The years spent in their trade has given both Edwin and Sharon a keen palate for traditional desserts. Discerningly, they noticed that many people were being introduced to traditional desserts in a pre-packaged form. Though they may be convenient and abundant, Edwin is of the opinion that they may sacrifice quality and freshness. Pre-packaged herbal jelly desserts, for instance, are often bundled with sugar syrup, instead of real honey.
To fight this trend, Hup Ka Foon proudly serves bowls of traditional dessert that are authentic and homemade. Almost every single item on the menu, including the drinks, is made from scratch. Although this contributes to the labour-intensive nature of their work, Edwin and Sharon believe that this approach results in products worthy of their name. Under their talented expertise, Hup Ka Foon’s desserts have established a reputation among the folks of Chinatown, drawing a steady stream of regulars to their shop.
Although Hup Ka Foon believes in maintaining the traditional quality of their desserts, they have made a few modifications over the years. Their herbal jelly dessert, for example, is made with stevia, a natural sugar substitute. But they do not use store-bought stevia powder. Instead, they opt to boil the leaves of the stevia plant themselves. This process leads to a sticky, zero-calorie syrup which sweetens their herbal jelly in a healthier way. They also managed to replace the glutinous rice used to make some of their desserts, such as sesame paste, with whole grains. These new, fibre-packed alternatives reduce the sugar spike from these desserts, making them a healthier option for those watching their sugar intake. Given that many of their customers are on the older side, such innovative adjustments are especially important for their health. Throughout this tinkering process, Edwin and Sharon constantly listen to feedback from their customers, and are careful to ensure that the authentic taste of their food is preserved.
Stepping into Hup Ka Foon’s premises on Sago Lane, one might feel instantly transported back in time. From the unvarnished wooden tables and traditional ceramic bowls to the whirring ceiling fans overhead, the modest decor of Hup Ka Foon invokes nostalgic memories of old-time Singapore. Their walls are adorned with tasteful pictures of their desserts which draw many a curious and hungry eye, particularly among new customers trying to decide on their first order. Cosy and relaxed, it is no wonder that both newcomers and regulars find Hup Ka Foon to be the perfect place to spend an afternoon.
Above their shop floor hangs a traditional wooden signboard resplendent in gold, with the words “Hup Ka Foon” emblazoned in red. The signboard is inscribed with words celebrating the love and warmth of a household, and is a prominent reminder that, at their heart, Hup Ka Foon is about family.
Hup Ka Foon survived several challenging years before finally hitting their stride at Sago Street. They faced friction with the landlord at their previous location, as well as manpower issues common in the F&B industry. Edwin describes that period as “very, very difficult” and “extremely busy”. But through a stroke of cosmic luck, Edwin discovered their present location at Sago Street up for rent. The rest, thankfully, is history.
Having weathered tough times with Hup Ka Foon, Edwin’s perspective is that the establishment’s goals and offerings should remain straightforward to avoid unnecessary trouble. For instance, he explains that he has no desire for Hup Ka Foon to “go viral”. Although other business owners might consider such a development akin to hitting the lottery, Edwin recognises that a sudden surge in popularity would bring a slew of problems – new patrons might come in with high expectations of their desserts, and, coupled with the increased demands on the shop staff and a more hectic kitchen environment, might unfortunately find the food underwhelming instead. Therefore, Edwin and Sharon wish to focus on their goal of serving homely traditional desserts at reasonable prices. They believe that, by staying grounded, Hup Ka Foon can introduce these cultural treats to a new generation, while continuing to provide a pleasant and authentic experience for their regulars to enjoy.