Tanjung Bungah’s neighbourhood favourite Uncle Burger lures passers-by with sizzling patties and caramelised onions.
Wong Keat Hin.
One can find all the flavours of the world at Tanjung Bungah. From Bulgarian to Mexican cuisine, the variety reflects the multiculturalism that thrives in the suburb; Tanjung Bungah is an expatriate magnet, and has been for decades.
It is this that drew Wong Keat Hin to set up shop – or rather, truck – there. Before food trucks became the fad, Wong was already serving up mouth-watering burgers, hotdogs and egg banjos from his mobile kitchen, a frills-free lori pasar malam.
Fondly nicknamed Uncle Burger by his customers, Wong and his wife Angeline have been in the business since 1978, happening upon it by chance: “My wife’s cousin was actually operating the business before we came along. A few months into it, however, he felt that it wasn’t his calling, so that’s when we decided to try our hand at selling burgers instead.”
Business was slow in the early days when they were located along Jalan Gajah and at Hillside along Jalan Sungai Kelian, Wong recalls. But as word began to spread about his burgers, they decided to permanently relocate to Hillside where there was a sizeable number of Royal Australian Air Force personnel living with their families – and that was where Wong got his nickname: “It was actually given to him by the Australian students who were living here,” says Angeline. “They didn’t know how to address him and our food truck bears no name. The nickname stuck and from then, everybody started calling him ‘Uncle Burger’.”
Now known to many Tanjung Bungah households, Wong serves both chicken and beef patty burgers, but says the latter is a hot favourite among his customers. “Our fresh patties are all home-made by friends. The recipes remain a secret, even to us,” says Wong. He also sources for vegetables locally.
But what Wong’s burgers are famous for the generous portions of caramelised onions and cabbages. A mound of thinly sliced onions and cabbages is piled on top of the burger patty and encased in a perfectly fried egg before being enveloped by soft buttered buns.
Self-professed foodie Kelvin Tan has been frequenting Wong’s food truck since he was in Standard 6, back in the late 1970s. “I used to order double of everything – double patty, double sausage, double cheese and egg! What makes his burgers popular is the texture and leanness of the patties. The onion and cabbage combo is pretty special too because in those days, it was something no one had thought of doing yet. Plus, the cucumbers and tomatoes are so thinly sliced, they don’t overwhelm the entire meal.”
Despite pushing 70, Wong takes his long days in stride: “I usually start my day at 9am, skin some onions, before making my way to the wet market for breakfast. After that, I’ll tidy up the truck before going into town to pick up the burger buns. Then at about 6pm we’ll push off from home.”
Wong has yet to show signs of slowing down. One would guess that it’s his passion for cooking that continues to spur him on. However, if and when Wong chooses to retire, a family member will have been groomed to take over the business, and all signs are pointing to Wong’s nephew-inlaw. Thus, folks in Tanjung Bungah can rest assured that they will still get their delicious burgers, conveniently from just round the corner.
Uncle Burger can be found at Jalan Sungai Kelian. Operating times are from 6.30pm till late, Wednesdays to Sundays.