Though her shop has moved from its original location on Stamford Road, where it stood for 35 years, many of her loyal customers still visit her current shop at Far East Square.
Tell us about the story of Nam Seng Noodles – what got you started?
I first set up my wanton noodle shop in 1959 at the old National Library, when I was about 30 years old. I’ve always loved to eat wanton mee since I was a child. I had an older female cousin who hand-made her wantons, which were very yummy. She taught me how to make my own, and to this very day, I still hand-make my wantons at my shop every morning. I am very proud of them!
Did you have any suitors at your shop when you were younger?
[Laughs] Yes, but I was always too busy tending the stall, so I couldn’t really be bothered. Besides, I was already married and had children. When someone compliments my food, I always just politely say thank you and then get back to work.
Did you have help at the stall?
Back then, my late husband had his own job, so I managed it alone with just four to five helpers. Every day was extremely busy. But now that business has grown, I can afford to hire more workers to help me tend the shop and do most of the work. These days, one of my sons helps take me to the market every morning before I open the shop – I always believe in using the freshest ingredients.
Why did you move from the library area?
The Land Office repossessed the place in 1995, so I had to move. At that time, I relocated to a temporary location at Joo Chiat Place. I was there for about a year before moving here to Far East Square. I’ve been here for over ten years now, and I still have customers from the old National Library days.
We’ve heard you’ve served a lot of famous people, such as members of Parliament...
I have had famous regulars, though I don’t see a need to say who. But there are a lot, lah!
Have you ever considered setting up more outlets here in Singapore?
No, never. I have always been content with what I have. I’m 83, not 38 anymore – I can’t be greedy! One stall is enough. People have asked me to try wanton mee from the other stalls around Singapore, but I never bothered to do so. I believed in being diligent, and concentrating on my own stall and minding my own business. It is better to channel the attention into serving my customers well.
Nam Seng Noodles did not shoot to fame immediately when I first started, it gradually became more and more popular over the years. There is no secret recipe, no special sauce. I have always loved wanton mee – I love everything about the entire dish, so I want to make sure that my customers are satisfied and happy when they leave. I believe that when you do things well, people will naturally come. Some people even make a trip to the shop just to say hi to me! Some even buy me mooncakes and tarts during the annual Mooncake Festival.
Nam Seng Noodles 25 China St (6438 5669). Raffles Place. Mon-Fri 8am-9pm, Sat 8am-5pm.