Butter Town: Meet the hawker-baker sisters behind these Japanese-inspired shio pan rolls

By Phyllis Leong May 21, 2024
Butter Town: Meet the hawker-baker sisters behind these Japanese-inspired shio pan rolls
Meet Serene (left) and Danielle (right), the cheery sister-duo behind Butter Town. Photos: Abdul Rahim Anwar/HungryGoWhere
  • Butter Town is helmed by two sisters, Serene and Danielle Tan, who left their corporate jobs to set up a bakery in a hawker centre. 
  • Danielle is the head baker at Butter Town, while Serene spearheads marketing and public relations for the brand. 
  • The stall is well-known for its Japanese-inspired shio pan rolls and sourdough cakes. 
  • The bakes are usually sold out by noon daily, so it’s best to head down early if you want to grab a bite.

Holland Drive Market & Food Centre is a bustling food haven that’s home to a wealth of yummy local cuisines and dishes

One of the hawker’s most popular tenants is Butter Town, a homegrown bakery that’s helmed by a cheery sister-duo, Serene and Danielle Tan. It’s known for its soft and fluffy Japanese-inspired shio pan (salted butter bread) that come in an assortment of fillings and is made from scratch. 

Older sibling Serene, 32, spearheads front-of-house operations, including sales and marketing for the brand, while Danielle, 28, is the head baker and churns out new and innovative flavours of shio pan every month.

Butter Town Singapore
Butter Town specialises in Japanese-inspired shio pan. Photo: Abdul Rahim Anwar/HungryGoWhere

According to the sisters, it’s their unique rendition of an “Asian croissant” — a riff off the iconic French pastry.

Butter Town’s shio pan may appear similar in shape and size to a croissant, but the former has a much chewier, buttery interior, sans a flaky crust. 

It’s not just bread on the menu, either. There are also sourdough cakes and chicken curry. 

If you’d like to taste Butter Town’s wares, the best time to get your hands on a treat is right when the stall opens (and the bakes are fresh out of the oven!).

After all, it operates as a morning business, so naturally, the goods are usually sold out by noon.

Butter Town Singapore
Butter Town whips up fresh bakes daily from scratch. Photo: Abdul Rahim Anwar/HungryGoWhere

Despite Butter Town’s short one-year tenure — it opened in May 2023 and celebrated its first anniversary just last week — business is thriving. Its bakes are a hit, so much so that the sisters opened a second outlet at Lavender in Feb this year. 

But before Serene and Danielle were the proud owners of these two successful outlets, both worked in corporate before leaving their jobs to pursue a career in F&B.

From marketers to bakers

Butter Town Singapore
Both sisters worked in marketing before they started Butter Town. Photo: Abdul Rahim Anwar/HungryGoWhere

Prior to Butter Town, both sisters were in marketing.

Serene cut her teeth at various public relations and marketing firms, while Danielle honed her marketing chops at a fast-food company for two years.

For Danielle, becoming a professional baker and starting a bakery of her own was always on the cards. 

Her love for baking was in her blood. “It first started as a hobby,” she says. “I used to bake cakes for friends and family during special occasions.”

Butter Town Singapore
Gula melaka pistachio sourdough cake. Photo: Abdul Rahim Anwar/HungryGoWhere

But she largely attributes her interest in the craft to the sisters’ aunt, who was formerly a chef in a prestigious five-star hotel. The duo declined to name the hotel out of respect for their aunt’s privacy.

The aunt, who lived with them when they were children, would bake a variety of desserts and dishes at home, which inspired Danielle to start baking herself. 

“She taught us how to make pizza, tiramisu and different locally inspired treats,” Danielle recalls.

“She was a huge inspiration and role model to us,” Serene adds. “Especially for Danielle.” 

In Serene’s words, Danielle was their aunt’s “little helper”, assisting her in the kitchen and preparing the ingredients while their aunt whipped up tasty desserts.

With their aunt as a mentor, Danielle mastered various cooking techniques, including how to knead the dough, troubleshoot issues in the kitchen and the Do’s and Don’ts of baking.

Butter Town Singapore
Danielle has always been passionate about baking since she was young. Photo: Abdul Rahim Anwar/HungryGoWhere

When Danielle was on the cusp of entering university, she had an epiphany — since baking professionally had always been in the back of her mind, why not turn it into reality?

She had planned to start a bakery upon graduating from Singapore Institute of Management’s business administration course in 2020, but her hopes were dashed when the Covid-19 pandemic struck.

If you remember, Circuit Breaker measures during the pandemic meant that there were many restrictions on dining out in Singapore and there was much uncertainty among F&B owners.

“I thought it wasn’t the right time,” she recalls. 

At that point, most people were staying home and opting for food deliveries instead, so she didn’t see much longevity in starting a brick-and-mortar business. Danielle decided to halt all business plans and wait it out until the situation improved. 

In the meantime, she joined a marketing company, where she could pick up a new set of skills.

“I also needed to see the world for a bit,” she adds. “I wanted to see what was out there before I started my own bakery.”

And after two years of honing her skills in marketing, networking with individuals from all walks of life (and riding out the worst of the pandemic), Danielle was finally ready to take the next step in her baking career.

Starting a home-based business 

Butter Town Singapore
Look at these fluffy buns! Photo: Abdul Rahim Anwar/HungryGoWhere

In July 2022, Danielle left her corporate job and launched Butter Town as an online home-based business a month later. 

Operating out of her mother’s small kitchen, the little bakery dished out an eclectic array of bakes: Shio pan, cakes and a variety of bread. The shio pan rolls did exceptionally well, which gave Danielle the push she needed to make them a speciality at Butter Town. 

Why shio pan, though?

“When I was starting my bakery, I wanted to create something unique,” Danielle says. “Then I remembered the shio pan I tried in Japan and I wanted to explore that.” 

She had come across the pillowy salted bread rolls during a trip there in 2018 and had enjoyed them so much that she wanted to experiment with the recipe and incorporate them into her menu. 

“Back in 2022, shio pan weren’t commonly found in local bakeries yet,” Serene adds. “So Danielle decided to recreate her own version.”

Moving to a brick-and-mortar space 

Butter Town Singapore
The stall is busiest at noon. Photo: Abdul Rahim Anwar/HungryGoWhere

It was always the goal to launch Butter Town as a brick-and-mortar bakery. 

When Danielle finally came across the hawker stall at Holland Drive Market & Food Centre in 2023, she decided it was the right time for the online business to transition to a physical store.

Serene had also suggested setting up in a hawker centre, where rental costs would be more affordable. Moreover, it would give Danielle a bigger space to work in and she could also cater to a wider customer base.

“It was now or never,” says Danielle. “This job will be physically demanding and there’s no better time than when I’m young and energetic,” she quips. 

She realised she would need an extra set of hands in the kitchen, so she reached out to Serene to work together.

For Serene, who was also looking for a change in scenery, the timing was perfect. “I’ve never had any interest in F&B, but I saw an opportunity to work with my sister, so I jumped ship,” she says.

After months of R&D and preparation work, the pair finally opened the bakery in May. 

By contrast, baking was never Serene’s passion. She’d always preferred working in a frontline career where she could socialise and network with others, which is why she now takes the lead in the front-of-house operations serving customers.

Butter Town Singapore
It’s not easy to be a hawker. Photo: Abdul Rahim Anwar/HungryGoWhere

Running a hawker stall hasn’t been easy, but despite how tiring it is, the sisters are determined to make the business succeed — no matter the exhaustion and long working hours. 

Danielle’s day begins as early as 3am, when she comes in to prepare the ingredients and get the bakes rolling out of the oven. Serene arrives slightly later to help with the workload, such as rolling the dough and cooking the chicken curry.

“It’s hard and tedious,” Serene admits. “There are many times when you’ll question yourself, but it’s all worth the effort.” 

Disagreements are also inevitable, but the pair takes it in their stride. 

“At the end of the day, we want what’s best for the brand,” says Serene. “We tell ourselves not to take things personally and that it’s all for the betterment of the company.”

The menu  

Butter Town Singapore
The au chocolat shio pan is our favourite. Photo: Abdul Rahim Anwar/HungryGoWhere

As you’d expect, various types of shio pan are the star. There are seven flavours available each day — five fixed options for the month and two surprise variations. 

New flavours are also added to the mix every month. 

Serene recommends checking Butter Town’s social media pages to check out the flavours of the day.

Some popular creations include the aromatic garlic cheese shio pan (S$2.60), locally inspired kopi-c shio pan (S$2.80) and decadent au chocolat shio pan (S$2.40). 

Among these, the chocolate variant is our favourite — it oozes an indulgent chocolate cream with each bite.

Butter Town Singapore
Besides shio pan bread, there are also sourdough cakes on the menu. Photo: Abdul Rahim Anwar/HungryGoWhere

Sourdough cakes are also up for grabs. According to the pair, these are baked with reduced sugar to cater to the older folks in the neighbourhood and are popular among the elderly residents.

The flavours for the sourdough cakes also rotate every month. 

This month sees well-loved options such as the signature banana walnut sourdough cake (S$4.20) and fragrant gula melaka pistachio sourdough cake (S$3.50). 

We wanted to order a slice home, but the cakes were all sold out by the time we wrapped our interview in the early afternoon.

Butter Town Singapore
Homemade chicken curry. Photo: Abdul Rahim Anwar/HungryGoWhere

If you wish to sink your teeth into a more substantial dish — something for brunch, perhaps? — homemade chicken curry is also on the menu. 

Enjoy it in two different variations: The chicken curry and butter corn rice set (from S$4.50) and chicken curry and shio pan set (from S$4.50).

We do prefer savouring the spicy, creamy gravy with the buttery shio pan bread, as the rolls soak up every bit of the delicious curry well. 

Note that the chicken curry is not served on Saturdays.

What’s next  

Butter Town Singapore
More shio pan, please. Photo: Abdul Rahim Anwar/HungryGoWhere

Serene and Danielle also plan to open a third outlet in the future  — or hopefully, a bakehouse. 

“We’re keen on a bakehouse concept where we specialise in shio pan,” Serene explains. “We can also develop more interesting flavours.” 

Operating out of a hawker stall also has its limitations, so having an air-conditioned bakehouse gives them more freedom to expand the menu. 

For example, the pair hopes to introduce cold shio pan (such as egg mayo, cream cheese) and cheesecakes, both of which require a fridge and a cool environment — and are currently impossible to achieve in a hawker centre.

Both sisters are optimistic about expanding the brand and promise that there are bigger and better things in store.

“In the future, we’ll have more shio pan variations with a twist,” Serene teases. “But the flavours will still be uniquely ours.”

For more eats in the area, read about our guides on the best Holland Village cafes for the ’gram or our favourite food spots to dine at. Alternatively, check out the newest openings in Singapore here. 

You can also book a ride to Butter Town Singapore to savour its popular shio pan. 

Do explore the GrabFood Dine-in service for awesome deals.

Butter Town

Holland Drive Market & Food Centre, 02-35, 44 Holland Drive
Nearest MRT station: Holland Village
Open: Tuesday to Saturday (9.30am to 2pm)

CT Hub 2, 01-38, 114 Lavender Street
Nearest MRT station: Bendemeer
Open: Tuesday to Saturday (8.30am to 2pm)

Holland Drive Market & Food Centre, 02-35, 44 Holland Drive
Nearest MRT station: Holland Village
Open: Tuesday to Saturday (9.30am to 2pm)

CT Hub 2, 01-38, 114 Lavender Street
Nearest MRT station: Bendemeer
Open: Tuesday to Saturday (8.30am to 2pm)

Picture for WP

Phyllis Leong


The resident sweet tooth with a severe addiction to desserts.

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