The chef behind Crystal Jade’s wonton mee has died, and the internet is helping to bring his ashes back from Hong Kong

Tang Siu Nam, the man who is said to be behind Crystal Jade’s wonton mee, has died, aged 86.
Facebook/KF Seetoh

A chef from Hong Kong, known for being the brains behind Chinese restaurant Crystal Jade’s wonton mee (noodles), has died, food guru KF Seetoh revealed in a Facebook post on Tuesday (April 9).

According to Seetoh, chef Tang Siu Nam died in China in February this year. Past reports indicate that he was born in 1933. That would mean he died at age 86.

Apart from the news of his death, Seetoh said that Tang had wanted to keep his death quiet. In his last months, which were spent in Hong Kong and China, Tang’s widow had become his sole caretaker, Seetoh added.

The Singapore personality added that Tang and his wife were “almost penniless” after quitting their noodle stall in Singapore last year.

She is looking to raise some money “to help with the paperwork and logistics to bring him back and install his ashes at a Singapore columbarium”, Seetoh said.

He later added that the chef’s widow could not afford to buy a space in a Hong Kong columbarium as it was too expensive, and the waiting time for an allocation there was six months.

Seetoh also expressed regret that the noodle master would not be able to see himself featured in an upcoming Netflix documentary on street food. According to Seetoh, the show will be available at the end of this month.

On Wednesday (April 10), Seetoh said in the comments section that after the post was published, he managed to raise donations to help bring the late chef’s ashes back to Singapore.

However, Tang’s widow is still raising funds to pay for a space at a private columbarium “after drying up her savings for the (five-figure) deposit fees”, he added.

The ‘sifu’ of chefs

In 2014, an article carried by The New Paper and written by Seetoh said that Tang worked at Crystal Jade for over 17 years.

The Guangzhou native had come to Singapore in 1978, 28 years after he moved to Hong Kong, where he trained and mastered his craft in restaurants.

The article stated that Tang first set up shop in Lucky Plaza, and his food caught the attention of Alfred Leung, then-partner at Crystal Jade. Leung, who later founded Imperial Treasure, then brought Tang to Crystal Jade, where the “sifu” (Cantonese for master) trained no fewer than 25 head chefs.

Imperial Treasure founder Alfred Leung brought the “sifu” on board to Crystal Jade when he was still a partner there.
The Straits Times

Seetoh wrote in his article: “Even chefs such as Mr Cheung Sun Kwai of Fatty Ox fame acknowledge him as ‘sifu’.”

In 2014, Tang set up a noodle and porridge stall in Chinatown, after retiring from his Crystal Jade job.

“I retired last year from the job but my bones were itching to cook and still be active,” he was quoted as saying.

In 2016, Seetoh reported that Tang had set up shop again, this time in Bukit Timah. According to the article, he had shuttered his Chinatown stall in 2015, after just 14 months.

“It’s a complicated story but it was basically a partnership problem,” he reportedly said then.

An update posted by blogger Dr Leslie Tay in late October last year said that Tang had been unwell, and the stall “may not be open when you visit“.