Mr Loh, a second-generation hawker, took over his father’s business in the 1980s. He tells us more about the early days, what’s kept him going, and his musings about the future of Singapore’s hawker culture.
It’s 11pm and Tiong Bahru Market & Food Centre is a shadow of its busy, bustling daytime self. At a time when the rest of the food centre is closed, a lone figure is seen swiftly moving around a brightly-lit stall. Here, we have second generation hawker, Mr Loh Teck Seng, who is just starting his night, busy preparing for the next day’s business.
Making soya bean milk the traditional way
(Mr Loh grinding the soya beans. / Photo by Type A)
Mr Loh makes soya bean milk and beancurd the traditional way: by hand, with minimal work done by machines. There is much to be done before the sun rises: grinding soybeans that were soaked for at least four hours; stirring the grounded beans and cooking them over a fire in a traditional wok; and straining the cooked mixture through a muslin cloth. This process is repeated at least six times before he makes enough to sell for the day – the equivalent of 400 to 500 cups of soya bean milk.
(The ground soya beans are cooked in a traditional wok. / Photo by Type A)
(Mr Loh straining the cooked mixture through a muslin cloth. / Photo by Type A)
It is a laborious process but it is one that Mr Loh has stayed true to for close to 40 years. This was passed down to him from his own father, who started selling soya bean milk and beancurd in the 1950s.
(Photo by Type A)
(Photo by Type A)
Keeping the tradition alive
For any tradition to be kept alive, it has to be passed down to the next generation, and the next. Mr Loh has imparted his traditional method of preparing soya bean milk and beancurd to his son, who’s currently in his early thirties and is holding down his own job. “Even though he has learnt this skill, I’ll leave it to him to decide whether he wants to take over my business,” he says.
– Loh Teck Seng, 68, second-generation hawker and owner of Teck Seng Soya Bean Milk