His original business before starting a restaurant in 2005 at Sembawang, was in selling car tyres. Though this business is still ongoing, Mr Lim Boon Hee has now expanded his food business to 3 locations at Yishun, Jalan Malu Malu at Sembawang, and Tagore Lane.
The first premise at Jalan Malu Malu in Sembawang was previously also operating a food business by the previous tenant, and Mr Lim had been a regular patron of it then. Later part, the tenant decided to shut down its operations and move out of the premise, and Mr Lim then took over the location for his own restaurant.
Along the 12 years of manning his restaurant, Mr Lim said there were not much difficulties in managing them, and that its operations are all a smooth sailing progression. They are well-known for their Teochew cuisine especially the Teochew Fish Head Steamboat that is well-loved by many regular and new customers alike.
The patrons to their restaurant at Tagore Lane proved to be branded die-hard fans as they specifically go there for Happy Kampong Village’s food notwithstanding the inconvenience travelling there given that the location is not easily accessible by public transport.
All you need to do is to let your hair down, roll up your sleeves and eat to your hearts content in this unassuming Happy Kampong Seafood.
What is your name and age, are you local?
I am Frankie Ong, this year 50 years old, and I am a Malaysian turned Singaporean now.
What makes your business or dishes different from others?
I standardize the taste among all the chefs’ cooking to keep its consistency for the flavours of the food served.
Why is your shop named as such?
It was adopted from the boss name “Hee” which is “喜” in Mandarin meaning “happy” thus the shop’s name is Happy Kampong Village.
When was it first established?
In 2002 when we were located in Sembawang formerly and now at Tagore Lane.
What are your signature dishes?
We have Nonya Sauce Steamed Fish Head; Roasted Pork with Kailan; Salted Vegetables Fried Shark Fish Head; Signature Happy Kampong Chicken and Teochew Styled Fish Head Steamboat.
What is your favourite local food?
I enjoy Seafood and Steamed Fish.
What is your secret to keeping customers coming in?
In keeping the consistency of food by standardising the ingredients and condiments. At the same time, stay atune with the maintenance and upgrading of cooking skills by participating in various food competitions and learn new ways of innovating dishes. In addition, my current position in Chinese Cuisine Society of Singapore helped in drawing the crowd in.
Why did you decide to pursue a career in food business?
I think that being a chef would be a useful and lasting career because it is skill-based and I personally like to eat. Gradually after being chef, my interest for this line grew along the way.
What has been your greatest professional success and biggest setback?
When I started first as a kitchen helper, I met a right person there and then where he taught me how to prepare authentic Teochew cuisine. I was grateful and it made me worked hard and I was motivated further.
I joined a newly established restaurant in 2006 and its business was bad then. Due to the economic crisis in 2007, I was forced to leave Singapore and I left for China without opportunities offered here in 2008. I had to leave my family behind here while I went off under these unforeseen circumstances.
What is your comfort food?
Teochew Porridge with various dishes such as fish, braised meat and braised beancurd.
Do you cook at home?
In past times when children are younger, now rarely cooks.
What does your fridge consists of?
Mostly vegetables and fruits amongst other food.
Where is your favourite overseas foodie destination?
I like visiting Guangdong, China having seafood at Shun De City.
What are your day-to-day responsibilities as an owner?
Checking menus, set meals promotions, making cost calculations daily and besides occasional cooking and helping the kitchen, I also attend daily meetings with the boss.
What have been some of your most successful promotions, how are they originated?
In July 2017, I won first place in a Teochew Styled Fish Head Steamboat competition and many came to try since then. Singapore’s celebrity Moses Lim endorses our brand too and that is a booster for our restaurant and our in-house promotions for set meals are also a hit with our foodies.
What are the steps to becoming a restaurant owner?
The need to learn from scratch, and thinking carefully before entering the trade given that this line demands a high commitment level. The environment has harsh conditions with long working hours, and the ability to cook and cut food, and overall, the kitchen is mostly an unclean place to work in.
What do you think of the current market now?
Tourist volume is affecting the current market and hotels together with higher end restaurants are hit at their businesses with companies’ budgets being tight to plan events like Dinner and Dance or other corporate events. On the contrary, small restaurants and outlets will still manage with a consistent flow of regulars with them.
How do you think it will be in the next 10 years?
There will be an influx of foreign companies into local market that will serve the trend of current demand for more modern food concepts. In 10 years, we need to adapt to the given trend whilst maintaining the standard of our cuisines to attract old and new customers alike.
What would your last meal be?
Hor Fun with Coffee.
Happy Kampong Village
Address: 81 Jalan Malu Malu Singapore 769689
Opening hours: 11am – 2.30pm and 5pm – 11pm daily
Tel: 6555 1018
Address: 807 Yishun Ring Road #01-4203 Singapore 760807
Opening hours: 3.30pm – 11.30pm daily
Tel: 6758 1018
Address: 164 Tagore Lane Singapore 787572
Opening hours: 10.30am – 10.30pm daily
Tel: 6755 1018