Singapore

Famous wonton noodle brand Eng's splits into two rival outlets

Famed Eng's has split into two rival outlets after dispute between founder's son and business partner

A feud that got too hot to handle is allegedly the reason that not one but two eateries bearing the famed Eng's wonton noodle name will soon face off in Tanjong Katong.

In one corner, at 287 Tanjong Katong Road, is Eng's Wantan Noodle, which recently reopened to brisk business after renovations. This is the original eatery that late founder Ng Ba Eng presided over in 2012 when he relocated from his hawker stall in Dunman Food Centre.

But fans of Eng's, and its fiery chilli sauce, would not be faulted for thinking they are seeing double when Eng's Char Siew Wantan Mee opens just doors away at 248/250 Tanjong Katong Road next month.

It will be helmed by none other than Mr Ng's children, Mr Desmond Ng, 48, who took over the business after his father died in 2013, and his two sisters.

The son told The Straits Times yesterday he had split from his father's business partner at Eng's Wantan Noodles, Ms Pauline New, 50.

"My hope is just to carry on my dad's legacy," said Mr Ng.

In another twist, the original eatery at 287 Tanjong Katong has a new owner as well. Ms New has decided to exit the business, and the lease has been transferred to the chief executive of soup chain Lao Huo Tang, Mr Thomas Hong.

PUSHCART

Mr Ng Ba Eng could not have foreseen how it would grow to a business taking in up to $1.5 million a year when he began selling noodles from a pushcart in Duku Road more than 50 years ago.

He moved into a stall at the Dunman Food Centre in the 1970s, where Eng's noodles became a household name.

Mr Ng was named a Singapore Hawker Master by The Straits Times and Lianhe Zaobao in 2011.

The stall relocated to 287 Tanjong Katong Road in 2012 but Mr Ng died a year later, at 71.

Interviews with Mr Desmond Ng and Ms New's husband, Mr Jason Sim, revealed disagreements over money, customer service and the fate of the eatery when the lease ran out in March.

Mr Sim, 66, said there were numerous complaints about service after Mr Desmond Ng took over.

Mr Ng, however, said he decided to open a new restaurant only because his partners signed a new lease without him.

When contacted, Mr Hong, 45, said he took over the lease because he had been told the place was closing.

"I'm a wonton mee lover, and I am friends with the staff at Eng's, so I thought it would be a waste if it closed down and did not continue," said Mr Hong, who plans to open about 20 Eng's outlets across the country in the next three years.

"I was surprised when I learnt they were opening up again."

While they wage war over a lucrative brand, patrons are glad there will be more than one Eng's.

Mr Marcus Tan, 21, eats at 287 Tanjong Katong at least once a month.

The outlet reopened last Monday and Mr Tan, who is waiting to go to university, said: "The flavours are all still there, especially its signature chilli which has not lost its kick."

Mr Leonard Hu, 45, said he would patronise both places.

The manager, who has eaten there every week for four years, added: "Competition is good. The queue is long at times and I may not get a seat or the food may be sold out. Now I have a higher chance of getting my weekly fix. "

Food & Drink