You’ve probably heard of ‘mam mam’, a colloquial term that means “eat”. At MAM MAM, just like its namesake, fresh, hearty, heritage cuisine is guaranteed—at prices that won’t burn a hole in your wallet.
MAM MAM might seem like a humble establishment, but the people behind it have boast-worthy lists of achievements under their names. Chef Sebastian Ng has trained at Restaurant Gordon Ramsay in London, Hotel de Mikuni in Tokyo, and La Credenza in Turin, Italy. He also owns VENUE By Sebastian. Meanwhile, Edmund Ang is the third-generation owner of Ponggol Nasi Lemak. A household name, it’s a 42-year-old brand that is known for being one of Singapore’s best nasi lemak spots.
How did they start MAM MAM?
“We have been the best of friends since young,” they say. Having known each other since they were 14 or 15 years old, Sebastian and Edmund’s brotherhood dates back to their school days. Back then, Edmund would help out at his family’s nasi lemak stall after classes. As for Sebastian, he ventured into the world of F&B and learned to cook from famous chefs around the globe.
A few years ago, when they met up for a meal, they wondered if there was something they could do together. MAM MAM, a passion project that testifies to their love for cooking and their commitment to serving up good, trusty food, was the result.
“We can definitely chiong (charge) forward by trusting each other.” Their faith in each other has been crucial to their professional, working relationship, just as it has throughout their decades of friendship.
“You know that someone is always there for you,” Edmund says.
Out of curiosity, we asked if they had ever quarrelled due to work matters.
“No, not really.” Thankfully, heated arguments are out of the question for this tight duo.
A duck confit inspired by Balinese cuisine, and more signature dishes
MAM MAM’s food reflects the duo’s combined years of experience, compounded by the genuine camaraderie between them. The signature 100-hour Duck Confit Rice Bowl ($14.90) was partially inspired by bebek bengil, or Crispy Dirty Duck, which Sebastian tried on a trip to Bali. Despite finding the flavours of this Balinese dish enjoyable, the duck meat was too tough. He then sought to create a better version, with more succulent meat and an improved texture.
Marinated in a mix of Asian spices for a day, the duck confit is slow-cooked for another 24 hours and soaked in its own fats for 2 more days. At this point, it is fall-off-the-bone tender. The duck leg is then served with fragrant white rice, zingy green sambal, egg rolls, and salted vegetables (or kiam chye). The rice bowl is simply perfect with the pickled vegetables and the homemade sambal, both of which takes the dish up a notch.
Thanks to the concoction of 16 different Asian spices used, Chef Sebastian’s Signature Spice-Crusted Chicken Rice Bowl ($9.90) is MAM MAM’s ultimate best-seller. Its robust, complex flavours draw upon the taste profiles of Malay and Indian cuisine. A reddish, crispy crust coats the entire chicken leg. As such, each bite contains a blend of crunchinesss and tenderness, from the flavour-packed crust and the perfectly cooked chicken meat within.
Making sacrifices to reach success
Running two businesses concurrently is far from being a walk in the park. Edmund shares that to keep up with his own family business and MAM MAM’s operations, he works 7 days a week. As such, rest days are few and far between.
On this, Sebastian smiles and jokingly says that Edmund should thank his wife. Edmund nods, remarking: “If you were to have someone at home who doesn’t really understand what you are going through…”
“It’s hard to move on.”
“Yeah, it would be even harder [on us].”
In this line, you cannot run away from working hard. You just have to work hard, really hard.
Edmund Ang, on the key to success in the F&B world
Indeed, being in F&B means having to put in sweat, blood, and hours of hard work. This is true, regardless of whether you’re a newcomer, an employee, or a restaurateur.
“In the morning, I’d work in one kitchen. In the afternoon, I’d work at another kitchen for free,” says Sebastian as he tells us about his younger days. This was his way of picking up culinary basics faster than his peers and colleagues.
Even so, despite the struggles, they find satisfaction in seeing customers return again and again for their food. Praise and recognition have kept this duo running on endlessly.
“Now, we’re 40 over years old… I expect this to go on, even until we are 50 plus,” says Edmund.
With a brotherhood that has withstood the test of time and distance, one united by a common love for serving up good food, MAM MAM is certainly one for the books.