East Coast stall, praised by CNN, to close
WHEN the wok fire goes out on April 10, a seafood and claypot stall at East Coast Lagoon Food Centre - that has been acclaimed by CNN as one of Singapore's top 10 "must-visit" eating places - will wind up its history spanning 60 years.
Lee Chin Kim, the owner and only chef of the eatery named Leng Heng, lamented that such a day has to come, as both he and his wife are old now and there is no one with his cooking skill to take over the business.
His knees, which are weakening with age, also make it hard for him to stand for 12 hours a day in the kitchen area, Mr Lee, who has three grown-up children, told Chinese evening daily Lianhe Wanbao.
"In fact, I'm reluctant to hang up the wok," said the 67-year-old, stressing that he enjoyed cooking and felt great satisfaction whenever customers praised his food.
When asked whether many of his famous dishes would vanish forever with his retirement, Mr Lee believes that is not an issue as he holds no secret formulas and has given hands-on lessons to some regular customers who wanted to learn.
According to Wanbao, the most popular dishes at Leng Heng are claypot salted vegetable duck soup, chilli crab and seafood pancake done with crispy popiah skin.
However, in the 37 years that he had been his own chef since he took over Leng Heng from his father-in-law, Mr Lee's menu has expanded to more than 30 dishes, said Wanbao.
Mr Lee was hired as a helper when he was a lad by Leng Heng, which was then a roadside stall in Hougang.
The owner, finding the boy hard-working and an eager learner, imparted to him his cooking skills and later even consented to Mr Lee's proposal to marry his daughter.
A 68-year-old customer surnamed Chen told Wanbao on Wednesday that he had visited the stall for more than 30 years and his daughter had grown up eating its dishes.