White Restaurant is a household name all across Singapore, famed for being the birthplace of Sembawang’s famous White Beehoon. Opened by Mr. Tay King Huak, or Uncle Tay, over 20 years ago, the business first started as a small, rented hawker stall. Eventually, Uncle Tay moved his business to its current location in Sembawang, which remains as White Restaurant’s stronghold.
Alongside him is his son and second-generation owner, Victor.
The history and origins of White Beehoon
Uncle Tay shares that the White Beehoon he created is a uniquely Singaporean, home-cooked style dish.
When he first started selling his food, Uncle Tay often invited his friends to come and support his stall. “Try my food,” he would say. Many of them stopped by for a meal, and they found his cooking delicious. His friends would even request specific dishes from Uncle Tay.
“If you’d like to try something, I’ll try to cook it for you.” With this spirit, he’d happily attend to them. He shares that some of his friends brought their own fresh fish—and even caught crabs—for him to whip up a feast. This was how he grew his loyal base of customers in the early years.
The ethos of White Restaurant
In the early days, Uncle Tay would start his preparation at 5 pm. He would cook and serve his White Beehoon to customers throughout the day, and only finish closing his stall at around 1 am. He would finally reach home at 2 or 3 in the morning, catch only a couple of hours of sleep, before waking up and repeating this routine again. Putting in 20 hours of work a day is no easy feat for anyone—let alone in the uncomfortable environment of a kitchen. Toiling away for his business, Uncle Tay’s dedication and willpower speaks for itself.
“It was quite difficult,” remarks Uncle Tay. But there was no way through this challenging time, except to endure it and to persevere.
With colleagues, staff and employees forming the lifeline of White Restaurant, it’s even more crucial that they are well-taken care of. Victor recounts how he wouldn’t be able to find time to even eat during the busiest and most demanding workdays. Yet, he insists that his employees must get a meal in, even if he doesn’t himself.
“You have to take care of your employees,” he shares.
Uncle Tay says that their success took hard work and a pin-sharp focus.
We work hard and push ourselves, and concentrate on cooking our food well.
As for Victor, he believes that the same ethos applies to the way he treats customers, his cooking and food, and even his friends. It’s about the heart, and he shares that all that they do is truly done with sincerity.
Signature dishes, cooked with sincerity and love
As for the dish that has become synonymous with the brand, the Original White Beehoon ($7.70) comes with an array of simple yet delightful ingredients. With squid, sweet and succulent shrimp, as well as crunchy vegetables and pieces of egg, the White Beehoon is reminiscent of home-cooked food in the best way.
Mr Tay believes that their White Beehoon’s appeal lies in its flavourful gravy, which lingers in the mouth for a depth of flavour. Plus, the beehoon is not too chewy nor too soft and lacking in texture, he shares. Compounded with its light yet fragrant flavours, it’s a dish that is loved by both young and old.
White Restaurant’s Hei Zhor, or Signature Meat & Seafood Roll (frozen, 10 pcs per packet for $11), is a must-have. The filling, which includes water chestnuts, as well as prawn and fish paste, is entirely prepared by hand. It is then wrapped with beancurd skin into long rolls, and deep-fried to crisp goodness.
Continuing with his father’s legacy
“My father doesn’t pressure me,” Victor says. Nevertheless, as the next in line to take over White Restaurant, it must not be easy for Victor.
He does feel the self-imposed weight of his responsibility—of maintaining the legacy that his dad has built. But he shares a phrase that his dad has always told him:
Literally, this phrase means that ‘rules are dead and rigid, but people are not’. In other words: there is always room to change and adapt. After all, customers come first.
Despite more than 20 years of operations and history, the father and son duo remain keenly invested in bringing joy to customers through good, honest food. With this spirit, White Restaurant and its culinary legacy are definitely here to stay.