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At Soon Soon Huat Curry Puff on East Coast Road, a 30-seater that’s “Singapore’s first curry puff cafe”, Tay Mui Lan (left in pic), is undoubtedly the lady boss. Sporting a neat pixie cut and business-like demeanour, the 40-year-old efficiently toggles between taking orders at the counter, packing curry puffs and brewing coffee. However, amid the raucous banter of diners, she struggles to take a customer’s order. Leaning forward, she positions her right ear towards the lady, listening intently before apologetically asking her to repeat her request.

Mui Lan, third-generation owner of the biz, is deaf in one ear — a side effect from the brain surgery she underwent last February. Soon Soon Huat had its beginnings as 1A Crispy Curry Puff in Eunos in the ’90s when Mui Lan’s late granny first set up shop. Mui Lan and her mother were later forced to rebrand their famous 1A name when an ex-employee took it to open rival shops, including one in Takashimaya. Alas, they didn’t trademark the 1A brand (more on that later). 

But after Mui Lan had settled comfortably in their new digs under the Soon Soon Huat moniker at East Coast over the past six years, she was hit with devastating news: she had a tumour in her brain that required emergency surgery.

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