers also didn’t have the best luck and timing. When they were doing market research for the location, the stalls at the coffeeshop were fully occupied and there was a good amount of footfall. But after they signed the lease, several stalls shut and the crowd began to thin.

They made losses every month, only breaking even in September, when 8days.sg visited the stall, hence, the painful decision to shut it in November. They also closed their franchise outlet in an industrial estate in Sembawang “as business wasn’t good”.

“Though we couldn’t bear to let go of our stall, the reality is we were struggling and bleeding every month, so there was really no point holding on,” says Yee Sheng. The couple has since parted ways with their business partner Yap Kang Ling, 31, and relocated their stall to a heartland coffeeshop in Telok Blangah in January.

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Worked 13-hour days as a delivery driver

Despite the setback, Yee Sheng was determined to make a comeback. His goal when he shut Wang Cai: to save up as quickly as possible to pay off his debt – around $10K in rental arrears and payment to suppliers – and open a new stall.

He worked full-time as a Lalamove delivery driver, clocking 13-hour days, while fine-tuning his recipes. “I never thought of giving up ‘cos I love curry and felt that the business has a lot of potential. All along, it has been my plan to bring good Malaysian food to Singapore, so people don’t have to travel across the Causeway to enjoy it,” he reasons.

After three months, Yee Sheng managed to save up enough to reopen Wang Cai at a coffeeshop in a residential estate in Telok Blangah in January. He notes that the location has much better footfall, while rent is “almost similar” to that of the Jurong stall, thanks to their kind landlord who gave them a “slight discount”.

“We get a decent lunch crowd as Keppel and PSA are nearby. Business has increased by at least 50 per cent,” shares Yee Sheng.

He still works part-time as a delivery driver during the day to supplement his income. “I go to the stall around 6am in the morning to prepare the curry, then at around 11am, I will head out to do deliveries, while my wife runs the stall alone. In the evenings, I will go back to the stall to prep for the next day,” he explains. He ends the work day only around 9pm before it begins all over again.

He currently earns around $100 a day as a driver, which is more than what he makes as a hawker. “When the business stabilises and improves – which we expect it will – I hope to run the stall full-time and not work as a delivery driver." he says.

New place, new offerings

Along with the new locale, changes have been made to the menu. Wang Cai’s Ipoh curry mee (soup or dry), which comes topped with red char siew, roast, and shredded chicken, is now available in three sizes, priced from $4.50 to $6.50, compared to just one ($5.50) previously.

“Despite the increase in costs, we have kept prices the same. Our Ipoh curry mee used to be $5.50, which is equivalent to our medium serving. Now we have introduced a smaller and more affordable option — $4.50,” says Yee Sheng. The recipe has also been improved so the curry is “smoother and more fragrant”.

“Like you, some customers said they sometimes bit into lemongrass fibres in the curry, so we now grind the ingredients for our rempah more finely. We also cook the rempah longer so the curry is more aromatic,” he adds.

Gone from the menu are yong tau foo and chee cheong fun as they are being offered by other stalls at the coffeeshop, and in their place are Ipoh hor fun ($3.50), or shredded chicken hor fun, and Penang prawn noodles ($4-$6).

Penang Prawn Noodles, from $4

“Curry is not something you will eat everyday ’cos it’s very heaty. We have always wanted to offer these two dishes so customers have more variety, it’s just that we couldn’t do it when we were in Jurong. We spent the past three months R&D-ing recipes so we can launch them at the new stall,” says Yee Sheng.

Shredded Chicken Hor Fun, $3.50

Unlike the Ipoh hor fun commonly found in Singapore, which features noodles in starchy gravy, Wang Cai serves the traditional Ipoh version in cloudy soup. Their Penang prawn mee too is served the traditional way and only available in soup.

“Some customers ask us why our Ipoh hor fun is soupy, so we have to explain that this is traditional Ipoh-style hor fun. Similarly, we don’t offer dry hae mee ‘cos this is not how it’s done in Penang,” he says.

The details

Wang Cai Ipoh Curry Mee is at #02-01, 78A Telok Blangah St 32, S101078. Open daily except Mon 7.30am – 8pm. More info via Facebook and Instagram.

Photos: Kelvin Chia, Wang Cai



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