Whether or not you know their names, the Koh family deserves a place in Singapore’s popular and cultural history for their unique contribution to local cuisine—delicious tau huay. Unfortunately, the family story has been lass than sweet, since a fight over shares in the business has caused the Kohs division and disharmony.
Rochor Original Beancurd started with a makeshift stall at the intersection of Rochor Road and Beach Road, when a young couple, Xu Jun Jie and his wife Tan Jin Jiao, perfected the art of creating the most delicious dessert of silky beancurd.
The couple, whose tau huay stall was their means of livelihood, went on to have four children. Koh Koon Meng, the oldest son, worked side by side with his parents at the tau huay stall since the age of 12. Together, parents and son went on to further improve their recipe.
By the 1990’s, and after Xu Jun Jie passed away, Tan Jin Jiao and Koh Koon Meng had expanded their operations to two tau huay stores in Middle Road and Selegie Road.
The other three children eventually went on to join the family business. William Koh, the second son, came on board in 1991, and David Koh, the youngest, joined in after finishing his National Service Duties. Caroline, the only female offspring, at first assisted David, but later on started her own business, Old Rochor Beancurd and Min Traditional Beancurd.
By the mid ‘90s, the Koh family opened the shop where they’re best known—Short Street, Rochor Original Beancurd, selling bowls of delicious tau huay at 60 cents each and producing 1,500 kilos of it daily.
The split within the family began when only the second son, William, whom Madame Koh was living with, was given equal shares of the company. The rest of the offspring failed to receive shares. After the matriarch suffered from a stroke in 2003, her shares were given to William’s wife, Eng Ah Moi.
David was told he would not be given shares until after William’s death, and William challenged him to open his own store right beside his. This is when David opened Beancurd City beside Rochor Original Beancurd, and Koon Meng, left to open Rochor Beancurd House.
David, who had learned how to make tau huay from Koon Meng, still enjoys a good relationship with his oldest brother, but is no longer friendly toward William and his wife in law, Ah Moi. In 2006, he said he had not spoken will William in a long time.
Koon Meng has chosen to stay out of the fight between David and William, and is on good terms with both.
David Koh claims that he opened his tau huay store right beside the original establishment because people already know Short Street to be the best place to go for good tau huay.
The origins of the Koh family tau huay legacy is told in this story on their Facebook page
But what cannot be disputed is that Xu Jun Jie and Tan Jin Jiao left their children, and indeed the nation, a lasting and valuable legacy. The brothers’ tau huay shops regularly receive positive reviews from critics and bloggers, who attest to the quality of the dessert, and say that the differences in taste are slight. Even the Michelin guide called the brothers’ tau huay shops good.
And now, it’s the next generation of the Koh family who have inherited the family business, including Koon Meng’s son Jason, now in charge of Rochor Beancurd House. He believes that it’s time for the family to stop looking back, but to have an eye toward the future. Perhaps in this generation, the true sweetness of the Koh family legacy will prevail.