Flight Attendant & Fashion Designer Couple Sell Prawn Fritters After Covid-19 Disrupted Jobs

Flight Attendant & Fashion Designer Couple Sell Prawn Fritters After Covid-19 Disrupted Jobs

Before Covid-19 brought travelling to a stop, Amos Ananda Yeo led a jet-setter’s lifestyle. A fashion designer by profession, he regularly shuttled between his native Singapore, Korea, Japan and Vietnam for his eponymous streetwear label Amos Ananda. But for the past four years, he has been based mainly in Shenzhen, China, where he runs a design studio and garment production factory.

In January this year, Amos returned to Singapore when the Covid-19 outbreak began worsening in China. The 31-year-old chose to go home for his young daughter Kirsten, now four. “I have all the necessary documents to fly back to China, but I didn’t want to risk it. I have a little one at home and I need to quarantine. It’s not worth it lah. I sacrificed a lot of projects in China, but I don’t think I’m going back anytime soon,”

Income badly hit by Covid-19

The pandemic badly affected his business. “From February to August 2020 there wasn’t much income at all, ’cos my projects and fashion shows were either postponed or cancelled,” he recalls.

His wife Laura Ooi, 32, a flight attendant, also had her job disrupted as flights were mostly grounded due to Covid-19 travel restrictions. To support themselves and their kid, the couple decided to start a home-based business during the Circuit Breaker selling hei piah, Hokkien-style deep-fried fritters with whole, shell-on prawns.

It was a different direction for them, as they had previously planned to open a streetwear-themed cafe called Baby Amos in Joo Chiat last March. “I decided not to go ahead with it and do hei piahs instead. With Covid-19, I just want to be cautious and take things step by step,” explains Amos.

The hei piah recipe came from his mother, who has been working as a hawker for the past 18 years. Her stall in an industrial canteen at Tuas Ave 3 sells mainly kuehs, chwee kueh and dough fritters, though her bestseller is her handmade prawn fritters. “It’s our favourite all these years,” says Amos, who, together with Laura, learnt how to make hei piah from his mum.

Family affair

As it was a family endeavour, husband-and-wife decided to name their biz Hei Piah Family. They sell their prawn fritters (which Amos calls “boxes of hei-ppiness”) through Instagram. Customers can opt to buy the cooked hei piahs frozen or ready-to-eat.

Prices for the hei piah are as follows:

●      10-pc box, $16

●      20-pc box, $28

●      50 pc-box, $70

“We practised a lot”

Initially, Laura was doing the cooking for their orders, till she was posted by her company to Ren Ci Community Hospital as a care ambassador. Amos, who had zero experience in cooking, then took over the frying of hei piahs. “We practised a lot, but I think we mastered it fast,” he laughs. The hei piahs are cooked and sent out in batches so that they would be warm when they reach Amos’ customers. He discloses that his mum’s prized “special blend” recipe includes “onions, spring onions and silverfish.”

Mod hei piah

Compared to traditional hei piah, which usually spans the diameter of a large ladle, Amos makes his version a tad smaller. “Most of my customers buy them as a snack for gatherings or to go with beer,” he says. He also modified his family recipe from a fluffier hei piah to a “less pillowy”, crispier version.

Taste test

We must admit that we’ve never liked hei piahs. There’s just something not so appealing about leggy unshelled prawns wedged in greasy discs. But Amos’ prawn fritter is surprisingly delicious. Even as a hei piah hater, we find ourselves scarfing down two to three of the delicately crispy petite fritters, which are expertly fried to a golden brown and loaded with the heady flavour of onions. The springy, juicy prawns — which Amos buys from a wet market — are well-fried enough that their shells crunch like a crisp as we munch. Dip the hei piahs into the accompanying homemade garlicky chilli sauce for extra oomph.

From fashion to food

Amos reflects that the pandemic has changed his lifestyle as a fashion designer drastically. “Before Covid-19 happened, we’d be in Japan one week, and Vietnam another week. Now I sell food and do deliveries,” he laughs. But he still has design work coming in even in Singapore, where corporate clients commission him to customise and produce face masks. He has celeb clients too, as he shares: “Dasmond Koh and Vincent Ng have ordered masks from me.”

He’s also hustling to sustain his staff in China, which he credits for helping to keep his business running smoothly in his absence. He muses, “I’m lucky. Business has been picking up and slowly going back to normal. We’re now preparing for our fashion show in Harbin. But it’s not the normal normal — it’s just getting a bit better!”


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