SINGAPORE - Back in the 1980s, during his pre-school and first year of kindergarten, chef Ken Zheng would go with his grandfather to Clifford Pier to sell rickshaw noodles, or "kan chia mee" in Hokkien.
"In the morning, my grandfather would sell fruit in Marsiling Market and I would be in school. He would then pick me up from school, and go to Clifford Pier to sell noodles in the late afternoon." he says.
In what seems like a life come full circle, the 32-year-old is chef de cuisine of The Clifford Pier at Fullerton Bay Hotel, a 272-seat restaurant whose interior is designed by Hong Kong architect-designer Andre Fu.
The menu, which comprises Western and Asian dishes, was crafted by chef Zheng.
Rickshaw Noodles ($18) is on the menu. When diners order it, they get two versions. The simple soup version, with minced pork, greens and a soy bean and ikan bilis broth is made using his grandfather's recipe.
He also presents his own dry version that pays tribute to his grandfather and his hawker father, who once sold ban mian, or handmade noodles, at West Coast Market.
The bachelor took about two weeks to come up with his version, which has ribbons of handmade ban mian noodles, stewed pork belly, a sous-vide egg and a chilli sauce, using his grandfather's recipe.
"My uncles and aunties were the tasting panel for the dry version. I sat them down and asked them if it was good enough," the oldest of three children added.
He did a couple of versions with different noodles, such as mee tai mak rice noodles, mee hoon kueh and thick bee hoon. He even tried using different types of pastas, before settling on ban mian.
Coming from a family of hawkers cemented his passion for food, and it was a natural choice for him to turn to cooking for a living.