The Story Behind The Growth Of Hjh Maimunah - One Of SG's Famous Nasi Padang Stalls


Noor Aishah Karim •  Aug 15, 2023

In the heart of Singapore's vibrant culinary scene, there exists a treasured gem that has been serving up local Singaporean delights for generations. Hjh Maimunah, known for its rich blend of Indonesian, Malay, and Indian influences, has become a household name for Singaporeans seeking comfort and nostalgia in their meals. At the helm of this culinary institution stands Ms Mastura, the second-generation owner who has not only carried forward a legacy but steered the ship through challenges, growth, and innovation through their nasi padang!

Hjh Maimunah: The History

Credit: Amex

Established in 1992 by Madam Mahiran Abdul Rahman, Hjh Maimunah Restaurant commenced its journey with cherished recipes from her late mother. Over time, the restaurant's offerings expanded significantly, encompassing a diverse array of more than 40 delectable dishes. This evolution was steered by the inventive contributions of the talented chef's Madam Mahiran brought into her team.

Notably, the establishment finds itself in a transition phase, as after nearly three decades of dedicated management, Madam Mahiran is entrusting the reins to her children.

The generational handover brings forth fresh concepts, from fortifying the business's foundation and cultivating an enriched internal ethos to innovative notions like introducing delivery services and pioneering new offshoots. Nonetheless, the initial priority remains to acquire a profound understanding of the operational intricacies. This involves internalising the approach to upholding product quality and service excellence while navigating challenges about the workforce, leasing, and customer expectations before expanding.

Some of their must-tries include Tahur Telur, Rendang, Sambal Sotong, and Ayam Bakar!

A Family Heritage: Laying the Foundation

Credit: Amex

Ms Mastura, the second child of Hjh Maimunah's founder, emerged as a pivotal figure in the family business in 2008. With an understanding heart and a determined spirit, she stepped into the business to alleviate her parents' burdens.

“I joined right after graduating from school in 2008, I was helping my parents out and eventually also took on other responsibilities.”

She took on responsibilities ranging from human resources and hiring to accounting. This marked the beginning of her journey to shape the future of Hjh Maimunah.

Recognising her mother's struggles with hiring and administrative tasks, Ms Mastura embarked on a mission to streamline these aspects. She not only succeeded in resolving these issues but also expanded her role to encompass the culinary domain, a realm where the true essence of Hjh Maimunah lay.

Navigating Challenges and Pivoting Strategies

The restaurant faced challenges at its Bencoolen location due to its closure. The changing landscape necessitated the decision to shift priorities to their two restaurants and catering services. This strategic move was essential to ensure their legacy lived on. Despite the difficulties, Ms Mastura's resolve was unshaken. She embraced the learning curve and adopted the trial-and-error approach of managing a dynamic culinary business.

“I thought about how to help them out and I laid out some SOPs and even hired more people to help out.”

Throughout the journey, Ms Mastura found herself faced with operational problems. She tackled each issue hands-on, experimenting with menu items and meticulously crafting solutions. These experiences proved invaluable in honing her leadership and operational skills.

The Evolution of Tradition: Adapting to New Realities

As the years rolled on, Hjh Maimunah not only maintained its authenticity but also evolved with the times. With the establishment of a central kitchen, the business became more coherent, providing a foundation for the opening of smaller restaurants. This expansion marked a new era, driven by Ms Mastura's passion to share the flavours of home with more people.

A Legacy of Continuity and Change

Ms Mastura's dedication to Hjh Maimunah's legacy is deeply ingrained in her actions. She emphasises the importance of future generations understanding the significance of local Singaporean Malay cuisine. To her, this food is a bridge between cultures, reflecting the nation's rich diversity.

Transitioning into a leadership role wasn't without its share of challenges. The differing mindsets of generations became apparent, particularly concerning business growth strategies. While Ms Mastura was eager to hire specialized expertise to delegate specific tasks, her parents preferred maintaining familial trust and consistency.

This generational gap in thinking was bridged over time. In a gradual and thoughtful process, Ms Mastura's parents entrusted her with equal partnership in the business in 2018. This marked a pivotal moment, solidifying the fusion of experience and youthful energy to propel Hjh Maimunah's journey forward.

Embracing the Future: Expanding Horizons

The year 2020 witnessed Ms Mastura officially taking the reins of Hjh Maimunah. Filled with excitement and determination, she envisions a future brimming with innovation. Her aspiration to introduce frozen products, sauces, and ready-to-eat meals stems from a desire to make Hjh Maimunah's comfort food accessible to homes across Singapore. She firmly believes that the younger generation will resonate with these flavours, as they are rooted in the familiar comfort of traditional Singaporean cuisine.

Challenges and Triumphs

Opening new stores isn't just about expansion for Ms Mastura; it's about spreading the warmth of home-cooked food to even more people. While consistency in food and service remains a challenge, it's also a testament to the unwavering commitment Hjh Maimunah holds for its patrons.

As the culinary landscape evolves, so does Hjh Maimunah. Ms Mastura envisions a future where innovative technologies like kiosks streamline ordering processes while maintaining the quality of the products. Her focus on maintaining the highest standards and sharing the legacy of Hjh Maimunah remains steadfast.

A Message of Appreciation and Encouragement

Ms Mastura's journey with Hjh Maimunah is a story of love, legacy, and unyielding determination. She expresses gratitude for platforms like AMEX Shop Small that allow local businesses to shine. Her favourite moments come to life when she opens a new stall, witnessing the enthusiastic crowd enjoying the flavours she has poured her heart into.

Ms Mastura's journey is an embodiment of tradition and innovation, continuity and change, and the enduring power of flavours that connect generations. Through her tireless efforts, Hjh Maimunah stands as a symbol of not only culinary excellence but also the profound cultural ties that define Singaporean society.

P.S. Here are some research findings from AMEX!

  • 9 in 10 Singapore consumers shop at local businesses, but only half consciously feel supporting local is very important; highest support from Baby Boomers and lowest from Gen Zs  
  • Most Singaporeans are supportive of local businesses, with each generation showing their support differently, according to the fourth Shop Small Research for Singapore. Baby Boomers showed the highest support and the most loyalty towards local businesses. Meanwhile, Gen Xs are driven to give back to the community and Millennials are the most willing to pay a premium at local businesses.

Visit the Shop Small Pop-Up Market happening from 25 September to 1 October 2023 at Suntec City Atrium (Tower 1 and 2). The Shop Small Pop-Up Market will feature 16 local businesses, including social service agency ART:DIS. Shoppers can look forward to limited edition merchandise, designed by local artists, Isaac Liang, who is supported by SG Enable’s i’mable Collective, and Esther Goh. In addition, American Express Card Members will get S$3 back for every S$10 spent at over 3,500 participating businesses, up to five times, from 1 to 31 August 2023.