This 25-year-old founded Singapore’s first bolo bun concept store, with two new concepts on the way

By Phyllis Leong May 8, 2024
This 25-year-old founded Singapore’s first bolo bun concept store, with two new concepts on the way
Meet Hoh Loyi, the founder of Champion Bolo Bun. Photos: Abdul Rahim Anwar/HungryGoWhere, Dickson Nasi Lemak
  • Hoh Loyi started Champion Bolo Bun when she was just 22 years old, now a beloved cafe in Singapore.
  • She picked up her pastry-making chops from the best and even apprenticed with a famed cha chaan teng in Hong Kong.
  • Champion Bolo Bun also has a “no arguments” policy. Customers can exchange buns for fresh ones if they’re not consumed within 20 minutes, so that you can enjoy them at their best. 
  • Besides the soon-to-be-launched Dickson Nasi Lemak at Tanjong Pagar, Loyi has several new quick-service food concepts up her sleeve.

Fluffy, chonky bolo buns (pineapple bread) brimming with velvety, buttery goodness are the crown jewels of popular cafe Champion Bolo Bun — Singapore’s first bolo bun concept shop. 

Housed in a quaint three-storey shophouse unit at Tanjong Pagar, the thriving cafe is the brainchild of young entrepreneur Hoh Loyi, 25. 

She founded Champion Bolo Bun when she was just 22 years old. While most of her peers were in the midst of getting a university degree, she was already the proud owner of a successful cafe. 

Just a week after its opening, snaking queues forming outside the shop were a common sight. There was also a minimum wait time of 30 minutes before eager foodies could get their hands on a prized Champion Bolo bun. 

But that’s not all. A year later in 2022, the cheery Malaysian-born 25-year-old opened Dickson Nasi Lemak, a takeaway joint at Joo Chiat specialising in Malaysian-style nasi lemak. 

Now, Loyi has taken it a step further with Dickson’s new dine-in store — also named Dickson Nasi Lemak, which is set to open its doors sometime in June at Tanjong Pagar. 

And, as we learn, she has even more surprises up her sleeve: Two quick-service food concepts, one of which will revolve around her signature bolo buns, are in the works.

Read on to find out what she has in store.

How her love for bread began

Champion Bolo Bun Singapore
The iconic Champion Bolo Bun logo. Photo: Abdul Rahim Anwar/HungryGoWhere

Loyi hadn’t always been interested in the F&B industry.  

The first seeds were planted when she attended F&N (food and consumer education) classes in secondary school.

“Turns out, I was pretty good at it,” Loyi says with a laugh. “I realised that I enjoyed making food for people and putting a smile on their faces.” 

At that point, she wasn’t inclined to consider a career in the F&B scene yet. The pivotal moment arrived when Loyi turned 16 and clinched her first-ever job at artisan bakery Baker & Cook.

She started at its Swan Lake outlet, which also housed Baker & Cook’s sister brand Plank Sourdough Pizza and was tasked mainly with front-of-house duties.

“One day, I asked the head chef if I could touch the sourdough pizza,” she recalls with a grin. “He taught me all he knew and eventually, I learnt how to make the pizzas, too.”

Champion Bolo Bun Singapore
Loyi discovered an interest in bread-making while working at Baker & Cook. Photo: Abdul Rahim Anwar/HungryGoWhere

“I wanted to take bread-making more seriously then,” she adds. Instead of going down the conventional route, she went against the grain to “study bread” abroad, instead of books.

Learning from the best

Champion Bolo Bun Singapore
Soft, pillowy and fluffy — just the way we like our bolo buns. Photo: Abdul Rahim Anwar/HungryGoWhere

She fondly describes her one-year stint at the China Grain Products Research & Development Institute in Taipei as one of the happiest moments in her life when “all the stars aligned”. 

The Institute is known for its baking courses and serves as a training ground for aspiring bakers.

The friends that she made there were her pillars of support — Loyi counts them among her closest friends and still keeps in touch with them to this day.

It was also where she honed her chops in bread-making, explored her repertoire of culinary techniques and experimented with pastries, including Japanese sweet buns, croissants and many others. 

Champion Bolo Bun Singapore
Loyi learnt how to make bolo buns from a popular cha chaan teng in Hong Kong. Photo: Abdul Rahim Anwar/HungryGoWhere

Right after graduation, she clinched an apprenticeship at a famed diner in Hong Kong. She declined to share the name of the restaurant, but we understand it’s reputed for serving the best bolo buns in town. 

Asking for a job flat-out can be incredibly intimidating, but not to Loyi. 

“Just try lor,” she says with a laugh. “What did I have to lose?”

And a good thing she did, too, because she got a job at the restaurant not long after — albeit with a couple of initial rejections along the way.

The job taught her a lot, says Loyi. “Hong Kong is so fast-paced, you need to be quick on your feet and think out of the box when dealing with unprecedented challenges,” she adds.

How Champion Bolo Bun began

Champion Bolo Bun Singapore
Champion Bolo Bun occupies a three-storey shophouse unit. Photo: Abdul Rahim Anwar/HungryGoWhere

Loyi returned to Singapore in 2018. 

Armed with an enriched culinary experience and a winning recipe, she decided to introduce bolo buns to our local shores. 

She then participated in various pop-up events at Singapore Expo and Artbox, where fluffy bolo buns were the star. 

At first, she didn’t expect her bolo buns to have such mass appeal. After all, they were traditional Hong Kong delicacies, which might not be enticing or trendy as many other contemporary pastries on the market.

However, they turned out to be a hit and that sealed the deal. It was all the impetus Loyi needed to start Champion Bolo Bun as a brick-and-mortar space.

The store is named as such because of her ambition of serving the best bolo buns in the country.

Loyi found that social media and word-of-mouth were crucial to Champion’s success. Within the first week, the business was beset by hungry crowds.

Managing a dine-in space also took some getting used to. “I’m no longer just one person,” she adds. “I had to learn how to manage a team and uphold quality and standards.”

The menu at Champion Bolo Bun

Champion Bolo Bun Singapore
Peep the treats that we had at Champion Bolo Bun. Photo: Abdul Rahim Anwar/HungryGoWhere

But what makes the bolo buns at Champion so special? 

For starters, the crust on the bolo buns is crispy, crunchy and pairs well with the fragrant, pillowy bun. You can also peel it off and enjoy it as a biscuit on its own.

“To make a good pineapple bread, it has to have a crispy crust,” says Loyi. “You have to be able to eat it like a cookie.” 

Its preservative-free dough is another key selling point. This keeps the bread “solid” and dense, just like Japanese milk buns. 

The menu is also kept small and streamlined — it has only six items, which include five bolo bun variations and custard tarts. 

Here, the curry potato bun (S$6.50) is the bestseller. Brimming full of fragrant curry and minced chicken, it’s the go-to option for those who prefer hearty, savoury flavours

Oh, and did we mention that the buns sell like hotcakes? By the time we wrapped up our interview in the early evening, most of Loyi’s wares were sold out. 

We did manage to get our hands on the classic with butter bun (S$5.55).

The bun is chunky and fluffy, with velvety butter oozing with each bite. It’s aromatic and luscious, making it an addictive tea-time snack. 

Champion Bolo Bun also has a “no arguments” policy that allows customers to swap their buns for free if they’re not consumed within 20 minutes. This is so diners get to savour the buns in their peak condition.

The cafe is also the only bakery in Singapore to use a special, semi-automated machine for its signature Champion’s milk tea (from S$5.50), ensuring consistency in every cup.

It is the perfect rendition of Hong Kong milk tea — sweet, creamy and chock-full of robust herbaceous notes — and takes us back to dining in a true cha chaan teng.

Champion Bolo Bun’s future

Champion Bolo Bun Singapore
Look forward to new and exciting flavours on the menu. Photo: Abdul Rahim Anwar/HungryGoWhere

In the four years since Champion opened, public reception for the cafe has been wonderful. “We’re very blessed that we get featured on various food Instagram accounts as one of the top places to go in Singapore,” says Loyi, beaming. 

Some good news for regulars: Champion Bolo Bun intends to incorporate seasonal flavours on its menu sometime in the future. The team is currently in the process of R&D. 

Champion also has plans to collaborate with a yet-unnamed local hawker brand to create a unique concept that pays tribute to local Hong Kong culture.

She remains coy about the details, so stay tuned!

Dickson Nasi Lemak expands

Champion Bolo Bun Singapore
Malaysian-style nasi lemak. Photo: Dickson Nasi Lemak

In case you aren’t familiar with Dickson Nasi Lemak, the bubbly entrepreneur is also the founder of this popular nasi lemak eatery.

“I grew up eating nasi lemak in Kuala Lumpur, so I wanted to bring authentic Malaysian-style nasi lemak to Singapore shores,” she says.

Sure, there are a host of nasi lemak shops in Singapore, but she wanted Dickson Nasi Lemak to stand out from the crowd. And so it does, with its thoughtful choice of ingredients. 

“We use OG bamboo buckets to cook our rice so that it’s fragrant,” adds Loyi. “The sambal also has a lot of anchovies and onions in it, so that it’s more robust.” 

Despite its rising popularity, the space has, to date, been a takeaway-only joint.

But that is due to change in the coming months. HungryGoWhere understands that Loyi is collaborating with a partner to open a new Dickson Nasi Lemak outlet, which will be a dine-in concept situated in Tanjong Pagar, by June.

Even more new concepts

Champion Bolo Bun Singapore
Loyi will be launching two brand-new concepts very soon. Photo: Abdul Rahim Anwar/HungryGoWhere

Loyi also has two brand-new concepts in the pipeline.

With a mind on eventually bringing her dishes overseas, Loyi wanted to build a homegrown brand that would appeal to diners from both the east and west. 

In her own words, it’s an “Asian-fusion quick service concept”, though more details are to be confirmed. 

Another concept, Magic Bolo, has also been brewing for more than a year. 

Just from its namesake, you can tell that it draws heavily from Champion Bolo Bun. 

“I’m very thankful that Champion is doing well,” says Loyi. “But realistically, it cannot replace McDonald’s.” 

As such, Magic Bolo epitomises her vision of a lifestyle, fast-food brand that caters to diners of all ages and backgrounds. 

“Malaysia has Marrybrown, so hopefully Singapore has Magic Bolo,” quips Loyi. 

The brand will also carry a whimsical tagline: Find your own magic. A series of colourful, playful mascots will be the faces of the brand, too.

Loyi has dreams that Magic Bolo will be a brand that children will grow up with, where kids can “find themselves”. 

“Everything back-end has been prepared,” she says. “I’m just waiting for the right location and time to start the project.”

Loyi promises plenty of surprises, including menus thoughtfully curated to feature dishes with a twist. Her enthusiasm is contagious and we can’t wait to see what is in store.

In parting, Loyi has these words of encouragement for aspiring business owners: “There might be a few black sheep here and there, but don’t let them dull your shine.”

For more eats in the area, read about our guides on the best cafes for coffee and brunch or top food spots in Tanjong Pagar. Alternatively, check out the newest openings in Singapore here. 

You can also book a ride to Champion Bolo Bun to savour its crowd-favourite bolo buns or to Dickson Nasi Lemak’s Joo Chiat takeaway store.  

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

Champion Bolo Bun

92 Tanjong Pagar Road
Nearest MRT station: Tanjong Pagar
Open: Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday (11am to 7pm), Saturday and Sunday (8.30am to 7pm)

Dickson Nasi Lemak

320 Joo Chiat Road
Nearest MRT station: Eunos
Open: Thursday to Tuesday (8.30am to 10.30am, 11.45am to 3.30pm)

Champion Bolo Bun

92 Tanjong Pagar Road
Nearest MRT station: Tanjong Pagar
Open: Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday (11am to 7pm), Saturday and Sunday (8.30am to 7pm)

Dickson Nasi Lemak

320 Joo Chiat Road
Nearest MRT station: Eunos
Open: Thursday to Tuesday (8.30am to 10.30am, 11.45am to 3.30pm)

Picture for WP

Phyllis Leong


The resident sweet tooth with a severe addiction to desserts.

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