Vietnam-born Mai Thi Ngoc Yen’s life turned upside down when her Singaporean husband died from lung cancer five years ago, leaving her to raise their three young daughters alone. With few options, Yen decided to take over her late husband’s fish soup hawker stall, Hai Kee Seafood, located at Blk 210 Toa Payoh Lorong 8 Market & Hawker Centre.
After her husband’s death, Yen had to learn everything about running a fish soup stall from scratch. From being clueless about how to gut, clean, and fillet a whole raw batang (mackerel) fish, she now does it deftly by herself. She still uses the same recipe from her late husband, and the stall continues to attract a pool of regular customers.
The generous portions in each bowl and affordable prices starting from $5, Yen’s stall is a popular destination for people looking for a daily fix of fish soup or steamboat. Even with her preference for using fresh fish that is delivered to the stall instead of heading to the market like her husband, Yen isn’t complaining about the thinner profit margins.
Yen runs the stall with the help of an assistant and her third daughter. The two eldest girls regularly pop by to help out, as do relatives and friends. Yen also expressed gratitude for the support from her friends and relatives following her husband’s death.
Now a Singaporean citizen, Yen’s story is an inspiring one of courage and determination in the face of tragedy. Her dedication to her family and her determination to make a success of her husband’s business are admirable qualities that we can all learn from.
Ah Yen’s story is proof that with hard work and determination, even in the face of tragedy, one can turn adversity into success.