Singapore’s Last Artisanal Soya Sauce Making Family

Singapore’s Last Artisanal Soya Sauce Making Family

My Ah Ma (grandmother), she did very hard work. In a way, we have a better life now because of her sacrifice. Sometimes just labelling boxes beside her is a simple joy because I think at her age, every day is a blessing (for us). [In Teochew] Does my hair look nice? Grandma: Keep it long! Why? It looks better long. Your hair can shake. When you dance, it will fly here and there. It looks good. [Laughter] And right here is Nanyang Sauce Factory. Nanyang Sauce was started in 1959 by my grandfather. I recall fondly about how I used to play hide and seek among the vats. I used to work in the soya sauce factory as well. My wage was $5 a day. My Ah Gong (grandfather) would always buy back a packet of mee pok (dry noodles) for me and that was something I always looked forward to. It always comes as a surprise when people find out our sauce brewery is 100% family-run. So, my mum. She’s got two brothers. Her cousin. My grandma. Myself. My wife. My uncles are like dark soya sauce. Dark soya sauce is critical in soya sauce chicken and a few other dishes. So, the absolutely critical stuff, they are the best at it. I think my grandmother would be the best soya sauce we have. 33 years, (oldest one we’ve made). It’s an heirloom passed down from my grandfather to us. Producer: Where is it? I cannot tell you. [Laughs] My mum is like the very best grade of light soya sauce. Light soya sauce is used in all our cooking. We are close. She is very self-sacrificial. I remember growing up, there would be periods of time when we were tight on money and when she ordered a dish she would put all the best toppings on my plate. There’s no other thing you can ask for from a mum like that. My parents were starting to think about retirement and I felt it was a pity if the family business were to stop. Every mother wants the best for the child so she was always worried. [In Mandarin] Told him, “Starting a business is hard maintaining a business is even harder.” I didn’t want him to suffer. At first, I did not support him but afterwards, I saw how determined you were so, I supported you. I recall a moment from 1995. My grandfather had a meeting. They were trying to sell him a new technique of using chemicals to hydrolyse soya sauce so it wouldn’t take nine months (to produce it). He was really angry. He stood up and he told the consultants he was like, “Get out!” It showed me how much integrity he had about not shortchanging his customers. It was just old customers supporting us and buying from us all these years. If I want to make an impact I have to do something different. I decided to start a soya sauce boutique. After I signed the agreement, the landlord asked me “You guys are still around? I knew your Ah Gong.” He remembered our sauce and the fact that he could tell me my grandfather’s name and my uncle’s name it was my hair stood up. It felt like a calling. So I have many customers, interestingly. They buy my sauce, and they tell me “My kid loves your sauce.” I said, “How do you know?” “Whenever I use your sauce, she finishes her meal.” I’m like that’s it. They’ll never be able to find the same taste anywhere outside. So when they grow up they’ll always return home for dinner. [In Mandarin] Return home for dinner. And I thought that was so beautiful. It epitomised the thing I wanted Golden Swan brand soya sauce to be. For me, soya sauce is a bonding thing. And to this day we still keep that family bond.

35 thoughts on “Singapore’s Last Artisanal Soya Sauce Making Family”

  1. Long ago in Toa Payoh, we bought our soya sauce from a HDB flat ground unit at BLK 12 of Lorong 7. The unit had barrels of soya sauce in the kitchen. Blk 12 is also the block of Adrian Lim, the infamous child killer

  2. People of such integrity deserve our support – I will definitely buy their sauce. So proud of this homegrown business. Their website says they use only non-GMO soybeans from Canada. Some additional information you may find interesting – although the factory was established in 1959, Ken's grandfather had been making soy sauce for his own consumption since the 1940s, and started selling it door-to-door from about 1951.

  3. Thanks for letting me know such authentic sauce is still produce in Singapore. There use to have a renowned soya sauce brand who does this in the city , the place street name was name after their produce , however they may not had continued the traditional way any more. The street name is Jalan Minyak.

  4. My great grandparents used to have a soybean factory in china, good business but then someone set it on fire 🙁 there goes their well to do life

  5. This is a really amazing video, showing how genuine Singapore produces we hav. Showing products tat my ah gong and ah ma would use back in the days. And seeing tat frying bee hoon scene just brings back people's memories of how their mums or grandmas fry bee hoon and must put ingredients including soy sauce. Very nostalgic and yet a very rounded homely vibe from this video. Thank you.

  6. Dear God
    Bless this family business …
    It’s soooo heartwarming seeing closeness within families. A rare find indeed.

  7. I love your content but I question if it's accurate to say that Nanyang Sauce is Sg's LAST artisanal. There are other premium brands made in Sg. One is a 70+ yo brand. However, I'm glad to find out that there is one more genuine Made In Sg brand that I can support.

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