Tong Sheng Mian Jia: Second-gen hawker learns dad’s wanton mee recipe to support kids during Covid-19

By Evan Mua July 5, 2024
Tong Sheng Mian Jia: Second-gen hawker learns dad’s wanton mee recipe to support kids during Covid-19
Tong Sheng Mian Jia is a stall by a second-gen hawker who only picked up the trade during Covid-19. Photo: Abdul Rahim Anwar/HungryGoWhere

Singapore’s hawker scene has been facing a problem for a long time: Too many veteran hawkers retiring and not enough young hawkers replacing them.

That has translated to an increasing number of these beloved, time-tested recipes being lost to time.

That’s why it’s always heartwarming to see young blood enter the scene, especially those keen on taking over family legacies — such as the young owner of Tong Sheng Mian Jia.

Located at Redhill Food Centre, Tong Sheng Mian Jia is a relatively new addition to the area, having only opened last year and is run by a second-generation hawker.

How Tong Sheng Mian Jia started

tong sheng mian jia
The soft-spoken Zhi Zhong started to learn how to cook wanton mee from his father. Photo: Abdul Rahim Anwar/HungryGoWhere

29-year-old owner Lim Zhi Zhong didn’t originally have any aspirations to become a hawker and worked as a courier, prior to opening Tong Sheng Mian Jia.

The young hawker currently has a son, aged two, and a daughter, aged five. She was born in 2019, right before the Covid-19 pandemic.

Having a young child meant that, even as the pandemic hit hard, the family man had to figure out how to secure a steady stream of income and support his young family.

“My daughter was young and I struggled for a stable income during Covid-19. At that time, my dad asked if I wanted to help him out at his stall and try out being a hawker,” he recalls.

tong sheng mian jia
The noodle stall’s first outlet is found at Redhill Food Centre. Photo: Abdul Rahim Anwar/HungryGoWhere

It was a promising proposition: His father ran the now-defunct Qi Sheng Traditional Wanton Noodle at Albert Food Centre and had a wealth of experience in the trade.

After helping out at the stall for a while and realising that being a hawker suited him, Zhi Zhong decided that it was time to strike out on his own.

In April 2021, he opened a branch of Qi Sheng Traditional Wanton Noodle in Tampines. Alas, disagreements arose and Zhi Zhong left the business, with the stall eventually shuttering.

However, that didn’t stop him. He forged ahead, tried again and thus Tong Sheng Mian Jia was born in August 2023.

After all, he was doing it all for his children. “Hawker life is challenging and the hours mean less time to spend with my children,” he says.

“But I’m striving to set up a stable business, which would eventually allow me to spend more time with them.”

Considering the first location was at Tampines, how did he decide on Redhill Market, far away on the other side of Singapore?

Says Zhi Zhong: “When I was delivering parcels, I mainly serviced this area and I thought that this area had a lot of footfall and there was potential for a hawker business to do well here.”

Learning and building bonds

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Zhi Zhong has built up many meaningful connections after he joined the hawker trade. Photo: Abdul Rahim Anwar/HungryGoWhere

It was a new chapter for Zhi Zhong and, learning from his maiden hawker venture, Tong Sheng Mian Jia was markedly different — this time, laksa became a second speciality on the menu.

Since he learned how to cook only wanton mee from his father, how did the Tong Sheng Mian Jia laksa recipe come about?

It was actually quite a heartwarming story. 

“I learned how to cook laksa from one of the other hawkers at Tampines. The older generation is very willing to share and teach,” says Zhi Zhong.

tong sheng mian jia
The laksa is something that he learned from fellow stallholders while he worked in Tampines. Photo: Abdul Rahim Anwar/HungryGoWhere

That’s not all. Zhi Zhong also learnt how to fry up extra crispy pork lard from a neighbour selling prawn mee. He’s also come up with a dried wanton dish, following advice from a regular customer.

It turns out his hawker journey has been a rather rewarding one — it’s led to many meaningful connections and even created an opportunity for a second Tong Sheng Mian Jia outlet.

He had struck up such strong rapport with the owner of neighbour Bak Kee Teochew Satay Bee Hoon — also run by a second-gen hawker — that the two are now business partners.

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His noodles have been well received by many, including the older generation. Photo: Abdul Rahim Anwar/HungryGoWhere

The duo opened a joint venture in The Bedok Marketplace in late June, where the two brands share a unit — a bigger space that can accommodate both brands.

But that’s hopefully just the beginning of greater things for Tong Sheng Mian Jia and Zhi Zhong, as the young hawker hopes to expand even further in the future.

“Hawker life can be gruelling, but getting good reviews has given me a lot of motivation, especially receiving encouraging words from older customers,” Zhi Zhong says.

Comforting wanton mee and laksa

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The wanton mee is simple but so comforting. Photo: Abdul Rahim Anwar/HungryGoWhere

As we all know, wanton mee is a supremely nostalgic and comforting dish. It’s exceedingly simple, which makes it all the more challenging to get it right.

Tong Sheng Mian Jia’s rendition of wanton noodle (from S$4.50) passes with flying colours, though.

First, the noodles are springy and without alkaline funk. Second, the char siew was tender while the wantons — both the classic and fried versions — were plump with fillings and well-cooked.

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The family-recipe sauce is the difference maker. Photo: Abdul Rahim Anwar/HungryGoWhere

Above all, though, it was the sauce that really shone. The family recipe comes loaded with oyster sauce fragrance and comes with a sneaky kiss of chilli heat in it. 

It’s hearty and flavourful, with a bit of tanginess to it — great balance, with a good amount of depth. 

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Laksa with wanton and char siew is a great idea. Photo: Abdul Rahim Anwar/HungryGoWhere

However, it has to be the wanton laksa (S$6) that surprised us. Despite starting as a wanton mee specialist, Zhi Zhong manages to cook up a more-than-solid bowl of laksa at Tong Sheng Mian Jia.

The broth is rich, creamy and warms up the tummy nicely with its spice-tinged fragrance and becomes even more robust when the punchy sambal is mixed in.

Not to mention the glut of ingredients by the side — you get the entire gamut of Tong Sheng Mian Jia’s signature wanton mee components (char siew, wanton and fried wanton) on top of the classic cockles.

A pretty unique take on the laksa, all things considered, and we think the wantons and char siew make it much more gratifying than just getting a simple bowl of laksa (from S$4.50).

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Simple, simple dish but so, so satisfying. Photo: Abdul Rahim Anwar/HungryGoWhere

Oh, and we suggest not missing out on the dry wanton (S$4.50 for 12 pieces), either. The silky, loaded wantons tossed in Tong Sheng Mian Jia’s umami sauce, then topped with crispy pork lard and spring onions? Super addictive.

It might sound straightforward but this is probably just as good as any of the popular spicy chilli dumplings out there. 

Tong Sheng Mian Jia doesn’t reinvent the wheel by any means, but it’s always great seeing a young hawker keeping the trade alive.

Plus, the food is genuine and heartfelt and hey, where else can you find a bowl of laksa topped with a treasure trove of wanton and char siew?

For more ideas on what to eat, read our stories on the gems serving the richest Hokkien mee in Singapore and the newest ang ku kueh opening at Orchard with 16 unique flavours.

Do explore the new GrabFood Dine Out service for awesome deals.

You can also book a ride to Tong Sheng Mian Jia at Redhill Food Centre.

Tong Sheng Mian Jia

Redhill Food Centre, 01-38, 85 Redhill Lane
Nearest MRT: Redhill
Open: Friday to Wednesday (8am to 2pm, 5pm to 7.30pm)

The Bedok Marketplace, 02-08, 348 Bedok Road
Nearest MRT: Tanah Merah
Open: Tuesday to Sunday (8am to 2pm, 5pm to 7.30pm)

Redhill Food Centre, 01-38, 85 Redhill Lane
Nearest MRT: Redhill
Open: Friday to Wednesday (8am to 2pm, 5pm to 7.30pm)

The Bedok Marketplace, 02-08, 348 Bedok Road
Nearest MRT: Tanah Merah
Open: Tuesday to Sunday (8am to 2pm, 5pm to 7.30pm)

Evan Mua


Evan started off writing about food on Instagram, before joining outlets such as Buro and Confirm Good to pursue his passion. His best work usually comes after his first whisky shot in the morning.

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