Many Hokkien mee lovers were left heartbroken on Feb. 16 when they found out that the popular Tiong Bahru Yi Sheng Fried Hokkien Mee stall, located at ABC Brickworks Market and Food Centre, would be closed for good.
To verify the information, which first appeared in a Facebook post in the “Hokkien Mee Hunting” Group, Shin Min Daily News tried to contact Toh Seng Wang, the current and second-generation owner of the stall, but he did not respond to any of the calls or messages.
A friend of Toh, who is familiar with the family business, later confirmed with Shin Min that the stall had closed down permanently and that it would be returned to the government.
However, the source clarified that the 73-year-old decided to close down the stall simply because he would like to retire and not because of bad health.
According to Shin Min, Toh’s two sons do not intend to carry on their father’s trade, and Toh had shared in an earlier interview that he was on the fence about selling his recipe because he was worried that the dishes would not taste as good after his stall extended into a chain.
Reportedly ceased operations around a month ago
When Shin Min visited the ABC Brickworks Market and Food Centre on Feb. 21, a Malay stall owner said the stall had actually ceased operations approximately one month ago.
Even before closing down his hawker business permanently, Toh was already cutting down its business days to two days per week, the 57-year-old added.
As a result, many had previously asked the Malay stall owner why Toh’s stall was not open over the weekends, reported Shin Min.
He also told Shin Min that he could not bear the thought that the fried Hokkien mee stall would be closed for good, as he had known Toh for many years.
Stall with a 40-year history
In an earlier interview with Shin Min, Toh shared that he inherited the hawker business from his father in the 1980s, who had been selling fried prawn noodles on the streets around Tiong Bahru plaza since the 1960s.
Over the years, Toh has been adhering closely to his father’s original recipe and ensuring the ingredients are fresh and abundant so that customers will visit the stall again.
Nevertheless, he said the dishes he prepared still fell a bit short as compared to those cooked by his father, according to Lianhe Zaobao.
“I only decided to learn how to carry on the trade from my father when he was almost 70 years old and retiring. While the dishes will inevitably turn out slightly different when cooked by different people, I will try my best to make them taste as authentically as possible, such as by only using lard to fry the noodles so that the aroma of the Hokkien mee can be brought out,” explained Toh.
Unaware of Michelin Bib Gourmand award
In the same interview with Zaobao, Toh also shared that he only knew about his stall being awarded a Michelin Bib Gourmand after customers showed him a clipping from the newspaper.
While he believes the international recognition will help elevate the status of hawker food, Toh said he would not change his work style for new diners who patronise his stall after reading about it from Michelin.
“Every day, I only prepare a fixed amount of ingredients. Hence, I will not open the stall earlier or fry more just because more people are visiting it. Over the years, I have been frying noodles level-headedly, and the most important thing to me is that I prepare the dishes properly and that my customers find them tasty. This is my responsibility to my patrons as well,” stated Toh.
Top images via Huey Li Tan & Lee Richard/ Facebook