Featured News 108-year-old Hock Lam Beef Kway Teow close their last outlet largely due...

108-year-old Hock Lam Beef Kway Teow close their last outlet largely due to govt policy on foreign workers

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Singapore to lose a heritage eatery as its vital spice -- exacting food preparation by hand -- has fallen victim to locals now refusing "blue collar" tasks amidst automation and changing government policy.

The Original Hock Lam Beef Kway Teow, which has been operating in Singapore for 108 long years, is closing its last outlet at the Alexandra Retail Centre on July 11.

In a heartfelt Facebook post notifying loyal customers of the famous eatery’s closure, Original Hock Lam Beef Kway Teow’s fourth-generation owner Tina Tan wrote that the government’s revision of the foreign manpower policy is a contributing factor to her decision to cease operations in about two months.

Original Hock Lam Beef Kway Teow had its humble beginnings in 1911 as its first-generation owner started selling high-quality Teochew beef kway teow on foot around Chinatown.

With his signature secret recipe and handling methods passed down the family line, the business found a home at Hock Lam Street where Tina Tan’s great-grandfather, grandfather and father sold their delicious fare to loyal customers from 1921 through the 1970s.

When the government redeveloped Hock Lam St, the family business moved elsewhere downtown and eventually opened six full restaurant-size outlets. Tina Tan, who grew up in the family business, took over the reins fifteen years ago.

Ms Tina Tan and her father (Photo: Original Hock Lam Beef Kway Teow FB)

With a heavy heart, Tan wrote on social media last Thursday (May 2) that her family restaurant would be closing its doors for good after more than a century. She wrote:

“For a true blue 4th generation holder of the Original Hock Lam Beef, I am very grateful and fortunate to be able to spend huge portion of my childhood days with Original Hock Lam Beef when it was located behind the old capitol building and old funan center (7th floor).
“I took over Original Hock Lam Beef from my father, 15 years ago, with no regrets or thoughts of turning back. I spent my last 15 years with tears, sweat and laughters building the business from a small humble stall to 6 full restaurant size outlets.
“Most of my business days were also spent listening to regulars’ stories, about their younger days spent in hock lam street, who have been with us for the past 60-70 years. Definitely one of those best moments in my life and shall become sweet memories of mine.”

Attributing the restaurant’s closure to Singapore’s “ever increasing manpower issue,” Tan wrote that her insistence on using only handmade and hand-sliced methods for all their beef and side dishes require foreign manpower since local job interviewees have expressed their refusal to carry out such menial “blue collar chores”.

Tan said that these “labor intensive problems hit us the most when the government keeps revising the policy on hiring foreigners”. She wrote:

“I may be labelled as stubborn because of my insistence on using only handmade and hand sliced methods to handle all my beef and side dishes, therefore, the labor intensive problems hit us the most when the government keeps revising the policy on hiring foreigners.
“Besides beef balls, which is not done in-house, every single ingredients right down to my preserved garnishes are being seasoned and hand sliced by us. Over the past decades, I was told by countless local interviewees these chores seem too menial, low class, low level or blue collar chores should not be done by locals.”

Tan, however, insists on preserving her ancestors methods of hand-preparing their meals and being loyal to her customers instead of resorting to automation to turn profits. She wrote: “However, I wish to stay honest and true to all my customers by serving them with my clear conscience and a sense of pride rather than just making profits and serving them with all processed or machine handled food.

“It is also with a happy and grateful heart when I saw my customers enjoying my food and finishing that last drop of soup or gravy.”

Asserting that July 11, 2019 will mark the very end of Original Hock Lam Beef Kway Teow and that only her family knows the secret recipe and preparation methods of their signature meals, Tan wrote:

“There will be NO more Original Hock Lam Beef in Singapore. Anyone who claims to be us is not related to or the original holder of the secret recipe. ONLY my parents, sister and myself will be able to share the growing up and history of Hock Lam Beef starting from hock lam Street to old capitol building days, as my father was the only one whom my grandfather has passed the secret recipe to as well as the handling methods of the beef.
“It is time to hang the Original Hock Lam Beef’s ladle after 108 years! We want to say a huge THANK YOU to all friends of Original Hock Lam Beef. We would not have come this far if its not for the support all of you have been giving. Please visit us and cheer us on on this final lap.
“It has been my greatest honor and pride to be able to serve one of the most original and best beef noodles in Singapore!”

After receiving overwhelming support, Tan updated that the sudden increase in customers at their outlet in recent days has led to an earlier closing time since all meals are sold out well before their closing time. Tan wrote:

“Sincere thank you from the bottommost of our hearts for the supports all of you have given us, especially these few days. Due to the sudden increased in our patrons, we had been running low or out of stocks on all our beef stocks and handmade sides. We sincerely also apologised to all who came down but were turned away by us due to the early closing due to fully sold out or patrons who did not get to eat their preferred choices.
“Please excuse us for not being able to serve all of you and being a poor host. Please give us another chance, any time before 11/07/2019, to serve you a bowl of original beef noodles. We hope to see you again.
“Kindly take note, we maybe closing earlier than our usual last order, which is 8.30pm, for these few days. Do give us a call at 62729945 if you intend to head down.”

Support Original Hock Lam Beef Kway Teow and grab a bite at 460 Alexandra Road, #02-24 Alexandra Retail Centre before they close shop on July 11, 2019.

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