Learning > Inspiration

Hawker, 88, up at 3.30am to run her kway chap stall of 56 years

Theresa Tan

The Straits Times


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She may be 88 years old, but Madam Chua Meow Ching still puts in 10 hours a day at the kway chap stall she runs five days a week. The hawker has been selling the dish for the past 56 years and still gets up at 3.30am on the days she opens her stall.


When asked why she is still working, Madam Chua, who runs Covent Garden Kway Chap in Havelock Road Food Centre with her two sons, said in Teochew: "I'm worried my sons cannot cope without me. So I help them."


Madam Chua, who never went to school, came from an area near Swatow in China. When she was 23, she came to Singapore to join her husband, to whom she was match-made.


With six children to raise, she became a hawker to supplement the family income. Her late husband was a sailor and held several other jobs, but it was always tough making ends meet on their small incomes, she said.


She sells kway chap because she loves eating it. The dish comprises an assortment of stewed offal and is served with a bowl of rice sheets called kway in a light soup.


Each day after breakfast, she takes a five-minute walk to start work at her stall, which opens for business at 6am.


As she got older, her two sons took over the cooking, while she chops up the food for sale. They call it a day when they are sold out, which is often by 1pm.


Madam Chua lives with her eldest son, a bachelor, and does the household chores and cooks dinner when she gets home. She likes to watch a bit of Korean drama on TV and she is usually in bed by 8pm or 9pm.


On Sundays and Mondays when the stall is closed, Madam Chua likes to take a bus to explore markets located in different parts of the island.


Her eldest child, Mr Er Soo Khim, said his mother is healthy, although she has to wear a hearing aid as her hearing is affected with age.


Mr Er, 65, who works with his mum, said: "She eats light meals, such as porridge, and she cooks her own food. She is also very active, healthy and hardly falls ill."


Madam Chua, who has four grandchildren, is thinking of retiring soon as she has to go for cataract surgery in December. "I'm old. My body and my legs ache," she said. "Life was hard in the past, but now I don't have to worry about food and other things."


Correction note: In an earlier version of the article, we said that Swatow is a province. This is inaccurate. We are sorry for the error.  


Source: The Straits Times © Singapore Press Holdings Limited. Reproduced with permission.

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