Famous fried chicken wings from CHIJ St Nicholas Girls' canteen make a comeback

Generations of CHIJ St Nicholas Girls' School students have grown up eating the chicken wings sold by Madam Lim Meow Lang, who started the stall in 1972 at the school's old Victoria Street campus. PHOTO: JAMES NGIAM
Madam Lim Meow Lang's grandson, Mr James Ngiam, is keen to revive the family business and put his family's delicious chicken wings back on the menu. PHOTO: JAMES NGIAM

SINGAPORE - Former CHIJ St Nicholas Girls' School students can now have a taste of nostalgia from their schooling days, literally. A popular canteen stall famed for its crispy chicken wings is making a comeback this weekend.

Generations of St Nicks girls have grown up eating the chicken wings sold by Madam Lim Meow Lang, who started the stall in 1972 in the school's old Victoria Street campus.

Madam Lim, who was affectionately known as Aunty Meow Lang, was the longest-serving canteen vendor of the school. She died in 2014 at the age of 82 and her stall shuttered the following year.

But Madam Lim's 31-year-old grandson, Mr James Ngiam, is now keen to revive the family business and put his family's delicious chicken wings back on the menu.

Mr Ngiam recently started running his own Western food stall at Republic Polytechnic's (RP's) The Lawn foodcourt.

As part of the RP stall's official opening on Saturday (Sept 22), Mr Ngiam will host a special event for former and current St Nicks girls, as well as their friends and family.

From 10am to 1pm, they can choose any item from the menu and pay whatever amount they wish, with the proceeds going towards needy students in RP.

Speaking to The Straits Times on Friday, Mr Ngiam said he decided to organise the event to raise awareness for his new stall, as well as to thank former St Nicks girls for supporting his grandmother's business over the years.

He said: "Many parents and former students were sad to know that my grandmother's stall closed down. Later on, they started asking my mother, who helped out at the stall, to marinate chicken wings for them, but she could not always do that.

"I've always wanted to run my own food business, so the idea of setting up a stall to sell my grandmother's famous chicken wings came naturally."

The items available at Mr Ngiam's stall include chicken chop as well as beef steak imported from Australia, which is the most expensive dish at $5.80.

The chicken wings are sold at either $1.30 or $1.50, depending on their weight.

Mr Ngiam said that he has kept the prices of the chicken wings the same as those sold at his grandmother's stall, just before it closed.

On Saturday, there will be only 200 to 300 chicken wings available, he said.

While Mr Ngiam may be a 2008 culinary graduate from hospitality school Shatec, he still counts marinating the chicken wings as one of the most difficult steps for the dish.

It involves stirring the chicken wings in the marinade continuously for an hour, before adding the flour mixture and stirring it again for another hour, he said .

"It can get very tiring, because you have to ensure that the marinade is even," he said.

While his grandmother used to sell mushroom rice and porridge alongside the chicken wings, Mr Ngiam said he has chosen to focus on Western food, as that is his forte.

"All of my relatives have high hopes for the stall, as they want to see me continue my family's legacy," he said, adding that he hopes to open a second stall at the National University of Singapore next year.

Growing up, Mr Ngiam remembers spending a huge part of his childhood at the St Nicks canteen.

His older sister was a former student, and he would head there after school to hang out with her and her friends, while his mother was busy.

He started helping out at the stall at age 17, first taking food orders before learning how to cook.

The school was also where his father - who worked as a deliveryman then - first fell in love with his mother.

He noticed her during his delivery runs to a stall next to hers.

"The look of the canteen has stayed the same after all these years. It is a special place that holds a lot of memories for me, and reminds me of the carefree days then," he said.

Many former students were happy to learn that they would be able to relive their childhood days through their favourite school snack.

Housewife Xue Qiwen, who was at St Nicks until 1986, said: "The memories I have of those years are so pure and happy. During those days, we looked forward to having the chicken wings when we went to the tuckshop. It was our comfort food."

Ms Xue, 48, said that she last tasted the chicken wings in 2009, before she moved to Qatar with her family.

She had taken her two daughters, Tricia and Nicole, with her for an alumni event, and they managed to snag the last three wings available at the stall.

Housewife Xue Qiwen's daughters Tricia (left) and Nicole managed to snag the last three wings available at the stall during an alumni event in 2009. PHOTO: XUE QIWEN

"I hope there will be a chance for me to go back and taste the chicken wings again. I may not remember exactly how they taste now, but I'd still wish to savour them for old times' sake."

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