Words by Hoe Ziqian
With just a few clever changes to its operations, local chicken rice brand Tong Fong Fatt has managed to reap much more in returns for its workers.
The original Tong Fong Fatt started off at Chong Pang Village as a sugarcane juice stall. When Augustine Koh took over his father’s business back in the mid-nineties, he decided to partner with his brother-in-law to sell chicken rice at the ABC Brickworks Food Centre. Koh decided early on that he would focus on chicken rice as it is a popular local dish that would appeal even to the younger crowd. Today, the business has grown to more than 20 stores spread across Singapore.
One of the main benefactors of Tong Fong Fatt’s transformation is Ng Shea Keong, who previously had to toggle between the supervision of the company’s signature products—the steam chicken and roasted chicken. It used to be a tedious process as the time taken to cook the steam chicken is very different from that of the roasted chicken. While monitoring the cooking process for both items, he had to be vigilant to ensure the fire intensity and the temperature of the cooking process is maintained as per the company’s recipe.
With the implementation of the new equipment, Ng can now set the desired temperature and timer for the two types of chicken and simply wait for the alarm to sound once the cooking process is completed.
While it is debatable if such initiatives would ultimately solve Singapore’s shortage of new hawker talent, they do go a long way in improving the conditions that existing hawkers have had to put up with. It might be one small step for Tong Fong Fatt, but hopefully it would be one giant leap for Singapore hawker culture.