A coffee shop hawker in Singapore melted the collective hearts of the internet after he was seen in a TikTok revealing that the only note he has in his phone is the field of study that his daughter is specialising in now while obtaining an engineering degree from the Nanyang Technological University.
The clip emphasised he was proud of his daughter, and he just wanted to make sure he knows what she is studying -- and that information was literally at his fingertips -- because he cannot pronounce “Renaissance Engineering Program” and “Specialization in Mechanical Engineering with a Masters in Technology Management”.
He would simply flash the note to anyone who asked him about it.
@kopikonvos he’s so proud of his daughter 😢 the quiet ways a father loves 😭 #sg #hawkers #sghawkerculture #sghawkerfood #sgfoodie #tiktoksg #kopikonvos #fyp ♬ original sound - p4ul
A hawker for over 30 years
The hawker, affectionately known as Uncle Kui Woo, was the owner of Weng Fatt Hong Kong Roasted Specialist, situated at Block 210 Hougang Street 21.
The 57-year-old started as a chef in Chinese restaurants and became a hawker during the 1990s in the Hougang area, before moving to the stall around 12 years ago.
Uncle Kui Woo’s story was first shared on TikTok by @kopikonvos on Feb. 3, a project started by two students from the National University of Singapore, who aimed to create conversations between Gen Z and hawkers.
The 10-second video has, as of Feb. 7, amassed more than 160,000 views, with commenters in the comments section saying how they thought Uncle Kui Woo was “so sweet”, and some even admitted to tearing up.
It was also revealed that his daughter even took him on his first vacation to Europe in December 2022, after he decided to close down his stall due to the increase in costs that has made the business unsustainable.
Tough time for hawkers
In response to Mothership's queries, Uncle Kui Woo’s daughter said it is a tough time for hawkers.
She said he could not work long hours anymore as he grew older.
Even though her mother sometimes helped at the stall, it was not enough.
She said: “This isn’t unique to just my dad. Many hawkers work long hours that take a toll on their bodies.”
Things did not help when costs have been getting higher.
For example, she said that a bottle of cooking oil has increased from S$22 to S$44 in two months, while gas prices have been raised by 40 per cent over time.
Rent has also increased by 10 per cent.
Think it isn't the landlords' fault
The daughter added: “But my dad said it’s not like the stalls at the coffee shop can’t earn money at all. It isn’t easy if you’re a one-person show. The coffee shop management has been quite nice, so not their fault.”
Coupled with being unable to work longer to overcome the increased cost and decreased footfall due to nearby renovations, Uncle Kui Woo decided to close the shop.
The daughter added that her dad is not a man of many words, and despite his long working hours throughout the years, he has always made time for her and her younger sister by bringing them around Singapore for the best hawker food.
She said: “Now that I’m running a social travel website, Sotravel, while finishing my last semester, he’s been very supportive and dabaos (takeaway) food for me. Sends me to NTU too!”
He will be back
Some customers posted comments in the videos saying they missed his roast duck.
The good news is that Uncle Kui Woo is not planning to retire and is hoping to find another place in the north when times get better.
Uncle Kui Woo’s daughter said she hopes that by sharing her father’s story, she can help shed light on how tough the F&B business is in Singapore and get people to be more supportive of their favourite shops.
Top image courtesy of Uncle Kui Woo's daughter & TikTok @kopikonvos