23 Aug 2019
“LARRY” LOW BOON TAT, 60s
“AH GEK” NG SWEE GEK, 60s
LOW MEI ZHEN, 30s
MICHELLE “MEE SIAM”, 8
Larry was born Low Boon Tat. He acquired the name Larry when he started running with the Red Mouthed Dragons gang in the 1970s as a teenager. It was hip then to have English names, so Ah Tat (as his parents called him) chose the name Larry. Today, he can’t remember why.
Larry spent most of his formative years in and out of jail. He cleaned up after he met Ah Gek, herself from the wrong side of the street. Ah Gek was not a gang member necessarily – she worked in a coffee shop – but she hung out with enough of them to know them inside out.
Ah Gek was one of the few girls who did not put up with Larry’s nonsense, and who knows that, underneath the gruff exterior, is an insecure child wanting attention.
They married early – in their 20s – but it was not until they were in their 30s that they had a daughter, Mei Zhen.
Larry and Ah Gek’s entry into the hawker world was through an old buddy of Larry’s, Skunk, a former fellow gang member nicknamed as such because of his unbearable body odour.
When the 128 Circle Food Centre first opened, Skunk rented the drinks stall and hired Larry to help him. But Skunk’s bad habits never died – he was a drug addict who never really quit, and when he fell off the wagon, he was arrested at the Hawker Centre and put in prison.
Larry took over the stall and dragged Ah Gek along to help him. They continued to run the stall from morning till night even when Ah Gek was pregnant with Mei Zhen.
Young Mei Zhen spent much of her kindergarten and primary years doing her homework at the stall, and then helping out after school during her secondary school days.
Mei Zhen attended ITE and, upon graduation, went to work with a logistics company, as a Logistics Assistant. Her husband, Simon, was someone she knew from ITE. Simon tried his hand at several businesses – mostly online – but they were dodgy at best, and scams at worst. Simon also had a gambling problem, which was also hidden from her since most of it was online. They were married in 2010 and their daughter Michelle was born in 2011.
One day, Mei Zhen woke up for work and found Simon missing. His phone was off and he had packed a bag. Simon was gone, and would not return. When she finally managed to contact him, Mei Zhen unleashed her rage on him and told him never to come back.
Mei Zhen tries to raise Michelle to be better and smarter than her so when she grows up, she will have a better life than the one her mother had.
When the series starts, Michelle is just beginning her Primary Two year at Whitedale Primary School, a good neighbourhood school where she can mix with the right crowd – a mostly white collar one.
Mei Zhen has just gotten a new job, with better pay, and one that might require to travel a little. She is discussing the possibility of a new arrangement with her parents where Larry or Ah Gek can take care of Michelle while she travels.
Larry and Ah Gek, who have amassed sufficient savings to retire comfortably are planning to celebrate their 40th wedding anniversary by closing the stall and travelling to China and Taiwan for a month when Mei Zhen gets a new job assignment that requires her to go overseas … for a month.
23 Aug 2019
SITI AISHAH BTE MOHD NOOR, 40s
NURUL BTE JAMAL, 40s
Aishah and Nurul have known each other since primary school. Aishah came to be known as the pretty one, while Nurul gained a reputation as the outgoing one. Both graduated with O-levels and decided not to continue their education.
Aishah, who had already met her husband-to-be, Halim, in school, continued to date him. Halim’s parents were hawkers at 128 Circle Food Centre, selling Malay delicacies. Halim would go over to help them on weekends, and eventually, they handed over their recipes to him.
Aishah started out helping at the stall so she could stay close to Halim. When Suhaimi, and then Rohana, passed away, it was left to Halim to run the stall.
Halim tweaked and improved his parents’ recipes, and instead of selling a variety of Malay food, concentrated on selling just mee rebus, with some kueh on the side.
This made the mee rebus stall more and more popular. Halim’s reputation grew, and eventually it would be popular not only among locals but also tourists and food critics.
The 128 Circle Mee Rebus stall would also be a pit-stop for food programmes from Chinese to English to Malay. Halim was also given a Gold Star ranking by prestigious European travel site Le Voyage, which he proudly displayed at his stall.
Both Halim and Aishah are easygoing and down-to-earth, which is why they can get through a long day at the stall without breaking into an argument. Aishah is the more cautious of the couple, and often takes longer to buy in when her husband gets excited over the latest film crew coming to film at their stall.
They both tried for children in the early years of their marriage, but a medical examination revealed that Aishah was infertile.
Nurul had several boyfriends, even throughout secondary school, but her relationships never lasted long. Even Halim is not very fond of Nurul, although he has known her since secondary school.
Where Aishah is careful, Nurul is overly optimistic. To Nurul, there is no issue that cannot be settled, no problem that can’t be overcome (and if there is, it’s the other person’s fault).
Nurul is also strong-headed and stubborn. She will cling to her opinions till the very end, even in the face of evidence that proves otherwise.
Nurul currently runs sataycawan.com, an online catering business that provides Satay-In-A-Cup for events, parties and functions. She runs the business from home and, over the years, has acquired a network of corporate and personal clients to keep her busy throughout most of the year, with a lull period that Nurul uses to travel.
23 Aug 2019
AUDREY LOW, 20s
CHEN YI KAI, 20s
JULIAN CHUNG, 20s
Audrey is a senior associate at the law firm of Nathan, Chang and Associates, one of the top legal firms in Singapore
She really wanted to be a musician, or even a writer – studying music or theatre studies in university – but her parents forced her to take up law because her results were ‘too good to waste on something as frivolous as the arts.’
As the series starts, Audrey’s long-time boyfriend, Julian, is getting ready to propose to her. He is also a graduate from the same Law School and is currently working in the legal department of a huge multinational entertainment corporation. He is also third generation money – his grandfather’s name is synonymous with one of the largest property developers in Singapore, Chung How Land.
The two of them seem happy, but the cracks are starting to show. Audrey is starting to think that if they were on a sinking ship and Julian had to choose between her and his smartphone … he would choose his smartphone. Julian is all about work, his attitude being whatever he can’t give her, he can purchase it for her.
Audrey is beginning to find Julian a teeny bit boring … and she is looking to spend the rest of her life with him.
That’s when she starts to notice Yi Kai. Yi Kai helps run the dessert stall at 128 Circle Food Centre, which is a stone’s throw from Audrey’s flat. It is the only stall that is open late, so it is a source of comfort food on Audrey’s way home from the office.
Yi Kai is nothing like Julian; in fact, he is Julian’s polar opposite. But something about Yi Kai’s lack of complexity strikes Audrey as interesting. There is not much to Yi Kai’s story. Average student in primary school, terrible student in secondary school, trouble-maker in tertiary until finally his parents kicked him out of their house and he is forced to work for a living.
Even though the owner of the dessert stall, Mr Chow, is strict, he is taken enough with the earnest, new-leaf Yi Kai to impart some of his dessert recipes to the young boy.
Both Audrey and Yi Kai appear to be on their own paths to success, until fate throws them together … and screws up their lives.
23 Aug 2019
CHANDRA GANESAN, 50s
RANI MUNIANDY, 50s
ARUN CHANDRA, 20s
Chandra runs the Indian Food stall at the 128 Circle Food Centre, selling dosai and roti prata in the mornings and nasi biryani for lunch and dinner. On certain days, he keeps the stall open past dinner, selling mee goreng and nasi goreng into the night to earn a little more money. He is a second-generation Singaporean – his parents came from Kalayur, a village in India, to the island state in the early-60s, before post-1965 immigration restrictions ended new migration from India.
Chandra decided early on that he was going to be his own boss. For as long as he can remember, he was always running one business after another, many of which failed, before he finally settled on running a food stall. He is a stickler for details and impatient with both employees (meaning his wife, Rani and son, Arun) and customers alike – he is famous in the food centre for quarelling with his neighbours and scolding the customers who ask for extra helpings or make special requests, like Mrs Chew, the housewife who regularly eats roti plaster at his stall but will return the dish if the egg yolk is overcooked.
However, deep inside, Chandra has a heart of gold – he regularly gives extra helpings to Aunty Siew, the cleaner at the hawker centre whom everybody picks on; and even refuses money from the construction workers who come to his stall and don’t have enough money to pay him because they have sent their money back home.
Rani is his wife via an arranged marriage by Selvan and Devi. The parents of the couple knew each other well, so when Rani became of age, a wedding was arranged between her and Chandra.
Chandra and Rani’s son, Arun, grew up a Singaporean kid… primary and secondary school, poly, NS… and then it came time to decide if he was going to follow in his father’s footsteps.
Arun is also on the verge of getting married to Tanisha
23 Aug 2019
DOMINIC YANG ZHI CAI, 32
SHERRY YANG SHU CHING, 33
If Dominic wasn’t slaving over a hot dog stall at 128 Circle Hawker Centre, he would probably be in a shirt and tie, trying to close a business deal in some Shenton Way office.
After graduating from an overseas university, Oberion University in America, with a degree in Business, he drifted from one office job to another for several years, restless and dissatisfied with each one because he couldn’t “make an impact”.
Impulsive and impatient, Dominic made an error at his last place of work, Gordon Fellows and Associates. He pushed through a transaction worth tens of millions of dollars without getting the proper clearances and approvals. When the partner found out, he was asked to leave.
He uses this opportunity to do what he’s always dramed of – running his own business, where he does not have to answer to a boss or adhere to protocols and rules.
When his mother finds out Dominic is becoming a hawker, she is aghast. After she gets over the shock, she sees an opportunity for Dominic’s older sister, Sherry, to be involved. His mother forgets that, when they were young, Dominic was actually irritated – ashamed even – by the behavior of his older sister. All these years, he has actually more tolerated her than accepted her.
So it is not a partnership made in heaven.
Dominic is married to Elise, who works as a personal assistant to one of Dominic’s former clients. At the start of the series, they have been married a year and Elise has just found out she is pregnant with their first child.
Sherry was diagnosed with autism when she was twelve. After struggling through primary school, she attended a mainstream secondary school that was allocated as a resource school by MOE. Although she studied alongside children who did not have special needs, there were teachers who were trained in dealing with special needs children and helped her to cope.
Sherry’s dream has always been to be a chef. She entered vocational training after her secondary school education, and was given a job placement at a local hotel, working in the kitchen. But Sherry has quit her job after an altercation with one of her co-workers. For the past six months, Sherry has been at home with her mother Mdm Chua, twiddling her thumbs and driving her mother crazy. So for Mdm Chua, letting Sherry help run Dominic’s stall is a perfect way for the two siblings to bond once again, and for Sherry to take a small step (but a step nonetheless) towards fulfilling her dream of becoming a chef.