Ya Hui is clad in a leather strap denim apron with the Yeo Yeo Huat Kopi & Toast label on it. She’s standing behind a wanton mee stall counter going about her business. A customer orders four plates of wanton mee. “Coming up!” Ya Hui says, then proceeds to expertly toss the egg noodles using a sieve and a giant pair of bamboo chopsticks. The actress is clearly in her element. But no, the location is not the set of popular Ch 8 long-form drama 118, and Ya Hui is not in character as frumpy wanton mee seller Jinzhi at the fictional Yeo Yeo Huat coffeeshop. Instead, she’s at the famous Wong Kee Wanton Noodles stall at Timbre+, serving up plate after plate of piping hot, very springy noodles to… very real customers.
Welcome to the Jin Zhi Wanton Noodles Charity Drive. By the time the first plate of noodles was served at 12.30pm on this sultry-hot Saturday afternoon, a snaking queue had already formed in front of the stall. Ya Hui’s surrounded by swirling smoke and a team of helpers, namely, Wong Kee’s lady boss (who sponsored the food) and staffers. So overwhelming was the turnout that the fund-raiser was extended by an hour, and some patrons waited up to two hours just to get their wanton mee fix. No wonder the 30-year-old actress was feeling #wantonneoflove (the official hashtag for the charity drive). “I’m extremely thankful ’cos I was so overwhelmed by the turnout,” she gushes. “I was pretty worried at first that no one would turn up. But by noon, the whole place was very crowded already. I was elated!”
Turns out there’s a heartwarming story behind the event. “After Season 1 of 118 aired, whenever I went out, aunties and uncles would come up to me and ask, ‘Do you really know how to cook wanton noodles?’ They told me that they really want to eat wanton noodles cooked by me. Then one day, I came up with the idea of cooking noodles for the public while raising funds at the same time.” Logistics meant it took a few years for her dream to materialise, but you know what they say, good things come to those who wait. So how would she fare as a wanton mee seller in real life? “I think not bad leh ’cos my JC teacher and my friends feedbacked to me that my noodles are more Q (Taiwanese for ‘springy’)!” In fact, the actress tells us that she may set up her own noodle stall in the future, selling either ban mian, mee pok, or, you guessed it, wanton mee. Ya Hui, actress, host… hawker? (Scroll through the photo gallery (above) to find out what else went down during the event.)
PHOTOS: THE CELEBRITY AGENCY/WEI LIANG