Meet S'pore's very own 'chio bu' hawker who sells 'shiok' mee pok at Clementi

11 October 2015 / 1 year 2 weeks ago

Linette Lai
The Straits Times
11 October 2015

Ms Reina Kuribara is 18, Japanese, and serves up a "shiok" bowl of authentic Singaporean mee pok.

She learnt the recipe from her father, Mr Naoji Kuribara, who, in turn, was taught it by a Singaporean hawker.

But, while Mr Kuribara, 47, is known for being possibly the only Japanese mee pok hawker here, the spotlight has been on Ms Kuribara of late - something that has come as a surprise to father and daughter.

On Friday, popular food blogger and medical doctor Leslie Tay - also known as ieatishootipost - uploaded pictures of Ms Kuribara showing off her skills in the kitchen. "Who would ever imagine seeing a young Japanese mee pok woman in Singapore?" he wrote in the post, which received more than 3,000 likes and was shared 1,795 times.

When The Sunday Times visited Ah Hoe Mee Pok in Clementi yesterday, there were at least 20 people in the queue half an hour before closing time.

The diminutive teenager arrived in Singapore at the age of three, studied at a Japanese primary school here, and then moved back to her home country during her secondary school years.

She returned to Singapore after that and immediately started work at her family's Japanese bento stall. Her father, a former finance executive who is originally from Gunma prefecture in Japan, decided to make a living from his passion for food and quit his job here in 2005.

He first learnt to cook mee pok from a Singaporean friend in 2013, after being captivated by its taste. Subsequently, he took over his friend's stall.

Six months ago, his daughter also began learning the tricks of the mee pok trade. "I don't like studying but I like to cook," said Ms Kuribara, who now works full-time at her father's stall. "I saw my father cooking mee pok and it looked very cool. A lot of customers like his food."

Unlike Japanese bento boxes, she said, cooking mee pok can be "very hot and tiring". Starting out, she even fainted in the kitchen once and was taken to a hospital.

But now, dressed in a tank top and shorts, with a towel slung around her neck, it is clear that she knows her way around the kitchen.

Apart from taking orders and collecting money from customers, she also takes over when her father wants to have a break. "Sometimes, my customers ask for her to cook instead of me," said Mr Kuribara. "I'm very happy. She moves quickly (in the kitchen) and learns very fast."

Ms Kuribara is up by 5am each morning - an hour before opening time - setting out the meat, mushrooms and chilli that go into the noodles. The pair sells between 250 and 300 bowls a day, and plans to experiment with fusion dishes, such as mee pok served with Japanese char siew, in the future.

In the long run, Ms Kuribara hopes to keep running the stall with her Singaporean boyfriend.

"It's quite impressive for a Japanese to get the taste right," said real estate agent Jessica Chua, 35, who made a trip to Clementi from Jurong specially to try the noodles.

Sales manager Yvonne Chin, 46, a regular at the stall, added: "The mushroom marinade is very nice. The sauce is very well done."

See photos related to the article as well as other images of good looking hawkers in Singapore in the gallery below. 

This article was first published on October 11, 2015.
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