Hawker Stories: How one hawker carries on not just his mother’s legacy, but also her treasured heritage recipes


Daniel Surendran learnt resilience from his mum, who preserved through tough times in order to keep both the business and her family afloat. Here’s his story.

Over four years ago, Daniel Surendran (Suren) faced a turning point in his life. It all started when his mother, Mdm Letchmi, shared her plan to rent out her stall to another hawker. The name would remain, but the cherished recipes would be lost as the new hawker would not be using them.

Unable to see his mother's hard work go to waste, Suren made the tough decision to exit his own hawker business and carry on hers. "My mother dedicated over two decades to building this business, and I just couldn't let it all slip away," he said.

Mdm Letchmi had established Heavens at Ghim Moh Market & Food Centre back in the 1990s. She had previously worked as an administrative staff at a hospital but felt the need for a career switch. Starting with vegetarian cooked food, she soon transitioned to making appam, thosai, and putu mayam, infusing her own unique touch into her mother's treasured recipes.

Suren vividly remembers lending a hand at the stall since his primary school days. His mother couldn't afford to hire staff, so he and his aunts willingly stepped up – inspired after watching her tirelessly manage the stall on her own. 

Resilience is in her nature, shared Suren. As a single parent, she raised Suren and his three elder siblings all by herself. During those challenging times, the family struggled financially, surviving on one to two meals a day, government subsidies, and the kindness of others.

He also witnessed his mother's unbreakable spirit during the SARS outbreak in 2003. While other hawkers fretted about the lack of customers, Mdm Letchmi remained steadfast. "No one was going out to eat, and everyone was afraid. There was no social media or food delivery platform either," Suren recalled. Yet, their family persevered.

And, they continued to persevere during the Covid-19 pandemic. "The day after my mum entrusted me with the keys, the Circuit Breaker was announced," he shared. With dine-in services no longer an option for nearly two months, he swiftly adapted overnight to a food delivery model.

Today, the 37-year-old father of six-month-old twin girls runs Heavens. His mother, 62, comes by to help. His day begins at 3am, before the first customers arrive by 6am. On Fridays, they see almost double the earnings, as customers throng the stall, PayLah! app at the ready, to enjoy up to SGD 3 off their meal. Most of his customers are in their 60s and 70s, so sometimes Suren steps in to render tech assistance.

Many are eager to savour Heavens’ signature Princess Appam (topped with egg and melted cheese), Royal Thosai (red onion and potato masala with the richness of melted cheese and butter) and of course, Putu Mayam. Everything is still made from scratch; the first two items are Mdm Letchmi’s original creations from over a decade ago.

Traditional flavours aside, Suren has big plans for the family business. He shared, “It has always been my mum’s dream to expand and I want to fulfil that.”


DBS has extended our SGD 3 subsidy on hawker meals every Friday for the first 100,000 diners who pay with DBS PayLah! till 26 July 2024. DBS is committed to helping our customers reduce their rising expenses, against the backdrop of ongoing economic uncertainties and inflation. Visit go.dbs.com/sub3 to learn more.

Suren and Mdm Letchmi run Heavens at Ghim Moh Market & Food Centre, 20 Ghim Moh Rd, #01-26. Opening hours: 6am-1pm, closed on Mondays. Food centre is undergoing renovation from 1 Mar to 10 May 2024.

You May Also Like

Recommended for you

Based on your read
Based on similar interests
Last Read