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The Quest for Yong Tau Foo

The desolation of Sean, circa 2021.

On 24 August 2021, I realized that a great tragedy had occurred. Five Loaves Hakka Yong Tau Foo, better known as Waterloo Yong Tau Foo by SMU students, had vacated their stall at Waterloo Centre.

I was absolutely inconsolable; my only source of motivation to come to school had left me. But then, I noticed that the owner had left a sign behind (I almost missed it by the way).

It stated that Five Loaves had shifted its divine services from Waterloo to Lavender. It also included a detailed map on how to walk there… in 24 minutes.

At first I thought, “Auntie, what kind of psycho would walk 24 minutes under the blazing hot sun to eat yong tau foo?” Then I remembered that I had nothing better to do on a Monday afternoon.

So I decided to record my adventure and answer the million dollar question: Should you walk from SMU to Lavender to eat yong tau foo?

TL;DR: obviously not, take the bus. But if you’re up for a serendipitous adventure, go for it.


Timestamp: 12:34. Met a friendly uncle and auntie, please support their store.

The first stop on my adventure was the Hearty Fruits store located behind Waterloo Centre. I had a pleasant conversation with the auntie as her husband prepared me their finest ‘Banana Milkshake’, which cost me $4.

She sadly told me that her store hasn’t been receiving many customers lately. As such, I believe it is my civic duty to persuade you to patronize her store at Singapore 180261. The drinks are healthy and delicious, plus the husband and wife duo are adorable. So what are you waiting for, go now! Or I’ll over-inflate next semester’s bidding.

Timestamp: 12:40 PM. I’m getting destroyed by the sun.

Armed with a banana milkshake, I continued my walk. The journey was peaceful, but very humid. At times, I wondered if this was how the yong tau foo feels when it’s submerged in a wok of scorching oil. You are what you eat, after all.

Timestamp: 12:54 PM. Touring Bugis Street.

A quarter of the way through, I decided to pop into Bugis Street to escape the heat. Fortunately, the place seemed relatively unchanged by the pandemic. The store that sold tacky shirts was still operating, the auntie that sold fake shoes hired an assistant, and the tattoo parlor looked as sleezy as ever. However, the place had far fewer people passing through than before the pandemic. I hope this was simply a slow Monday afternoon and not a glaring omen that Bugis Street has lost its lustre.

Timestamp: 1:22 PM. Discovered some ancient ruins.

As I ventured on, I passed by the ‘Singapore - Johor Express Terminal’. The place was desolate and empty; a grim embodiment of our post-pandemic world. It stirred many questions within me. When will our borders reopen? How are my Malaysian friends fairing? Will the world ever recover?

To be honest, even if the world does recover, the damage has already been done. The pandemic has shattered dreams, robbed families of their loved ones, and crushed countless businesses. Can we really consider that a victory?

I continued to ruminate on sombre topics as I soldiered on.

Timestamp: 1:41 PM. Yes, I know it’s a nice shot. Thank you very much.

Fortunately, my spirits were lifted when I encountered a lovely view of the Rochor River. It was a testament to Singapore’s ingenuity, a hallmark of how we’ve integrated mother nature into our concrete jungle. I took a moment to admire the ancient river and noted that it was deep and profound, just like my sense of humour.

Timestamp: 1:53 PM. Interviewed a trolley.

As I followed the Rochor River towards Five Loaves, I encountered a fellow wanderer. The trolley was far from home and lost in thought.

The trolley shared its life story with me. Apparently, it had helped someone carry their burden, but was abandoned once its usefulness ran dry. After which, we conversed about the meaning of life and how we should push ourselves against adversities.

When we parted ways the trolley shared its maxim with me, “Not all those who wander are lost.”

Thank you for your wisdom trolley, I hope you find your way home.

Timestamp: 2:03 PM. I made it, friends :D

After about a 90 minute walk (I probably shouldn’t have taken those detours), I finally reached the kopitiam. I approached it nervously, anxiety gnawing at my soul. What if 5 Loaves was closed? What if its menu had changed? What if I accidentally take and eat someone else's bowl of food again?

But thankfully, my worries were for naught. Five Loaves was just as I remembered. It still served a wide selection of ingredients to choose from: tau kua, meat ball, tau pok, etcetera.

My favourite combination is 2 pieces of fish ngoh hiang, a seaweed chicken, a fish cake, and a crispy bean curd skin. Douse that combo in chee cheong fun sauce and you’ll have a scrumptious meal.

This exquisite meal cost $5.90 in total.

So, with a full belly and higher cholesterol levels, let’s return to our million dollar question: should you walk from Waterloo to Lavender?

Absolutely not. Take the bus, it costs about 92 cents.

But if you have time to spare, I advise that you do. The walk isn’t just about yong tau foo, it’s an opportunity to reflect upon yourself. When was the last time you went on a serendipitous adventure? When was the last time you enjoyed living in the present? If you can’t answer these questions, I suggest you head out for yong tau foo. Because life is about the journey and not just the destination.


Enjoyed our writer's adventure and have another quest in mind that you'd like us to embark on? Leave us a comment below to suggest or share your own quests!

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