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Hawker Stall Popular With Malaysian Uni Students

If you work or study in Subang, you’ve probably had or heard of Uncle Soon Fried Rice

If you’re on Twitter, you’ve probably seen their “hello ah boys and ah girls” tweets with their student crowd. 

Their fried rice is famous for their wok hei (wok aroma) and sambal belacan that comes with the meal. 

Currently, they have 3 branches in SS15, DK Senza and Sunway 128.

While the brand remains as Uncle Soon, the business is already passed down to their daughter, Shian, who took over right after she finished SPM.

Moving From Alor Setar To KL

Uncle Soon Fried Rice was originally from Alor Setar, where her parents were born and raised. 

Shian’s parents have been working as hawker chefs since 22 and 23 years old.

They started this fried rice business together in 1990 before they got married, and continued operating for 16 years in Alor Setar. 

The fried rice recipe as we know today belongs to her mum’s aunt, whom she learnt from while working with part-time in primary school.

Up close and personal with their fried rice / Image Credit: Uncle Soon Fried Rice

One day, her parents heard from their friend who was opening a coffee shop in KL, and invited them to bring their business over. 

Once Shian graduated from primary school, their family moved to Selangor in 2007.

This was when they opened their first Uncle Soon hawker stall in Restaurant Foh Foh SS15.

Dreams Of Taking Over Her Parents’ Business

Shian had always been keen on taking over her parents’ business when she got older. 

“Cooking is actually my hobby. Since I was a child, I’ve always wanted to work in the F&B industry,” she recalled. 

She started helping out in the hawker stall since she was 13, right when she started secondary school.

At the time, her parents couldn’t afford to hire more workers since they just started their business in KL.

So Shian would come after school every day to help clean the tables and deliver food to customers.

After a year of helping out, her parents started teaching her how to cook fried rice with their family recipe.

They hoped she’d take over the business when they retired.

Luckily for them, Shian’s dreams of cooking for a living aligned with their expectations for her.

When she finished SPM in 2013, she immediately stepped in full-time for Uncle Soon Fried Rice. 

Her parents helped her out for 2 years, and then completely handed over the business to her. 

She struggled at the beginning with operations like forgetting to stock up their supplies at the right time. 

“It wasn’t easy but it wasn’t hard either, I was just used to it. I also wanted to let my parents retire early and make money myself,” Shian shared. 

Following In Her Parents’ Footsteps

Like her parents, Shian started out in the hawker business at an early age.

She also took over the business with her then-boyfriend when she was 20, like her parents back then in Alor Setar. Today, they’re husband and wife.

Her husband cooking alongside their workers / Image Credit: Uncle Soon Fried Rice

It’s not every day that you hear of a friend taking over a hawker business right after SPM, so I wondered if Shian ever faced any judgments from her peers.

“No. In fact, sometimes they will still ask for a ‘VIP line’ whenever they come to eat because they don’t want to wait,” she said.

With how determined Shian had always been about the business, I’d guess her peers’ opinions won’t really get in the way of following her dreams.

Moreover, she’d always wanted to work for herself rather than for someone else. 

“Being an employer will always be better than being an employee. It is always better to own a business than to work for others,” she affirmed.

Which is totally understandable, seeing that their average income is RM12-15K per month before MCO.

At the beginning, it was only about RM5-6K, but thanks to food bloggers like KL Foodie and OpenRice, they’ve become more popular.

Though Shian doesn’t face any peer pressure, she does feel the pressure of maintaining the brand that her parents established for Uncle Soon Fried Rice.

When the business grew, Shian hired and trained foreign workers to reduce the waiting time for their customers. 

However, some old customers have brought up the taste difference in the rice fried by the foreign workers and her family.

“I am quite afraid that the old customers will run away. So, for some customers that require my parents or me to fry, we will fulfill their request.”

Getting Hit By The Pandemic

When MCO kicked in, they no longer earned the RM12-15K average they used to. 

On average, their SS15 branch sells about 300 plates whereas the other 2 branches sell over 100 plates of fried rice every day.

Their fried rice’s price ranges from RM7 to RM10.50 per plate.

During MCO,  sales dropped to almost 30% when they were only doing take-aways. 

However, that drop was cushioned by delivery services after 2 weeks.

Take-away and delivery during MCO / Image Credit: Uncle Soon Fried Rice

So currently, they earn about RM9-10K per month and sell an average of 200 plates at SS15 and 40 plates at the other 2 branches every day.

Reducing Their Wait Time Even More

Over the years, Shian has been branching out and hiring more people to reduce the wait time for their customers as their business grows. 

Uncle Soon Fried Rice is popular among university students because that’s been their target market since they started. 

Shian’s goal was to open branches close to universities, which she managed to achieve in 3 years. 

She and her husband opened the 128 Sunway branch in March 2018 and the DK Senza branch in March 2019.

Launching their second branch at 128 Sunway / Image Credit: Uncle Soon Fried Rice

DK Senza is right across Taylor’s Lakeside whereas 128 Sunway is right across Sunway College and Sunway University. 

Preparing for opening at DK Senza / Image Credit: Uncle Soon Fried Rice

Being closer to their target market helps reduce their customers’ travel time, but Shian has even bigger dreams of making their fried rice even more convenient to get. 

Her husband thought about putting their fried rice in vending machines to allow office workers and students with a limited lunch hour to get their fried rice. 

“If customers buy from the vending machines, they just need to choose which fried rice they want, then pay and wait for around 3 minutes for the fried rice to be heated.”

“We plan to place the vending machines inside the shopping mall and inside colleges and universities,” she shared. 

Since she followed in her parents’ footsteps of taking over this business, I wondered if they had plans to make this a family legacy business.

“In the future, we will still operate Uncle Soon Fried Rice together until our child takes over, with the premise that they aren’t interested in studying too, like me and my husband.”

  • You can find out more about Uncle Soon Fried Rice here.
  • You can read about other Malaysian startups here.

Featured Image Credit: Soon Te Shian, current proprietor of Uncle Soon Fried Rice

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