After a delay in getting its Hong Kong head chef's work permit approved, the famous Mak's Noodle - one of the must-eat dishes in Hong Kong on every foodie's list - has opened its first outlet at The Centrepoint.
In town for the opening, its third-generation owner Tony Yung says he is sticking to his guns to keep to the same small serving size as the one in Hong Kong. A bowl of noodles is about the size of a small Chinese rice bowl. It is priced at HK$36 (S$6.30) in Hong Kong and costs $6.90 a bowl here.
Mr Yung says in a mix of Mandarin and Cantonese: "In Hong Kong, wonton noodles are intended to be eaten as a snack, not as a main dish. So if you're not full, you will have to order another portion."
He adds that the small bowl of wonton noodles keeps the noodles from turning soggy. Four wontons are strategically placed under the noodles, so that the noodles do not soak too long in the soup.
The 900 sq ft, 40-seat outlet here is a joint venture between Mr Yung and new food and beverage company Asia Gourmet.
The affable Mr Yung, 54, calls the partnership "timely", after he had turned down other F&B groups trying to woo the brand into Singapore. He is the son-in-law of the second-generation owner of the chain, which started in 1920 in Guangzhou and now has six outlets in Hong Kong.
Mak's Noodle is known for its thin springy noodles and plump wontons filled with chunky prawn in a bowl of flavourful soup.
At the outlet here, the noodles and wonton skin are imported from Hong Kong. "The noodles are made with flour from Canada. It gives the noodles a more springy texture," Mr Yung says.
Fresh prawns are used for the wontons. Asia Gourmet's managing director Lee Yuen Yong says: "We considered using frozen prawns because fresh prawns are more expensive in Singapore. However, during the food trials, the frozen prawns didn't work. So we went back to using fresh prawns instead, to ensure better quality."
Other signature items include dry noodle items such as tossed noodle with shrimp roe and oyster sauce ($8.30) and tossed noodle with beef brisket ($9). Side dishes include seasonal vegetables in oyster sauce ($4.90) and beef brisket and beef tendon ($14.70).
To suit the local culture of eating wonton noodles with sliced green chilli, the condiment is available, along with the same chilli paste served in the Hong Kong outlets.
Chef Chan For Kam, 64, heads the flagship outlet at The Centrepoint and will supervise future openings of Mak's Noodle outlets here. The Hong Kong chef is from its Wellington Street outlet and will be based in Singapore for at least two years.
Other chefs from Mak's Noodle in Hong Kong will also be stationed at subsequent new outlets when they open.
The next outlet here will open at Westgate mall in Jurong East, by the end of September. The owners are likely to open another five outlets in the next few years.
The wonton noodle battle is heating up in Singapore: Wanton Seng's Noodle Bar, a joint venture between Seng's Wanton Noodles at Dunman Food Centre, and The Establishment Group, which runs Pluck in Club Street, opened in Amoy Street two weeks ago; and sushi restaurant chain Itacho Sushi is starting a wonton mee restaurant next month at Plaza Singapura.
However, Mr Yung remains unfazed, saying: "We are not worried. Everyone is doing his own business. It's about how you sustain it. Others cook to fit their taste, but I stick to tradition.
"I wouldn't dare call us the No. 1 brand, but we are at least No.2."
• Mak's Noodle opens daily from 11am to 10pm at 01-63/64 The Centrepoint, 176 Orchard Road.