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Dining Out 3 minutes 03 September 2021

Behind the Bib: Da Shi Jia Big Prawn Mee

How is a millennial’s way of running a restaurant different from his parents’? Seth Sim and his father Sim Yau Lai talk business, how they bond as father and son, and what goes into a Bib Gourmand-worthy bowl of prawn mee.

Bib Gourmand Restaurants Michelin Guide Singapore 2021

Amongst the throng of shophouse restaurants along Killiney Road sits Da Shi Jia Big Prawn Mee, which has received a Bib Gourmand distinction in the MICHELIN Guide Singapore 2021 edition. The prawn noodle place is frequented by those in the area who want to hunker down to a bowl of the umami-rich soup and slurp noodles to their heart’s content. Its main signage boldly depicts the Chinese characters “大大大” in embossed gold, meaning “big big big”.

Da Shi Jia Big Prawn Mee’s storefront depicts the Chinese characters “大大大” embossed boldly in gold, meaning “big big big”. (Photo by Michelin Digital)
Da Shi Jia Big Prawn Mee’s storefront depicts the Chinese characters “大大大” embossed boldly in gold, meaning “big big big”. (Photo by Michelin Digital)

“If you take a look at our menu, the prawns come in three sizes: 大 (Big), 大大 (Big Big), and 大大大 (Big Big Big),” says Seth Sim, 32, owner of Da Shi Jia Big Prawn Mee. While there is no specific type of prawn they use — it depends on the catch of the day — Seth and his team look out for the plumpest among the freshly sea-caught prawns for these bowls. He adds: “We even once served a prawn that was as long and as plump as my arm!"  

Wok-fried Big Prawn White Bee Hoon
Wok-fried Big Prawn White Bee Hoon

What to Order at Da Shi Jia Big Prawn Mee

“Most people come here for our prawn noodles and poached rice, but our signature dish is the Wok-fried Big Prawn White Bee Hoon, which has a lot of umami and wok hei,” shares Seth. “My personal favourite is the Beancurd Skin Prawn Roll, because the texture of the fried savoury beancurd skin goes nicely with the sweet prawns,” he adds. “We also have a Fresh Green Apple Juice with Sour Plum, which is our take on my favourite hawker drink. It’s so refreshing, and we don’t add sugar to it.”

In contrast to their 大大大 (Big Big Big) prawns, Seth shares that they also offer 小小虾, or Small Small Shrimp. "We have customers who gave us feedback that they like small prawns, so we wanted to be playful and went to search for sea prawns that are smaller than our regular-sized ones. However, we were unable to use such small prawns for our prawn noodles, so we created this side dish instead. And it surprisingly became rather popular. In this customer-favourite dish, the shrimps are deep-fried to a crunch and tossed in a special homemade aromatic sauce," says Seth.

Beancurd Skin Prawn Roll and Crispy Shrimps
Beancurd Skin Prawn Roll and Crispy Shrimps

Like Father, Like Son

Having been in the business of seafood for over 40 years now, Seth credits his father, Sim Yau Lai, for playing a pivotal role in Da Shi Jia Big Prawn Mee.

“My dad is my mentor. He gave me a lot of advice and guidance, especially since this is my first venture,” Seth shares. “Before I started this business, I used to work at his friend’s prawn mee stall, and that’s where I learned the basics of putting the dish together. My Dad guided me a lot. He taught me to be meticulous and that there are no shortcuts."

Says Seth: "I hope that I have made him proud with this Bib Gourmand recognition.”

Watch Seth Sim and his father speak about their father-and-son and mentor-and-mentee relationship

On Fatherhood and the Future

The father-and-son relationship was further strengthened when Seth himself became a father just under a year ago.

Since setting up the business in December 2017, Seth has been running the daily operations of the restaurant together with his wife, Yvonne, 33. These days, the couple is joined by their first child, Shane, who accompanies them at the restaurant daily in a carrier worn by Yvonne as she works. “After Seth and I got married, we immediately set up the business, so it’s always been a part of our married life since then," says Yvonne, who laughingly adds: "He still owes me a honeymoon." 

"After being a father, I feel that there’s more responsibility to be carried out and duties to be fulfilled. Previously, the focus was only on work; now, there’s some sort of work-life balance. With Shane around, we make an effort to enjoy more quality family time," shares Seth, who has been spending more time with his father, too. Previously, all conversations with his father would revolve around work, but the topics these days have shifted to raising children and starting a family right.

Whether Shane will take over the business someday, Seth and Yvonne will leave him to decide. "I think the best advice I could give to aspiring young restaurant owners and hawkers is to see all jobs as equal; there’s no distinction between high or low. You just have to find your passion and go for it."

Seth hopes for future generations that they will at least inherit the skills to cook, so that they have the basic foundations and capabilities to whip up a delicious meal for their own families one day, just as his father has done and continues to do for his family.

All photos are from Da Shi Jia Big Prawn Mee.

Da Shi Jia Big Prawn Mee is located at 89 Killiney Road, Singapore 239534. Follow them on Facebook and on Instagram for updates.

All photos are from Da Shi Jia Big Prawn Mee.

Da Shi Jia Big Prawn Mee is located at 89 Killiney Road, Singapore 239534. Follow them on Facebook and on Instagram for updates.

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