TL;DR – Not your typical Singaporean hawker.
Mention hawker and chances are you’ll conjure a mental image of a 50, 60-year-old uncle, clad in a white singlet and with a Good Morning towel draped around his neck, standing over a strong fire with his wok and spatula.
That’s what I thought as well.
Until I met 34-year-old Desmond Pang – owner, chef, merchandiser, CEO, CFO, COO and sometimes dishwasher at Xin Shi delights.
(For those of you who have not checked out our food review of his lobster and seafood bee hoon, you really should.)
As he expertly fries up white beehoon drowned in a strong seafood broth (with a mean wok hei I must add), it’s hard to imagine that just three months ago, he was in a completely different line.
Desmond was a physical education teacher in a secondary school in Sengkang, before he decided to pursue his dreams of owning a small business.
Has he always been a good cook then?
“I am damn solid in cooking maggi mee! Learned it from all the outfields I had to go through in my 9 years of service to SAF!” He jokes. Or maybe not.
“My entire family loves the way I cook my instant noodles. I always get them cooked perfectly al dente with a good runny yolk.”
Like all good stories online, everything started because of love.
His wife is the inventor of the dish and holds the secret recipe to the broth and the chilli that packs a good punch.
She too, had left her job and the both of them plunged almost all their savings into the venture.
A typical day for them starts at 8am.
They will get up at 8, reach the stall by 9am and spend over an hour sorting through the day’s ingredients and get the broth going.
From noon to 3pm, they get to enjoy a small break and it’s during this time that they get lunch, go through the accounts and maybe head home to check on the kids (he has a 10-year-old daughter and a 8-year-old son) before heading back to the food centre again by 4:15 pm where they will be on their feet all the way till midnight.
Do they miss their children?
“Of course,” he muses. “It’s the toughest part of this career choice I made if you ask me. I don’t get to see them at night and because we are also open over the weekends, they end up doing their homework here at the food centre just so we can spend some time together as a family.”
The family also hasn’t been on a holiday for quite a while now, with the long hours he has to put in at the stall and with limited budget at the moment. The kids have asked him a couple of times about it but are sensible enough to understand why he explains to them that they won’t be going away anytime soon.
What are his future plans?
“It may sound crazy, but I want to take Xin Shi to the international stage. Not just the brand, but as a form of Singaporean cuisine that locals love and foreigners want to try. I am proud of our Singapore food culture and I want to do my part to contribute to it, however small that role may be.”
Do his children want to go into F&B then?
“Not now… they say it is a lot of hard work,” he laughs.
According to Desmond, the first two months were the hardest. There were times that he felt that he had reached the “lowest point of his life” and he incessantly questioned his decision to leave a stable civil sector job for hawkerprenuership. But he persevered and the unique dish started gaining traction and with strong word-of-mouth, they sell out almost daily now.
And hopefully, finally take that much-deserved family holiday.
Xin Shi Delights is located at Newton Food Centre, Stall 58, 500 Clemenceau Ave North
Singapore 229495. Opens Tuesday to Sundays, 5:30PM – 11:30PM.