Indian masters art of making fishball noodles


A surprise awaits those who visit the Li Na fishball noodles stall at Block 116, Toa Payoh Lorong 2.

It is not a Chinese who makes the popular dish there but Jeevan Ananthan, who has perfected the art of making the Chinese staple.

The 28-year-old, a banking and finance graduate who worked as an investment trader for five years, sweats it out at the stall for about 10 hours daily, enduring the heat from the stove.

"It is quite tough because every bowl has to be made according to customers' requirements," he said.

"Some customers don't want certain ingredients, while some want extra. There are numerous permutations. But I've got the hang of it and have a system in place."

He is assisted by his girlfriend May Leena Krishna, whom he met while both were studying at the Singapore Institute of Management.

The 29-year-old, whose father is Indian and mother Chinese, left her senior executive job to start something which would give her a greater sense of ownership.

Both invested their savings (a five-figure sum) to start the stall, which bears her Chinese name.

"As foodies, we were passionate about local hawker and coffee-shop food," said Leena.

"Since fishball noodles is our most favourite hawker dish, we decided to embark on this path together."

The pair trained under a master for a month before venturing to open their stall on Aug 6 this year.

Initially, people were sceptical whether Jeevan could prepare good fishball noodles. Leena had to convince many in Mandarin that he is as skilled as the Chinese cooks.

"Seeing an Indian skilfully prepare a Chinese dish fascinated many, but they doubted if he could match the standards of a Chinese noodles maker. Eight out of 10 customers checked with others before making their purchase from our stall," said Leena.

Today, almost 200 people queue up daily to savour his preparations, which range from mushroom minced meat noodles to fishball noodles and signature noodles in both dry and soup versions. It costs between $3 and $3.50 for a bowl. The soup is infused with tik por (dried sole fish) which has a flavourful kick.

The duo earn more than their previous combined salaries of $10,000 a month.

Mrs Leong Pei Teng, 31, who visits their stall almost daily, said: "I like the mushroom and sauce they add to the bak chor mee (minced meat noodles). The noodles taste very nice too.

"Now that I'm pregnant, I'm craving for more. It is my first time seeing a young Indian running a Chinese noodle stall successfully. Sometimes, I buy their fishball noodles for my colleagues and they have become addicted to it as well."

Both Jeevan and Leena said the venture would not have been a success without the support of their families.

"Initially I felt sad when I saw my son standing beside the hot steaming pots and woks for long hours," said Jeevan's mother Annieta Clementi.

"Now I'm very proud to see him working hard and with utmost confidence.

"He puts his heart and soul into every bowl he serves."

Jeevan knows that running a business has its risks, but he is confident that if he gives his best, he will certainly be recognised.

"Many might think that a graduate should only take up a government or corporate job, but to work in a coffee shop also requires skills," he said.

"We meet people from different backgrounds and can fully benefit from it. I am proud to tell my friends and relatives that I am a noodles maker because by opening a food business in a coffee shop we are helping Singapore preserve its past. We must never forget our roots."

Their ultimate plan is to expand their fishball noodles business islandwide.

"Many might think that a graduate should only take up a government or corporate job, but to work in a coffee shop also requires skills."

- Jeevan Ananthan


அதற்குள்ளாகவா? இந்தச் செய்திகளையும் படிக்கலாமே!

இந்தச் செய்திகளையும் படிக்கலாமே!