Restaurant chain founder shares road to Singaporean culinary success in Vietnam

By Vien Thong   May 14, 2018 | 02:19 am PT
Restaurant chain founder shares road to Singaporean culinary success in Vietnam
Harry Ang brandishes a fish in his hand, one of the many ingredients to be sent to his restaurants.
Harry Ang has built a restaurant chain 6-stall strong since 2006 with nothing but his love for his country’s cuisine.

Customers who visit a Singaporean restaurant on Le Anh Xuan Street in District 1, Ho Chi Minh City, will find it easy to spot a middle-aged man, who is quick on his feet and always dashing around the restaurant with a smile on his face. He is Harry Ang, founder of Lion City, a Singaporean restaurant chain.

It's been five years since he moved to Vietnam, when the Singaporean architect decided to take a shot at the culinary arts in 2006. It was a time when fast food brands and Western and Japanese restaurants were flourishing in HCMC. However, at that time, it was difficult to find a place that sold Singaporean dishes in the city, so Ang decided to open a frog porridge food stall.

“If you want to do something, no one can stop you. If you don’t want to do something, no one can help you,” said Ang, while noting that his career was launched by his love for Singaporean food and 36 years worth of culinary knowledge and experience in his home country.

With his experience in designing eateries, Harry Ang upgraded his frog porridge food stall in HCMC’s District 1 into a 70-seat restaurant in just a year after seeing how his customer base has grown.

In 2009, he opened two more restaurants and officially adopted the brand name Lion City. That was also the year when he mastered four staple dishes for his restaurants: frog porridge, chili-crab, fish-head curry and the Samba sauce. Currently, dishes made from crab and frog account for 35 percent of the chain’s total revenue.

Ang now has six restaurants in HCMC, Hanoi and Can Tho, and later this month, he will open a seventh restaurant in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. His business in Vietnam is going well, he said.

To ensure equal food quality in all his restaurants, fundamental sauces are all created in a central kitchen, before being delivered to individual restaurants.

Once the chain expands to 20 restaurants, Ang plans to build farms to supply more ingredients for his restaurants.

He said that while Japanese, Thai and Vietnamese restaurants are sprouting up all over the world, the number of Singaporean restaurants is still low. That’s why he wants to push his brand even further.

“For me, there are two things vital to success: experience and perseverance. I’ve cooked frog porridge for 30 years now, so I’ve learned a lot. Life is short, you know. It would be a waste to stop all this now,” Ang said.

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