Clarence and Nurjahan Lim first met 17 years ago when they were colleagues working in the hotel industry.
Their relationship has gone through a number of different phases, from colleagues to lovers (don’t worry, we’ll get back to that).
And now, the happily married pair have become business partners. They run Mum Daughter Kitchen, a hawker stall in Chinatown Complex that specialises in nasi padang.
The Muslim-owned stall began as a home-based business in mid-2020 and only transitioned to a physical stall in early July.
Before getting to the delicious dishes on offer, here’s how their love story unfolded.
When Clarence met Jahan
When they first met some 17 years ago, Clarence, now 42, wanted to get to know Jahan better so he started passing her origami while at work.
Jahan, 37, must’ve got the hint and reciprocated these feelings soon after. Before long, love started to bloom.
Nadia, who is Mum Daughter Kitchen’s head of marketing and public relations, as well as Jahan’s biological sister, tells AsiaOne that even after all these years, Jahan still keeps the origami Clarence gave her.
From home to Chinatown Complex
Fast forward to 2020 and Jahan, who has a knack for cooking, was encouraged by her mum to start her own venture in the form of a home-based business selling nasi padang.
She also counted Clarence, and chef Malcolm Lee, of one-Michelin-starred Candlenut, among fans of her food.
It reached a stage where Jahan felt that she should set up a business to allow more to “enjoy a taste of home”, says Nadia.
On top of that, Nadia mentions how her sister was also keen on preparing home-cooked meals to “ease the working mum’s duty in the kitchen”.
After two years of honing her craft as a home-based entrepreneur, the couple felt it was time to take it up a level by setting up their own physical store.
“Jahan received a lot of support from Clarence to run a physical stall and that is when she started bidding for one,” Nadia says.
Adapting to a new business model has its challenges and a big hurdle came in the form of preparation.
When preparing dishes in the comfort of her home, Jahan could manage the heat of the stove easily. However, at the stall, it’s a case of “double the effort” as compared to before.
Daily operational issues like these seem to be just the tip of the iceberg with other pains including rental fees, cleaning services, license costs and more.
Despite all these, Nadia tells us that the main struggle for the couple is time spent away from their children.
Running a hawker stall and being a parent is tough as they have to balance their kids’ needs, from ensuring they have sufficient pocket money to preparing school bags for the following school day.
Dishing out some yummy-looking dishes
What makes a good rempah (spice paste)?
“Generosity. Making our rempah from [the] start. Getting every ingredient to cleanse and blend without any shortcuts,” Nadia shares.
She adds that the process of preparing their rempah is labour-intensive, from splitting the dried chillies one by one to blending it with other ingredients to form a paste.
If your tummy is rumbling a little and you’re wondering what to order when you head over to Mum Daughter Kitchen, Nadia has some suggestions.
She points out that their sotong hitam, or squid in black ink sauce, is a crowd favourite and one of their best-selling dishes.
Other signature dishes include fish curry, fish berlado and lemak chilli padi ayam.
There are about 12 to 14 dishes to choose from and the line-up varies day to day, so it’s always good to check their Instagram page for updates to minimise disappointment.
Their food is made with halal ingredients, assures Nadia.
Despite the stickers pasted at the stall, the couple still get questions on whether the food is halal due to Clarence’s race (he’s Chinese-Muslim).
“We are 100 per cent Muslim-owned and we only use halal ingredients,” Nadia says. “We are still finding ways to emphasise that.”
However, in a different context, having Clarence around can also be advantageous.
As an example, when Mandarin-speaking elderly would like to place their orders, Clarence is there to swipe away the language barrier and assist accordingly.
Nadia tells us that Jahan and Clarence work well as a duo, in spite of the difficulty of running a business together.
In fact, the couple might have unlocked the secret to everlasting love as Jahan often tells Nadia how much she’s “falling head over heels again and again”.
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Address: 335 Smith Street, Chinatown Complex #02-158, Singapore 050335
Opening hours: Monday to Saturday, 8.30am to 3pm