SINGAPORE: Mr Kwan Yee Liang first came across handmade noodles five years ago when he visited the stall of a former classmate's friend in Kuala Lumpur.
"Got the bite ah, (it's) QQ," he said, referring to the springy and chewy texture of the handmade noodles. These are most commonly used in dishes like the banmian - a Chinese noodle dish.
"First time I ate, I told him, 'Wah, you should bring it to Singapore to sell'. I told him that the business will definitely prosper," Mr Kwan said.
Instead, it was Mr Kwan who acted on the idea.
Despite having limited knowledge and zero experience of the hawker trade, Mr Kwan decided to sign up with the National Environment Agency's (NEA) Incubation Stall Programme just to try his hand at the hawker trade.
He was particularly attracted to the lower start-up cost offered by the programme.
Mr Kwan only had to pay half the rent for a six-month period and was given a stall that came pre-fitted with basic equipment such as freezers and sinks to get him started.
He opened his stall, called Kung Fu Noodles, in Bukit Merah Hawker Centre in July.
"I don't even cook at home. Over here, you need to get from the supplier and everything is in big quantities. It's not easy to cook for a hundred people so it's challenging. The first day was a mess," the 29-year-old said.
And yes, his stall sells banmian. Even though banmian requires the noodles to be handmade, most hawker stalls in Singapore use machines and pasta makers, he said.
But Mr Kwan insists that they must be made by hand, just like the ones he ate in Malaysia.
There are two versions of the handmade noodles at his stall - Kung Fu noodles in soup for S$4 while the dry version goes for S$3.80. They are topped off with minced meat, anchovies and mushrooms.
Mr Kwan said his hawker stall has been profitable so far, and that he is earning more than he did at his previous jobs as a watchmaker, bartender and financial consultant.
Even though the working hours are much longer than his previous jobs', he enjoys the flexibility. "I can wear slippers and shorts to work. If I wake up late, I just earn less. Nobody is there to manage me," he said.
Apart from Mr Kwan, 11 other aspiring young hawkers with an average age of 34 have come through the programme.
Senior Minister of State for Environment and Water Resources Amy Khor said on Wednesday (Oct 10) during a visit to Bukit Merah and Ghim Moh hawker centres that since the programme's launch in February, more than 40 applicants have applied and 10 out of 13 stalls are occupied.
Encouraged by the response, NEA announced that it will add two more stalls, bringing the total number of stalls for incubation to 15.
"The Incubation Stall Programme has received very positive response especially among young Singaporeans," Dr Khor said.
"We will continue to monitor the take-up rate as well as get feedback from the earlier batches of incubation stallholders before we decide whether we should add more. We are also looking at ... long-term plans for this Incubation Stall Programme (to see) how we can improve on it."
The two new stalls will be at Chinatown Market.