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Ng Jun Sen
The New Paper
Sunday, Nov 20, 2016
If an apple a day keeps the doctor away, a daily dose of deep-fried snacks will probably do the exact opposite.
Most people might baulk at the idea of such a diet, but for Singaporean Eric Phang, 27, eating junk food daily is part of his job.
He eats an equivalent of three bags of salted egg potato chips every day as part of a four-man quality control team in The Golden Duck (TGD), a local start-up with a factory in Tuas.
Mr Phang is no glutton - he makes sure the batches of chips produced daily is consistent to the taste and quality his company is known for.
The head of product development says: "Many things can change how the chips taste; a change in weather, machinery used, suppliers or even the type of salt used can alter the flavour greatly.
"We simply pull chips off the product line. It's like wine tasting. We don't have to swallow."
His taste buds are the most valued in the company because TGD has him to thank for the popular snack - Mr Phang created the recipe after months of testing last year.
Salted egg, he says, has an ammonia-like taste that many people love.
But even he cannot take more than three bags a day, telling TNPS that "any more is too gross for me already".
He confesses that he does not order salted egg dishes outside of his job.
"I'll even throw away the salted egg in mooncakes," he says.
The former baker and hotel chef was enlisted by TGD's founders - fellow army buddy Jonathan Shen, 27, and friend Christopher Hwang, 24 - to prove a theory that salted duck egg could go together with potato chips.
Back then, the 1.88m tall chef weighed 85kg.
He is 10kg heavier today - thanks to his unforgiving TGD diet - all to make sure the product meets his standards.
"We only accept no more than a 10 per cent variance from the original flavour. Things like the colour and shape of the chip matter, even if it is barely noticeable," says Mr Phang.
If he detects a problem, he can bring the entire factory line to a halt to find out what went wrong.
The factory produces thousands of bags of potato chips in a day.
Mr Phang says: "If the batch isn't good enough, we can reject them.
"The rejects gets passed to friends and family, even our neighbours at the factory.
"They usually can't even tell the difference when they try the rejected stuff."
A healthy barter trade community now thrives at their Tuas Bay Walk factory, as the neighbouring quality control departments of other companies frequently pass each other rejected food.
Mr Phang says with a laugh: "We've had plenty of Spanish churros and popcorn from the others too."
While only a year old, the company will soon be ramping up its production at the end of the month when it starts selling its snacks at 7-Eleven stores islandwide.
That means more orders, higher production and more chips to test every day, says Mr Hwang, TGD's business development manager.
He adds: "With the reception the salted egg chips have gotten so far, we think we have a good shot at putting Singapore on the world map with this snack.
"But it also means that Eric will soon have a tougher job."
SECRETS OF THE TRADE
1 Be familiar with the entire production line and how each component may affect quality. This makes troubleshooting easier when something goes wrong with the flavour.
2 Your friends and family can make for a good reference point on the original look and taste of the food.
3 Customers do provide feedback and criticism and it is wise to take heed. But be wary of overreacting to criticism and making drastic changes as it is more important to be consistent.