Bee Cheng Hiang in Tokyo: 6 other Singapore food brands which have expanded overseas

Singaporean barbecued pork chain Bee Cheng Hiang opened its first outlet in Ginza, Tokyo, in late September.
Singaporean barbecued pork chain Bee Cheng Hiang opened its first outlet in Ginza, Tokyo, in late September. ST PHOTO: WALTER SIM

Singapore is a foodie paradise and the Singaporean appetite has fed local food success stories like Ya Kun Kaya Toast and BreadTalk.

In recent years, these homegrown brands have also taken Singapore food overseas. The latest food brand to expand overseas is barbecued pork chain Bee Cheng Hiang, which opened in Tokyo's posh Ginza district last month (September). Japan is its 11th overseas market.

Here are some other local brands that have taken Singapore food places.

1. Wee Nam Kee Hainanese Chicken Rice

Wee Nam Kee outlet at Grand Indonesia Shopping Centre, Jakarta. PHOTO: WEE NAM KEE CHICKEN RICE RESTAURANT/ FACEBOOK

First overseas branch: Makati district, Manila, 2010

The chain, which has four outlets in Singapore, also recently opened a second outlet in Grand Indonesia, Jakarta. It boasts counters at two Lotte Department stores in South Korea, which were opened in 2015. Wee Nam Kee's first outlet in Japan celebrated its first anniversary last month.


A 2010 Straits Times article on the Manila franchise reported that Wee Nam Kee's owners believe in a full transfer of food knowledge. This meant that they taught the cooks at the Filipino outlet to prepare everything from scratch, including the chilli dip, using fresh local ingredients, rather than shipping pre-packaged spices or marinades over to the franchise.

While the Singapore outlets offer only a few accompanying dishes beyond the tried and trusted chicken rice dish, the overseas branches are slightly more adventurous. For instance, the Manila branch has introduced other Singapore dishes like laksa, salted egg yolk prawns and even char kway teow to the menu.

2. Ya Kun Kaya Toast

Ya Kun Kaya Toast outlet in Apgujeong, an upmarket district in South Korea. PHOTO: ST FILE 

First overseas branch: Jakarta, Indonesia, 2003

Ya Kun has been expanding rapidly overseas since its first outlet opened in Indonesia in 2003. It now counts China, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Myanmar, South Korea, Taiwan, Thailand and the Philippines among the list of countries it has expanded to. There are plans to open outlets in Cambodia and Japan too, to make it a total of 10 countries where its signature kaya toast is now available.

Besides running outlets, Ya Kun also supplies a supermarket chain in South Korea with jars of kaya jam.

3. Mr Bean

Mr Bean outlet at Shibuya train station in Tokyo. PHOTO: ST FILE

First overseas branch: Shibuya, Japan, 2010

Soya milk drinks are familiar to the Japanese who consume soy in many forms. And that familiarity was a plus for soya milk chain Mr Bean when it ventured into the notoriously-difficult Japanese market with its freshly brewed soya milk and pancakes. Its products are a hit, and the outlet at the busy Shibuya station has become a landmark meeting point for Japanese commuters.

The chain also has two outlets in the Philippines. The made-on-site pancakes, a local favourite, have been just as popular with overseas customers.

4. Tai Sei Hei (Lao Ban)

Tai Sei Hei's management staff comprising (from left) Mr Max Yeow, Ms Esther Yan, Mr Ken Li and Mr Terrence Hong pose in front of cafe Xiao Ban in Ho Chi Minh City. PHOTO: ST FILE

First overseas branch: Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam, 2011

Another chain offering products from soya beans, Tai Sei Hei took its soya beancurd (produced under the brand Lao Ban) to Vietnam in its overseas debut.

The humble Singapore hawker snack is made in a small cafe called Xiao Ban in Ho Chi Minh city. Besides soya beancurd, the menu also offers gelato, milk tea and coffee and waffles, in a departure from its Singapore offerings.

5. Crystal Jade Culinary Concepts

A view inside Crystal Jade's San Francisco restaurant.  PHOTO: CRYSTAL JADE SAN FRANCISCO/ FACEBOOK

First overseas branch: Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam, 1996

The chain, which serves traditional Chinese dishes and earned its first Michelin star this year for its Crystal Jade Golden Palace eatery, first ventured overseas in 1996.

Since then, it has ventured far and wide, and today operates outlets in 10 countries. The chain, which was acquired by French luxury group LVMH in 2014, also opened a much-hyped US$14-million (S$19.2-million) outlet in San Francisco which can seat 400 people. The posh restaurant, an addition to the more than 100 restaurants the group has across Asia, also features a bar and lounge.

6. Janice Wong

Pastry chef Janice Wong. PHOTO: ST FILE 

First overseas branch: Kennedy Town, Hong Kong, 2016

Singaporean pastry chef Janice Wong, owner of popular 2am:dessert bar in Holland Village, expanded her reach to Hong Kong and Japan in quick succession in March and April this year.

She has also expanded her repertoire beyond desserts, creating savoury dishes for her 82-seat casual fine-dining restaurant in Hong Kong.

Her new direction is reflected in her new flagship, Janice Wong Singapore, which opened at the National Museum of Singapore in August.