Mongolia food court inspired by S'pore

Mrs Saldan Odontuya says that Mongolians can look at what they can learn from the food court idea and how they can take home the best practices of Singapore.
Mrs Saldan Odontuya says that Mongolians can look at what they can learn from the food court idea and how they can take home the best practices of Singapore.ST PHOTO: ALICIA CHAN

Many Mongolians will recognise Mrs Saldan Odontuya as a Member of Parliament in their home country, but, to some, she remains affectionately known as "Sentosa".

That is the name of the food business she founded about 15 years ago with the help of three Singaporean businessmen.

It all started with a plate of chicken rice at a food court in Orchard Road for Mrs Odontuya, who first visited Singapore in the 1990s to scout for business ideas.

"Each time I went back, the taste, size and look were the same," Mrs Odontuya, chairman of the Mongolia-Singapore Inter-parliamentary Friendship Group, told The Straits Times through a translator. She was a keynote speaker at the Midas Touch Asia-Mongolia Xchange business forum, held on Wednesday at the Fullerton Hotel.

Fascinated by the idea of having many food stalls under one roof, she opened a food court in Ulan Bator, Mongolia's capital city.

The food court is not devoted to Singapore dishes, but she hoped that naming it after Sentosa would convey a sense of quality associated with Singapore's products, she said.

It proved to be a hit.

"We had some big and expensive restaurants, but not mid-level restaurants where average people could visit," she said.

The food court may be a small idea, she said, but Mongolians can look at what they can learn from it and how they can take home the best practices of Singapore.

"My success today is closely related to Singapore. I'll always be thankful for that," she said.

After six years, she finally met her former business partners again yesterday for a dinner of Cantonese cuisine.

"But not at a food court this time," she quipped.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 27, 2015, with the headline 'Mongolia food court inspired by S'pore'. Print Edition | Subscribe