YTL's Lot 10 Hutong - Wok The World
YTL Life, August 2013
By Diana Khoo
It’s inconceivable to come to Kuala Lumpur and not sample its dizzying array of street food. From the charcoal-fired black beauty of a dish of Hokkien noodles to the herbal goodness of a bowl of bak kut teh (pork rib soup), there is something deeply-comforting about tucking into a dish that is hearty and robust while embodying the flavorful soul of a nation. Granted, Malaysian street food is already renowned the world over, but true foodies and connoisseurs alike know that there is street food and there is street food.
Malaysia’s hawker food culture has undeniably been greatly enhanced by the Chinese Diaspora. Having settled in the country since the days of the Malaccan sultanate, the Chinese have adapted their cuisine to local tastes and, in fact boast a unique culinary heritage and richness that is all their own. In Kuala Lumpur, for example, there are stalls and establishments that have been pleasing palates for several generations now and have since become household names themselves. Soong Kee, for example is considered the nec plus ultra when it comes to beef noodles, while Ho Weng Kee’s wonton mee has kept several generations of Malaysians happily satisfied since it was first established along Petaling Street by Ho Weng, an immigrant from Guangdong, in 1930. “My father and I have always had a soft spot for hawker food,” shares Tan Sri Francis Yeoh, Managing Director of YTL Corporation, who’s credited as the mastermind behind Lot 10 Hutong. “Many generations of immigrants travelled here from China and struggled and worked hard to make a living. And I think I speak for many others when I say that good food, comfort food, is a catharsis. Give a man a really good plate of char kway teow and he’ll work even harder. I remember my father taking the whole family out all over town to enjoy the best, the most famous local street dishes and the thought that many of these families might not continue their trade any longer, as the world increasingly hankers after fast food, had me panicking a little!”
Not wanting his children and the younger generation to forget their cultural roots and culinary heritage, Tan Sri Francis set off on a personal mission to find the best hawkers in town and persuade those on his crème de la crème list to set up a dedicated destination where the best of Malaysia’s street food might be enjoyed in comfort and convenience. Thus, was the Lot 10 Hutong born. Established in 2009, only hawkers who boast of a two-or three generation heritage or at least a proven track record of 40 years of culinary success are invited to set up shop within the Hutong, each handpicked and distinguished by an all-time favourite signature dish that foodies hail as ‘national treasures’. And, clearly, the formula has worked as thousands of visitors throng the Lot 10 Hutong daily to sample the best street food they can find, be it fried oyster omelettes or classic chicken rice. “It’s about nostalgia,” continues Tan Sri Francis. “My family came from China as well and I can’t begin to tell you how pleased I am that Nanyang now returns to the motherland as our Hutong brand goes global, starting with the opening of our first outlet in Guangzhou this August.”
Created in collaboration with renowned food critic and personality Chua Lam and Ralph Hu of Zhujiang New Town Development, Hutong Guangzhou will occupy the first level of the Tsai Lan city of Fusion Foods on the Full Yingxin Building. With interiors mirroring the Kuala Lumpur flagship and done up, as before, by Japanese ID maestro Yuhkichi Kawai, residents and visitors to the southern Chinese city may now enjoy the unique taste and flavor of Malaysian street food as no less than 19 hawker stalls with long, rich heritage gear up for business, while the second level is devoted to Hong Kong and Taiwanese favorites identified and personally selected by Chua Lam himself. “The prospect of winning over the tastebuds of fellow Chinese in the greater China market is indeed enormous,” muses Tan Sri Francis. “China was the natural choice as we realized we already had huge numbers of mainland Chinese guests visiting Lot 10 Hutong consistently. Our target for Hutong in China is to eventually open 33 outlets over seven years, with a forecasted billion ringgit sales target.”
Chua Lam is equally optimistic about the success of Hutong in China. “There are food courts all over the world but none can boast of such high-quality culinary tradition like what Tan Sri Francis has put together.” Already, all the key staff are in place in Guangzhou and great emphasis has been placed to replicate the taste and flavours of Malaysia flawlessly. “It’s as if an army of our best hawkers are going to China. But it’s more than just setting up a branch for them,” emphasizes Tan Sri Francis. “It is about ensuring the originality, taste and flavor. China is going to be a big mind-opener for them. And who knows? Once they get the hang of doing business over there, there’s no reason why they can’t expand independently. And, once China is ready and steady, there’s the rest of the world to see to,” says Tan Sri, with his signature enthusiasm. “I’ve already had so many requests asking Hutong to open up elsewhere. So, who knows? London might be next or imagine it going to Melbourne. But now, China first!”