Not many first-time hawkers would dare to enter the market with a premium rendition of a local staple, but that’s just what Gwern Khoo, 35, and Ben Tham, 34, did. Serving wonton noodles from $5 a bowl, their stall, A Noodle Story, has since gone from just a novelty to one of 17 hawker stalls given the Bib Gourmand award in the inaugural Singapore Michelin guide in 2016.
Khoo admits that when the pair first started the business in 2013, the crowd’s response wasn’t overly enthusiastic. “It took time (for the business) to pick up, but as word got out, more people came to try what we had to offer,” says Khoo, who believes good food knows no boundaries.
Next- Gen Hawkers
“One thing good about Amoy Food Centre is our customers are mostly office executives. They are well-travelled, eat more widely, are more receptive to new creations and are willing to pay for quality.”
Khoo, who was a stagiaire at Iggy’s and Waku Ghin, has brought over the culinary philosophies upheld by each restaurant. “From Iggy’s, I learnt that good food does not need to be complicated. In fact, it takes immense courage to be simple,” he shares. “From chef Tetsuya, I learnt the importance of good ingredients. We are not magicians and we can’t create good food with lousy ingredients.”
Keeping to these philosophies, diners get a one-bowl wonder of thin springy noodles, tender slices of 36-hour sous vide char siew, wonton made from fresh Indonesian minced pork, and half an egg with a molten yolk. As the process behind prepping each ingredient is labour-intensive, Khoo and Tham can only sell 200 bowls a day, after nearly 14 hours on their feet.
“It’s definitely physically and mentally draining. In addition to the long hours, the heat is also unbearable,” says Khoo. “To cook at a consistently fast pace for three hours non-stop for lunch and then two hours for dinner leaves us completely drained at the end of the day.”
Yet the arrival of the Michelin Guide has given them fresh hope for the future. “We’re lucky that Singapore is the first country that has its street food rated by Michelin. Everyone’s complaining about our hawker culture dying out. Maybe this will spur future hawker-preneurs to join the trade,” says Khoo.
A Noodle Story
#01-39 Amoy Street Food Centre
7 Maxwell Road