Eating in a city where cheap, delicious food is always nearby

This Singaporean influencer can find authentic chicken rice and dim sum right outside her WeWork door

Lunch is the one meal that brings us together during the workday. Lunch Break examines how WeWork members around the world break bread.

Who you are: Mongchin Yeoh

What you do: Lifestyle and beauty influencer

Where you work: WeWork Beach Centre, Singapore

Mongchin Yeoh was studying accounting in Singapore when she discovered her true passion. While in school, she started modeling part-time for local fashion brands, then taking pictures in the clothes and posting the shots to social media. 

She decided to put her number-crunching skills to work to build her social media following. Her audience grew, and over time she amassed over 240,000 followers on Instagram and over 86,000 subscribers on YouTube. Her loyal fans now live by her recommendations for the best eye shadows, curlers, and party hairstyles.

Yeoh, who lives in Singapore with her husband, Matthias, and cat, Ash (who has close to 3,000 followers on Instagram), brings her world of beauty to life on social media from her WeWork hot desk. While she understands the digital hustle, she also knows the importance of taking a full pause during lunch. And a wonderful thing about Singapore, she says, is that there’s never a shortage of amazing food options within walking distance.  

Q: How would you characterize the lunch ritual in your city and country? Sustenance or indulgence?  

A: People in Singapore get only an hour or so for lunch, so we usually settle for whatever is cheap and convenient near the office. The indulgence part really is occasion-based. I have noticed that people are making healthier choices in recent years, with the rise in awareness of healthy eating and more options becoming available. 

Q: What does your lunch break typically look like?

A: I usually take the full hour, because I prioritize my food a lot, and I eat with my team. The nature of my job requires me to travel a lot and go to meetings, so I really cherish my time with them. It’s only during lunchtime that we get to talk about nonwork things. I can really bond with them. 

Q: What time do people generally take lunch?

A: Around 12 to 1 or 1 to 2. 

Q: Do you usually order in, bring food from home, or go out to eat?

Photograph courtesy of Mongchin Yeoh

A: I usually go out to eat. Local food is actually really affordable in Singapore. We can get a full meal for about $3, and it’s a good, hearty meal where you can sit down and eat. It does not make sense for people to spend their time cooking early in the morning. 

Q: What are the most common lunches that people in your office eat? 

A: People usually take away those customizable salads from big joints like SaladStop! and Salads & Wraps. Near the WeWork office, there are quite a few chicken rice stalls—if you dine in, you get a plate of rice and a separate plate of chicken that is doused in soy sauce and sesame oil. People go for either those or Thai food or Chinese food because it’s all easy to eat. 

Q: Where do you usually eat in the office? At a table in the kitchen, on couches in an open area, or at your desk? Why do you prefer this area?

A: Most of the time, I eat in the pantry because that is where you get to meet other WeWork members. I don’t usually bring my food back to my desk. I don’t see many people eating at their desks, especially at the hot desk areas, so I think it would be a little inconsiderate to eat there. 

Q: Ideal desk lunch? Ideal long lunch?

A: My ideal desk lunch is a hearty salad—cherry tomatoes, pumpkin, grapes, edamame, and I am really into any sort of yuzu or citrusy salad dressing. My ideal long lunch would be chasing all the new cafés in town. If I do this on the weekends, they are all usually super packed. If I had the time on a weekday to do it, I would. The [cafés] offer great coffee, those really hipster, Instagrammable pancakes, and good pasta.

Q: What are five of your favorite spots for food outside the office?  

  • Chicken rice stalls. We have about three along the street where I work. We are very lucky because they are some of the top places to go for chicken rice in Singapore. 
  • Jai Thai is a restaurant that serves really good, authentic Thai food. All the chefs are local Thai. 
  • We have a huge shopping mall called Suntec City, where there is a food court with 20 different food stalls. I usually go for Yong Tau Food—it is healthy Chinese food where you get to pick your ingredients and have them either deep-fried or steamed. It comes with this really nice, clear anchovy broth, and you can choose noodles or rice.
  • Crystal Jade is a slightly more fancy Chinese restaurant where they serve really good dim sum. I mean, it’s not a place to go every single day or I would go broke, but it is nice for a communal meal. You can order a lot of dishes that everyone can share. 
  • Singapore has lots of fast food. MOS Burger feels different—healthier compared to McDonald’s or KFC. They don’t just have fries and burgers but also rice burgers and fast food with Japanese ingredients. 

Q: Best weekday lunch you’ve ever had?

A: I love going to international buffets. Having that on a weekday is such a nice treat. The J.W. Marriott has this place called Beach Road Kitchen, and the buffet has sashimi, cold cuts, curries. It even has a live seafood station where you can pick your fish—everything is live on ice—and choose how you want it done: steamed, fried, grilled, anything. 

Q: What do you wish you could eat for lunch that isn’t available to you?

A: My mom’s cooking! We don’t live together anymore, so I get to only eat her cooking once a month. She makes this Chinese soup with carrots, onions, potatoes, and corn cooked with pork ribs. She spends the whole day on the soup broth. It is so flavorful. 

Priya Krishna is a food writer who contributes to the New York Times, Bon Appétit, and more, and is the author of the cookbook Indian-ish.

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CULTURE LUNCH BREAK
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