Retired Jumbo Chef Opens Bak Chor Mee Stall ’Cos He’s “Good At Cooking Liver” - 8days Skip to main content



Retired Jumbo Chef Opens Bak Chor Mee Stall ’Cos He’s “Good At Cooking Liver”

Why did the new hawker choose to sell fish maw minced pork noodles and not the seafood dishes he used to serve as a Jumbo restaurant chef?

Tucked away in a quiet coffee shop in Jalan Besar is two-month-old hawker stall Fan Shu Dried Sole Fish Pork Noodle. At a glance, it looks like any other bak chor mee stall, but go closer, and you’ll notice emblazoned across its signboard are the words “More than 30 years’ experience as executive chef of a famous seafood restaurant” as well as a photo of towkay Tan Tiong Soon, 57, with former Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak and his daughter Nooryana Najwa Najib who dined at his former workplace. 

“I had no intention of displaying the photo but the guy who made my signboard said it would attract customers, so I took his suggestion,” says the hawker. 

After some probing, Tiong Soon reveals that he had been the assistant executive chef at Jumbo Seafood’s East Coast outlet, where he worked his way up from a kitchen assistant. He left the restaurant in 2020 with the intention to retire, but after “idling” for two years, he invested $30K to start his own biz last December hawking bak chor mee served with sole fish soup.

“I became so fat during the two years when I wasn’t working, so I decided to open a hawker stall. Who knows, it might do well and I’ll have something to pass on to future generations,” he tells He runs the stall with his camera-shy wife, previously a homemaker. They have two sons aged 30 and 33, who aren’t in the F&B industry.

Despite the stall’s name (fan shu means sweet potato in Chinese), the tuber isn’t added in the noodles – it’s the veteran chef’s nickname. 

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Never cooked bak chor mee prior to opening stall

Despite spending decades in the F&B industry, it was a steep learning curve for the chef-turned-hawker. He had to handle everything from finding suppliers to learning how to cook bak chor mee from scratch. To stand out from your standard bak chor mee stall, he decided to offer toppings like fish maw.

“Prior to this I have not cooked noodles for customers. I had to do R&D to come up with something that I like,” he says.

Why not sell something he’s familiar with? 

“I wanted to open a noodle stall ’cos it’s more manageable and I chose to sell bak chor mee as I’m interested in it. Plus, I’m good at cooking liver,” he reasons. “Many of my peers who went on to become hawkers opened zi char stalls, but the overheads are very high ‘cos you need a bigger space and extra manpower.”

Business has been less than ideal though. Tiong Soon laments that footfall at the coffeeshop isn’t good and business is especially slow on weekends. 

“My wife and I have only had one rest day since we opened two months ago. We are not making a loss, but I’m earning around 70 per cent less than what I used to,” he says.

Despite this, Tiong Soon is adamant about keeping prices affordable. His signature fish maw mushroom minced pork noodles is $6, compared to other similar stalls where prices usually start from $8, and he does not mark up prices for delivery orders (they’re currently only on Foodpanda). “We just opened so it’s okay to make some sacrifices. We’ll absorb [the 30 per cent commission]. We can earn a little less,” he says.

The towkay is also known for his kindness and generosity. One netizen named Joanne Lim shared on Facebook foodie group Heritage SG Food that he sells fishball noodles to an elderly woman for just $1. When we ask Tiong Soon about it, he tells us that the woman is a regular who patronises his stall several times a day.

“She doesn’t remember that she’s eaten (Tiong Soon’s unsure if she has dementia) so she can eat up to seven times a day. I used to give her the noodles for free or just take $1 ‘cos I wasn’t sure of her financial situation, but now I charge her $2 – I don’t want her to think I pity her,” he explains. “I cut up the fishballs into smaller pieces and give her slightly less ingredients ‘cos she’s a picky eater and has few teeth.”

The menu

The menu features minced meat noodles (soup or dry) featuring different toppings like fishball, meatball, or fish maw. Prices start from $4.50 for the basic bak chor mee or with fishball or meatball, to $6 for the signature fish maw version.

Tiong Soon also serves his own version of braised pig trotter noodles. “A customer told me she likes seafood but is allergic to it, so I decided to make braised pig trotters for her. It’s my specialty. Other customers got to know about it and began asking for it, so I decided to make it a permanent menu item,” he shares.

Pig trotter set, $15

Pig trotter noodles are available from $6, while the set which comes with braised egg, tau pok, and mushroom (no carbs), is $15. Add-ons like braised tau pok and egg are also on offer.

Fish Maw Mushroom Minced Pork Noodles, $6

At Tiong Soon’s recommendation, we try the dry version of his signature fish maw bak chor mee. The bowl of mee pok comes generously topped with three thick rings of fish maw, beansprouts, minced meat, a meatball, braised mushroom, liver slices and strips of fried sole fish. While we like the sharp, vinegary sauce, the chilli, made with a blend of chilli padi, dried shrimp, onion, and lemongrass, lacks punch.

The toppings are pretty good. The minced meat is well-seasoned, liver slices, still slightly pink, are perfectly cooked. The fish maw, which has been lightly seasoned in soy sauce to give it a little taste and colour, is on the crunchier side – not our favourite. Tiong Soon tells us he personally prefers this texture as it has a better mouthfeel. “If the mouthfeel is not so good, I’d rather not sell the fish maw,” he remarks.

The milky, umami soup on the side, which comes in a larger-than-usual serving, brims with the briny flavours of dried sole. Instead of simmering the fish with pork bones when making the broth, Tiong Soon adds a sprinkling of roasted sole fish, which has been blended into a powder, along with chicken stock and minced garlic into the soup to give it more oomph. We particularly enjoy biting into the sole fish bits.

Pig Trotter Noodles, $6

Great decision to offer pig trotter noodles. For $6, you get six meaty chunks of braised trotters served with mee pok, beansprouts, mushroom, in spicy, umami sauce. The trotters are not the melt-in-your-mouth variety, but still tender with a bit of bite and not gamey. 

The trotters are deep-fried for around 15 minutes before they are braised for hours in soy sauce, hua diao wine, dried chilli and a touch of angelica root (dang gui). The usual suspects like star anise and five-spice powder are omitted as Tiong Soon doesn’t like the taste of the spices, but the trotters are still flavoursome and moreish. Only 20 bowls are available each day.

The details

Fan Shu Dried Sole Fish Pork Noodles is at Bistro 8 food court, 31 Kelantan Lane, S200031. Open Mon to Sat 8.30am-7.30pm; Sun 8.30am-4pm. Tel: 9818 8929

Photos:, Fan Shu Dried Sole Fish Pork Noodles



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