Makansutra: A tale of two brothers
Brothers helming family restaurant set up own eateries
Someone should make a movie out of this true culinary story.
To keep his two sons in the kitchen, Mr Chia Kok Hoong taught them how to cook the 12 Cantonese dishes - four steamed and eight stir-fried - his restaurant, Sik Wai Sin Eating House, in Geylang was known for.
He placed his older son, Steve, in charge of the steamed dishes and had his younger son, Desmond, handle the stir-fried dishes to prevent a "revolt".
But after the patriarch suffered a stroke, Desmond decided to strike out on his own. He opened Sik Bao Sin also in Geylang in 2014.
Without Desmond, Sik Wai Sin was down to just four steamed dishes in its menu.
Its business waned, and Steve decided to go solo too, opening Eat First at East Coast Road.
Sik Wai Sin subsequently closed its doors in 2015.
"My father was very strict back then. If he saw me in the stir-fry section, he would kick me out, and it was vice versa for my brother," said Steve.
Desmond taught himself how to prepare Sik Wai Sin's steamed dishes through memory.
Steve, on the other hand, sought guidance from their uncle, the owner of Hillman Restaurant at Kitchener Road.
I checked out Eat First.
Steve's steamed dishes, such as the Salted Fish Minced Pork patty, were in their element.
Eat First hand-chops the meat and mixes bits of fat and cartilage in.
Its steamed fish head was equally well-executed - fresh, smooth and moist, it came with a bean paste sauce, crispy lard, chillies and spring onions.
The vegetable in the stir-fried Beef With Kai Lan Green was crunchy, and the beef slices were smooth and soft.
The Tofu Prawns - deep-fried tofu with crunchy grey prawns in a seafood sauce - was comparable to Sik Wai Sin's.
Compared to Desmond, Steve is easier on the salt and sugar.
Plus, Steve prepares all the dishes himself.
Despite the drama, the legacy continues, which is the ending we want.
891, East Coast Road
Tel: 6443 8434
11.45am-2.30pm and 5.45pm-9.30pm
Closed on Monday
KF Seetoh, the founder of Makansutra, dabbles in street food businesses like Food Markets and has his own TV shows on cable. He publishes food guides and online content. He is also the creator of the World Street Food Congress. Follow him on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.