Glamming up wonton noodles - with a cocktail or sous vide char siew

Wanton Seng's Noodle Bar is a joint venture between Mr Benson Ng (left) from Seng's Wanton Noodles and Chef Brandon Teo (right), culinary director of The Establishment Group.
Apart from the signature noodles (above), diners can also order sous vide char siew, where marinated pork belly is cooked at 70 deg C for 18 hours before being glazed.PHOTOS: LAU FOOK KONG, WANTON SENG'S NOODLE BAR
Wanton Seng's Noodle Bar is a joint venture between Mr Benson Ng (left) from Seng's Wanton Noodles and Chef Brandon Teo (right), culinary director of The Establishment Group.
Wanton Seng's Noodle Bar is a joint venture between Mr Benson Ng (left) from Seng's Wanton Noodles and Chef Brandon Teo (right), culinary director of The Establishment Group.PHOTOS: LAU FOOK KONG, WANTON SENG'S NOODLE BAR

Famous Seng's Wanton Noodles jazzes up its noodles at new outlet in Amoy Street

The popular Seng's Wanton Noodles in Dunman Food Centre is getting a modern makeover. At its newest outlet in Amoy Street, diners can enjoy the noodles with a cocktail.

Wanton Seng's Noodle Bar, opening on June 29, is a joint venture between Seng's Wanton Noodles - which has two other branches in Bedok South Food Centre and Bedok Marketplace in Simpang Bedok - and The Establishment Group, which owns modern European restaurant Pluck in Club Street and Gem Bar in Ann Siang Hill.

They are taking the humble hawker dish to a new level.

Apart from the signature noodles, diners can also order sous vide char siew, where marinated pork belly is cooked at 70 deg C for 18 hours before being glazed.

Other side dishes include quail, and a local version of Scotch egg. The hard boiled eggs are encased in minced pork with char siew seasoning, deep-fried and served with mayonnaise infused with char siew drippings.

All-day tipples at the noodle bar, located in an 88 sq m shop house, include craft beers and a vodka-based chrysanthemum tea cocktail.

Mr Benson Ng, 28, co-owner of Seng's Wanton Noodles, says he wants to give customers more options instead of merely customising the amount of meat and greens in their bowls.

He says: "As we are expanding the wonton noodle business to the Central Business District, we cannot simply offer what's already available in hawker centres. I want to bring a traditional recipe to the next level."

Amoy Street has good traffic from the office crowd during lunch and dinner times, he adds.

He sought the help of his childhood friend, chef Brandon Teo, 30, culinary director of The Establishment Group, late last year.

Mr Teo hopes to create "wonton noodles for the next generation" by using restaurant-style cooking techniques for the side dishes, the selection of which will change regularly.

He says: "A flexible menu gives us leeway to introduce creative and elaborately cooked sides with South-east Asian flavours."

He will be training three cooks from Seng's to use cooking equipment, such as a combination oven and salamander grill, in the coming months.

The 30-seat industrial chic space will offer wonton noodles for lunch. Prices start at $5.50 a bowl. The most expensive, at $10, has crab claws and scallops with X.O. sauce.

During dinner time, diners can mix and match their noodles with meats, greens and eggs. A meat-based combination will start at $10.

Mr Teo says its prices are comparable to those served in Singapore-style ramen stall, A Noodle Story, in the nearby Amoy Street Food Centre.

For dinner, its serving of char siew is priced along the lines of casual restaurants such as the Din Tai Fung chain.

Prices for a bowl of wonton noodles at the other Seng's outlets start at $3. Seng's Wanton Noodles was started by Mr Jimmy Tan, 68, as a street-side stall in Koon Seng Road before it relocated to Dunman Food Centre in 1974. There, it became rivals with Eng's Noodles House, which moved to Tanjong Katong Road in 2012.

Mr Ng, who is a family friend of Mr Tan, bought over the business and recipes for $150,000 in April 2013, after hearing that the founder wanted to retire.

Mr Ng, who helped out in his family's textile business before taking over Seng's, spent a year learning to cook the dish.

Despite the revamp, some fundamentals will stay the same - Seng's springy noodles, the fiery chilli sauce and the boiled and fried wontons.

The co-owners are also not fazed by the impending arrival of two Hong Kong-style wonton noodle shops which are opening here soon.

Mak's Noodle from Hong Kong will open later this month, while sushi restaurant chain Itacho Sushi will start a wonton mee restaurant in August.

Mr Ken Tan, 34, creative director of The Establishment Group, says: "Competition makes us stronger. We have an original offering and are not following in the footsteps of others."

kengohsz@sph.com.sg

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 17, 2015, with the headline 'A cocktail to go with wonton noodles'. Print Edition | Subscribe