Founded in 2021, Ju Xing Ji is the brainchild of Mediacorp actresses Pan Lingling and Xiang Yun, alongside celebrity chef Cao Yong.
The local business launches traditional Chinese goods every festive season, with their inaugural yusheng being widely received when it was first introduced in 2021.
The Chinese character "Ju" (聚) in "Ju Xing Ji" means "to gather". In an interview with Mothership, Pan explained:
"We hope that everyone will gather on festive occasions - that's why we used the word "Ju". This is why we want to produce festive goods; we wish for everyone to gather and try our foods, our products."
Other products launched in the past include mooncakes during mid-autumn in 2022, and, more recently, pen cai last Chinese New Year.
More than 10 attempts to create the ideal product
This year, Ju Xing Ji's festive product of choice is bak kwa.
According to Pan, this idea conspired when she ran into a friend who makes bak kwa while picking her child up:
"We began conversing and talked about bak kwa, and how the ones Ben [Yeo] made last year were not bad. Hence, I thought, why not work together this year?"
The team previously thought of experimenting with many fruit flavours, such as yuzu. However, Pan shared that they decided against yuzu "since Ben had yuzu last year; we didn't want to have the same thing."
Eventually, they chose to work with tangerines, in line with Chinese New Year traditions.
"We wanted it light, such that there is a light scent when [the packaging] is first opened [...] If the taste is too strong, [the bak kwa] may become "boring" over time.
If it's light enough, you can eat many pieces yet still not get tired of it."
The experimentation process was arduous and yielded over 10 prototypes, but all became worth the effort.
"We were ecstatic when the product came out," Pan gushed. "Moreover, he told us that he even used the juice and peel of Hallabong oranges from Korea. We hope that when others bite into it, there will be a zesty flavour and they will feel happy eating them."
Ju Xing Ji prides itself on having healthier twists on traditional food.
Pan admitted that though the team did try to make the product less salty and add less sugar, they eventually decided to prioritise taste and packaging as bak kwa is, essentially, calorie-rich.
Partnered with bak kwa maker Kim Joo Guan
Pan let on that they felt assured working with bak kwa maker Kim Joo Guan, as the brand has been around for over four decades, and claims that they don't add preservatives and colouring to their products - additives the team wanted to avoid.
In addition, Kim Joo Guan also uses Australian pork legs that have never been frozen.
"If they are ordered right now, we will prepare them two days in advance before delivering to [the customers'] houses.
The work is done by humans as well. If you purchase five boxes, one box may have eight pieces, another box may have 11 pieces. The cutting style is unlike robots, hence our bak kwa comes in approximately eight to 11 pieces [per box]."
Production was set to cease at 900 units, and sold out well before CNY.
An actress at heart
Though Ju Xing Ji has been running for the past three years, shifting their main careers into the F&B industry has not been a topic of discussion for Pan and Xiang.
"F&B is really very tiring [...] Even for meetings, there is a lot of thought [put into the discussion], and thereafter, you have to search for many things – in fact, we have been searching and searching for a long time: for boxes, for their covers, and we have to return again to package and sample. We also have to try and see which areas aren't perfect – it is a lot of work."
The pair will stick to releasing festive products once a year, and will not be making F&B their full-time commitment — at least in the near future.
"I still really enjoy filming," Pan enthused, "and the both of us still wish to act."
Plans for the future
When asked about her aspirations for Ju Xing Ji, Pan shared that the team may continue pushing a Chinese New Year product out annually.
Specifically, Pan and Xiang both really enjoyed making and eating their yusheng, but might not relaunch it due to the amount of work it requires.
"Because of the yusheng, we aren’t able to go visiting in the mornings throughout CNY, and could only do so from noon because we have to handle packaging every morning, and deliveries after."
However, they would consider the possibility if they are able to find a good partner to work with for their yusheng in the future, as the ingredients need to be fresh and the procedure needs to be well-controlled to avoid selling stale products to consumers.
She laughed, "I actually do miss my yusheng. My own friends have asked why I’m not producing yusheng this year – it’s not that I don’t want to do it, it’s that we don’t have the time."
Top photos from Pan Lingling's Instagram