SINGAPORE: It is not every day that you get to meet two former prime ministers at one go.
But for a hawker at Seah Im Food Centre near HarbourFront, it was a dream came true to serve former Thai prime ministers Thaksin Shinawatra and Yingluck Shinawatra his Thai-style noodles.
Mr Jaesen Ng said Mr Thaksin, his daughter and Ms Yingluck visited his stall - Thaksin Beef Noodle - on Tuesday (Dec 18) at about noon.
“I was elated. After all, I named my stall after him,” the 64-year-old told Channel NewsAsia.
He said that when he set up shop in 2003, he wanted to give his stall a name that was easily recognised.
“What other name would be easy to remember?” he said. And since then, he has been waiting to meet his stall's namesake.
"I knew deep inside that I would meet him, since I've already been famous for quite a long time," he said, referencing the popularity of his stall.
On Tuesday, Mr Ng told Mr Thaksin: "What took you so long?"
Mr Thaksin - now based in Dubai - was Thailand's prime minister from 2001 to 2006, when he was overthrown in a military coup.
He fled Thailand and was convicted in absentia in 2006 on conflict of interest charges.
His sister, Ms Yingluck, was elected prime minister in 2011. She was ousted by a court ruling in 2014, shortly before her government was overthrown by another military coup.
Ms Yingluck fled Thailand in August 2017, weeks before the Supreme Court found her guilty of negligence in mismanaging a rice subsidy scheme and sentenced her to five years in prison.
She was allegedly spotted at two shopping centres in London in January. Sources in the Puea Thai Party later said that she was based in Britain.
The two were also seen in Singapore in February. Party members said then that they had visited China, Japan and Hong Kong before travelling to Singapore.
LEARNING THE ROPES
Mr Ng, a Singaporean, said his affinity with Thai beef noodles began in 1987 when he spent a year working in Bangkok.
He frequented a Thai beef noodle shop at the popular MBK Center shopping mall.
He repeatedly tried asking the owner of the outlet whom he called "Ah Nong" to teach him how to cook the dish - but she refused.
Only in 2002, when Ah Nong was going to close her shop, did she agree to come to Singapore to teach him.
"The only problem was her cooking method was by estimation," said Mr Ng.
But to his relief, Ah Nong told him not to worry and that she would help him to "standardise it".
It took Mr Ng, a former general manager of a car dealership, two weeks to perfect his broth to her standard.
"You have all the right ingredients, but you need to get the measurements right," he said. "We even had to use the same-sized cooking pots."
When asked about the Shinawatras' reaction to his food, he said: "They liked my food, surprisingly, especially my pad thai and dried chilli."
Mr Ng added that Ms Yingluck liked his dried chilli - made of "100 per cent chilli padi" - so much that she took a pack home.
He said he was not sure how Mr Thaksin came to know about his stall but added that it was “good of him to come and publicise my business”.
On social media, he said: “To host a prime minister is a privilege - to host two is beyond words.
"Thank you for coming and claiming your royalties too. Three bowls of beef noodles and a pad thai. What a bargain indeed."