Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Wonderkid Hawker - Jalan Sutera Char Kway Teow in Johor Bahru

Now, this is something you don't see often in Singapore. A 16 year old boy frying char kway teow along a street side market. Come to think of it, you'd probably be easier off striking lottery than to witness this happening here.

Teck Meng is the name of this wonderkid, and where you will find boys his age lounging in MacDonald's and Starbucks in Singapore, this impressive lad is working his socks off to help the family business.

Teck Meng can barely conceal his thin frame, not yet fully developed into a grown man, and still he moves with a certain gusto in the confined kitchen.

His muscle memory in handling the wok is already impressive for any ckt hawker, much less a teenager. He tells me he has been doing this for only a year, but there is a quiet confidence about his technique.

The meticulous way he washes his wok after every plate of food has been cooked, all handled with a precision and care that puts most other adult hawkers here to shame.

He cooks only 2 dishes here, a Penang styled char kway teow and fried prawn mee. His mother is ever watching over him whilst we were there, making sure he follows through the things taught to him by his dad, who is elsewhere manning a second stall.

Char Kway Teow

Is this the best plate of char kway teow out there? Obviously not, for there is no such thing as a best. But this is a good plate of food made by a teenager that has dazzled me not just with what he has served up, but with his attitude and ability.

The wok fire could have been controlled better, but with experience and time, he will learn all that is necessary to make this one of the best char kway teow plates in Johor.

The ingredients for a future legend are in place. He has the work ethic that will put almost every other Singaporean teenager to shame. He has oodles of humility, something that can never be learned.

Most of all, he has a great sense of duty and responsibility to his family. Even his younger sibling was also there, helping out with the chopping and learning the ropes.

No Name Stall, A Family Affair

It is a family affair, and it is this sense of bonding that galvanizes them to work hard and be proud of their cooking.

Teck Meng did not shy away from feedback either, even from strangers across the causeway. And that is magnificent. He will be a Nanyang hawker master one day. Not today, but someday.

When I think of some of the most egoistical chefs and foodies here in the "Garden" city, I feel gratified that a young boy like Teck Meng can do something so simple, yet left a far stronger and more positive impression than would be chefs that talk more than they cook.

Watch out for this wonderkid. The first wonderkid hawker that I know. Hopefully not the last.

No Name Char Kway Teow
Jalan Sutera Danga
Restoran CMC Food
Beside the carpark to Sutera Mall

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