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5 Things You Should Know About Tung Lok

TungLokGroupOne thing you are unlikely to complain about in Singapore is a lack of choice where food is concerned – with one of the most prevalent cuisines being, of course, Chinese.

Whilst there are literally thousands of restaurants to choose from, one of Singapore’s largest and most popular Chinese restaurant chains is Tung Lok Restaurants Pte (SGX: 540).

Specialising in Cantonese as well as Northern Chinese and Sichuan cuisines the chain includes Tung Lok, Tong Le Private Dining, Lao Beijing and Tung Lok Signatures restaurants in Singapore and owns the My Humble House chain in China, India, Indonesia and Japan.

The story of Tung Lok

After finishing university, young business graduate Andrew Tijoe returned to Singapore to start work for a multi-national company – from which he moved to begin working for his family’s firm Oceanic Textiles.

However, a keen interest in food led him to get involved in the running of his family’s new restaurant “Charming Garden” in 1980. Its menu, which was based on the fiery Hunan cuisine and packed with chillies and robust flavours had not been experienced in Singapore before and proved an instant hit.

With the restaurant flourishing the family opened a second outlet in the Liang Court Shopping Centre named “Tung Lok Shark’s Fin Restaurant” in 1984, this time focusing on refined Cantonese cuisine and quickly attracted a loyal following.

East Coast

Cantonese cuisine was proving a hit and was chosen for Tung Lok’s next two outlets, this time on the east coast of Singapore – the Grand Pavilion at the Singapore Swimming Club in 1988, and the Paramount Restaurant in 1990 (which also boasted KTV facilities).

Vegetarian

Deciding its next outlet should have a theme, Tijoe decided to take a chance and this time try offering high-end Chinese vegetarian food – and in 1991, LingZhi Vegetarian Restaurant was opened in Orchard Towers.

Fortunately, Singaporeans loved its innovative interpretation of the often-prosaic Chinese vegetarian fare and business continued to boom.

Branching out…

Tijoe decided the time was right to start venturing abroad and the Ming Restaurant was opened in Jakarta’s Central Business District in 1993, offering Indonesian diners Tung Lok’s signature fresh seafood and exquisite dim sum.

Tung Lok then continued to open restaurants throughout Singapore as well as Indonesia, Tokyo, China and India, offering a variety of high end traditional Chinese and Vegetarian cuisines, as well as more mid-range Singaporean, Taiwanese fare.

But did you know…

  1. Andrew Tijoe is currently the President of the Restaurant Association of Singapore.
  2. Tijoe spends 10 days each month sampling dishes in Indonesia, China and Japan in the search for new ideas to bring home to Tung Lok.
  3. The company has invested in state of the art Artificial Intelligence Cooking machines (AIC), which can auto-cook a variety of quality Chinese dishes to improve efficiency. Each machine can cook up to 10kg of food, from fried rice to wok-fried dishes.
  4. Andrew Tijoe has a love of Chinese history and following a visit to Heston Blumenthal’s restaurant in the UK, a chef keen on reviving forgotten      recipes, has followed suit by bringing many ancient Chinese dishes back to life.
  5. Tung Lok hosts its own, in-house version of the cooking show “Masterchef” every Saturday morning that the boss is in town. Its executive chefs are challenged to create a unique dish following a given theme, which if impressive enough could make it to the Tung Lok menu. Badly prepared chefs should beware, however, as Tijoe states that he wouldn’t “hesitate to embarrass them if the dish is not up to standard”. 

Today, the company operates its stable of both traditional and modern Tung Lok restaurants (including novel fifties style Tung Lok Teahouse) as well as My Humble House and the Northern Chinese styled Lao Beijing and Zhou’s Kitchen.

It’s regarded as one of the largest and best-known Chinese restaurant chains in Singapore and in receipt of numerous awards and accolades.

From Chinese cuisine to pancakes…

What’s more, you may be surprised to learn it is also the force behind Turf City’s family-friendly Slappy Cakes – an award winning cafe that allow groups and families to cook their own pancakes at their tables with a variety of fillings.

As for Andrew Tijoe, he continues to stay fully involved in the running of his restaurants, challenging his chefs, designing Tung Luk motifs for its chinaware and adding long forgotten Chinese recipes to his database.

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The information provided is for general information purposes only and is not intended to be personalised investment or financial advice. Motley Fool Singapore contributor Alison Hunt doesn’t own shares in any companies mentioned.