Carrying on the bak kut teh legacy
The future of bak kut tehnow lies in the hands of a new and more gung-ho generation.
The usual household names have family members taking over the business.
Here's my take on how four of them fared in the handover...
TUAN YUAN PORK RIBS SOUP
Block 127, Kim Tian Road
8am to 3am, closed on Mondays
Tel: 6684 0123
Mr Mario Gwee and his younger sister, Fiona, are the children of Frankie of the popular Ya Hua Bak Kut Teh at Keppel Road.
This Kim Tian Road outlet is air-conditioned, slick and comfortable.
Everything, except the food quality, underwent a revamp and the service here is livelier.
Mr Gwee, 26, says: "Bak kut teh brought us up, it is our lives. We owe it to our customers to continue our parents' legacy."
The broth comes with three levels of pepperiness: Normal, spicier and oh-my-gosh!.
They also have a mobile app where you can pre-order before going to the restaurant.
TUAN YUAN PORK RIBS SOUP: Mr Frankie Gwee (right) with children Mario and Fiona.
FOUNDER BAK KUT TEH
Hotel Boss, 500, Jalan Sultan
11am to 5am daily
Tel: 6816 2582
Mr Nigel Chua had been helping his father, Mr Chua Chwee Whatt, at the eatery in Balestier Road since he was a kid.
He took over 10 years ago and today, he's set up a spanking and cheerful new outlet at Jalan Sultan.
"I know no other business and helming this is very natural for me," says Mr Nigel Chua.
"I think I have inherited 100 per cent of my dad's skills."
To which his father says: "80 per cent."
Founder is among the first to offer the "long gu" or prime ribs version, which remains the No. 1 item on its menu. Its broth is still very peppery, so this apple hasn't fallen far from the tree.
FOUNDER BAK KUT TEH : Mr Nigel Chua and his father Chua Chwee Whatt.
BALESTIER BAK KUT TEH
365, Balestier Road
Open 24 hours
Mr Jonathan Yap, 28, knew he wanted and needed to take over the family business when his father died three years ago.
His version tasted the most potent: A bold smash of pepperiness balanced by porkiness calmed with subtle herbs "to mask the porkiness".
Mum Wendy Tia still helps out and their long gu version (two huge pieces at $9), is among the cheapest.
But the rent and manpower problems bug Mr Yap. He says: "If this persists, I may have to re-think it all in five years' time.
"Rent 50 years back was $50, today it is nearly $20,000."
BALESTIER BAK KUT TEH: Mr Jonathan Yap.
RONG CHENG BAK KUT TEH
Midview City, Block 26, Sin Ming Lane
9am to 9pm daily
Tel: 6684 1889
When former asset manager Lionel Lim decided to take over his parents' popular but hot and muggy kopitiam business, he had one condition: Open another outlet with a cooler atmosphere.
This high-ceiling restaurant offers not just the same robust and meaty bak kut teh but also a host of other family zhi char items like steamed fish and chicken dishes.
Its bak kut teh has a very good balance of garlicky meatiness, umami and pepperiness but nothing screams at you.
RONG CHENG BAK KUT TEH: Mr Lionel Lim (in white) with customers.