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This hawker couple in Kovan still sells drinks for 30 cents: 'We're not working for a bungalow'

Husband-and-wife hawkers Goh Kai Suah and Chua Choon Huay charge S$0.30 for a small-sized cup of soya bean milk, grass jelly or bird's nest drink and S$0.50 for a larger cup. 

This hawker couple in Kovan still sells drinks for 30 cents: 'We're not working for a bungalow'

Hawkers Goh Kai Suah (left) and Chua Choon Huay have been running their stall Sun Kee Drinks at Kovan 209 Market & Food Centre since 1984. (Photos: 8Days/Yip Jieying)

These days, you can hardly buy an iced drink at a kopitiam for under S$2. But a hawker couple in Kovan is selling beverages like soya bean milk, grass jelly and bird’s nest at just 30 cents a cup.

Husband-and-wife team Goh Kai Suah, 59, and Chua Choon Huay, 57, have been running their stall Sun Kee Drinks at Kovan 209 Market & Food Centre since 1984. The couple is so loving, they even sport matching hot pink highlights in their hair. Aww.

The business was started by Goh’s father in the 1950s as a pushcart along nearby Upper Serangoon Road. “It was much harder being a hawker back then. It wasn’t a respected trade and it was very difficult to make a living. We already have it good now,” laughed Chua.

(Photo: 8Days/Yip Jieying)


It is perhaps this uncommon sense of gratitude and their cheerful attitude that makes the couple extra popular at the hawker centre. Most of their customers who stop by to buy a drink appear to know them well.

Although Goh and Chua operate their stall from 6am to around 1pm, they are usually almost sold out by noon. We foolishly went for lunch before heading to Sun Kee, only to find out that the beancurd (S$0.60) and warm drinks were all gone in under an hour.

“Aiyah, you should have reserved earlier, I will keep for you. That was what he did,” Choon Huay chirped in Mandarin, gesturing to an uncle sitting beside the stall. In front of him were bulging plastic bags with 16 containers of tau huay.

As he ambled off, he saw us eyeing his loot and inexplicably bellowed: “Oi don’t judge me ah! This is very cheap. Good for people with no money.”


Goh and Chua charge S$0.30 for a small-sized cup of soya bean milk, grass jelly or bird's nest drink. The ‘big’ cup is priced at $0.50, but if you are ordering the drinks to go in a plastic bag, it costs S$0.30, S$0.50 and S$1 respectively for the small, medium and big sizes.

“We make the bird’s nest drink ourselves,” said Goh, who explained that it is a process that involves boiling pandan leaves. Despite its name, there is very little bird’s nest in this beverage, which hit peak popularity a few decades back as a wallet-friendly thirst-quencher sold from streetside carts.

(Photo: 8Days/Yip Jieying)


Although we paid only 30 cents each for our drinks, we found the quality very decent for the price. The soya bean milk is reasonably thick and shiok (it is not as gourmet as pricier versions for sure, but we find this an apple and orange comparison due to Sun Kee Drinks’ unusually low prices). The grass jelly drink is also refreshing enough, despite being slightly thinner in consistency than a similar beverage from other hawker stalls that charge more.

The sweet bird’s nest drink is nicely pandan-scented but notably diluted, which could be because our cup was filled from the bottom of a giant ice-filled container which was almost empty (the couple still uses retro green plastic bins from which they scoop their beverages).


Other than the bird’s nest drink, the hawker couple get the rest of their beverages from a supplier. Despite eye-watering inflation, they have kept their prices constant for almost 40 years.

“During my father’s time it was only 5 cents or 10 cents for a drink,” said Goh modestly when we marvel at his prices.

(Photo: 8Days/Yip Jieying)

Compared to hawkers who price their wares higher, Goh and Chua operate at a lower profit margin. “We are not working for a bungalow,” joked Chua, though she candidly shared: “We can survive if there are customers. No customers, we are finished.”

The couple’s business model is centred on a basic economics tenet: Selling a high quantity at low prices. And Sun Kee certainly gets enough business. There is a psychological effect when you see something so cheap; you feel moved to buy more drinks to treat your whole kampung.

Like us, who only wanted a small cup of soya bean milk but left with three drinks. We even got 10 cents back from paying with a S$1 coin, which was the uncanny high that singer Sia was talking about when she sang “I love cheap thrills!”

“Some people buy 15 cups at one go. On weekends the queue is practically never-ending,” shared Chua. And ’cos the large-sized beverage cup is equally affordable at 50 cents, Goh said: “Most customers go for at least the 50-cent drinks. Hardly anyone buys the 30-cent cups.”

Sun Kee Drinks is at #01-65 Kovan 209 Market & Food Centre, 209 Hougang St 21, Singapore 530209. Open daily except Mon, 6am-1pm (or till sold out, usually around 12pm).

This story was originally published in 8Days.   

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Source: 8 Days/sr