I’m always on the hunt for a satisfying bowl of fishball noodles, especially if it includes quality, handmade her giao (fish dumplings), which are notoriously hard to find. Call it destiny, but it was the song Sunny by Boney M that brought me to this stall. For months, I had been playing the requests of a couple who would text me on occasion from their workplace. I was delighted to discover that they actually made and sold my favourite hawker food for a living. I was doubly delighted to realise that their stall was already on my “to-try” list.
Excellent taste in music and food aside, the owners of Lina Fishball Noodle had already created quite an online stir because these hawkers of traditional Chinese noodles are young, attractive and surprise-surprise, not Chinese. Meet newly-weds May & Jeevan Ananthan – she’s in charge of business development and makes a mean fishball, he’s in charge of operations and the main bulk of cooking. But what does a young Indian man know about making bak chor mee and fishball noodles? Indeed, 30-year-old Jeevan Ananthan, who looks more at home in a gym or the corporate world of Trading and Investments (his previous job), is the last person you’d expect to see in a Toa Payoh kopitiam, putting together your order of bak chor mee. In the words of his equally youthful wife, May Leena (the stall is named for her, using the Mandarin version of her middle name) Krishnan, their start really wasn’t easy and they had to overcome a lot of odds to get where they are today.
Despite having zero F&B experience, the couple took the plunge and opened a stall selling their favourite hawker food, so they could spend more time together. And just like that, Lina Fishball Noodle was born. When they first started, they hired someone with experience to pass on some basic culinary skills, but after the first couple of weeks, May and Jeevan were on their own. For everything else they didn’t know, they taught themselves from internet videos and their own kitchen experiments. Their youthful gamble seems to have paid off and after almost two years and one move (just down the road from their original stall), Lina Fishball Noodle has gained a loyal and regular customer base, along with the expected gawkers, still surprised by the sight of Jeevan manning the stall.
May initially leveraged on that surprise factor and a video she posted on Instagram of Jeevan cooking his signature noodles went viral. Her digital marketing background in full play, May hashtagged the video #TheIndianFishballMeeExperience and with the subsequent online buzz came the media attention. It was exactly what they needed to give their business a boost. But what about naysayers who think the couple are just getting by on their good looks and internet fame? May’s immediate reply was, “Come and try.” Jeevan added, “We’ve heard that before, but look, our food does the talking, not us. Just come, try and see if you want to come back or not.”
And that is exactly what I did…
For the full story, to download the podcast and to watch the video, click the links below:
- LISTEN: & download the podcast of this week’s deliciously cross-cultural bak chor fishball mee episode
- READ: the full story at CNA Lifestyle.
- WATCH: Denise try this makan recommendation on GOLD 905’s facebook page.