Change brewing at popular noodle stall

Fans of the famous MacPherson Minced Meat Noodles stall in Serangoon Road often wait up to 90 minutes to savour its trademark dishes such as bak chor mee.

But the queues might soon get even longer as the man behind it is about to retire.

Owner Yap Lye Hock, 63, who started out as a stall assistant over 20 years ago, told The Straits Times in Mandarin: "I'm old and very tired. I really want to take a break."

Mr Yap is currently in talks to hand over the business and secret recipes to a regular customer who is in his 40s. He has no idea what the selling price will be, but said there could be a new owner this year.

Mr Yap, who runs the stall with two assistants, said his wife and four daughters have no desire to take over the reins.

"They say it's such a pity for me to sell. But one must have the interest to do this or the food will not taste good," said the hawker.

The stall used to operate in Tai Thong Crescent near MacPherson Road. About four years ago, it moved to its current spot in the Kim San Leng coffee shop, at the junction of Serangoon Road and Opal Crescent.

Mr Yap's minced meat noodles, which sell for $4 a bowl, have been rated by several food websites as among Singapore's best.

Makansutra, for example, describes the broth as "rich" and the noodles as "nicely cooked".

Also on the menu are fish ball noodles, pig trotter noodles and "xiao wan mian", or soup with ingredients and dry noodles.

Open from 7am to 2pm every day except Tuesday, the stall typically sells between 100 and 200 bowls of noodles a day.

It often sells out early on Sundays and public holidays.

Regular customers come from as far as Jurong and Malaysia, and include celebrities such as filmmaker Jack Neo and comedian Mark Lee.

But running such a popular stall can be tiring. Mr Yap's typical day begins around 2am, when he wakes up and rides his motorcycle to the stall from his Woodlands home.

Mr Yap and his assistant, Madam Chong Kui Moi, reach there by about 3am and start preparing the ingredients from scratch.

The soup, which is flavoured with two whole chickens, dried anchovies and soya beans, takes three to four hours to brew.

Madam Chong, 61, said: "I'm tired too. We are standing all the time."

Help has been hard to come by. Mr Yap has been searching for a dishwasher for over a year, but has not found anyone suitable.

"It's not very profitable either," said Mr Yap, who takes home between $4,000 and $5,000 a month.

Logistics officer and regular customer Jon Poon, 45, said he will be sad to see Mr Yap go. He said: "The taste of his bak chor mee is solid. The meat is tender and the noodles are not soggy, but just nice.

"I am worried that the taste might be different under a different hand."

But Mr Yap is not ruling out a comeback. He said: "If the new owner needs me, I don't mind coming back as a part-time assistant. At least I can relax a little and still draw a salary."

This article was first published on March 26, 2016.
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