Harry’s Odyssey: The Spice Merchant Turned Sydney Legend

Harry’s Odyssey: The Spice Merchant Turned Sydney Legend

As the youngest of 12 children, Harry spent his youth enthralled by tales of his father, a Datuk who rose from humble farmer to wealthy nobleman. He was captivated even more by his adventurous older siblings, who voyaged to exotic lands. Harry dreamed that one day, adventure would whisk him away from the comforts of home to faraway lands of his own.

After university in Singapore, Harry began a career with a British shipping company. Through talent and diligence, he became Managing Director of Asia Pacific by his late 30's, on the cusp of a board position. Yet this comfortable path left Harry restless for freedom.

So, at 40, Harry left his lucrative career for a new adventure - Departing Singapore for the distant shores of Australia, armed with a secret family recipe and spices tucked into his suitcase, Harry set up shop in 1982 in Sydney’s Eastlake. He hoped to entice locals with the exotic dish of his homeland — chilli crab.

Sydneysiders had never tasted such tantalizing spices and textures. They flocked in droves to sample Harry’s morsels dripping in crimson chili gravy. Soon the air filled with chatter and delight, strains of laughter, and satisfied sighs. Up to 1.5 tons of crab were devoured weekly in peak season.

Harry had found his calling—to bring joy through food and hospitality. His restaurant became the stomping ground for celebrities and a staple of the community. As decades passed, Harry’s chilli crab was credited for changing Sydney’s culinary landscape forever.

As a newspaper declared in 2002, “More has changed in Sydney eating during the past 20 years than in the preceding 100. In fact, the key characteristic of Sydney eaters since 1982 has been their constant craving for change.” Harry’s chilli crab was the driving force of this change.

Beyond his restaurant, Harry pursued adventure in humanitarian endeavours across the globe. At his non-working time, he joined Rotary Club from 1982 till the day he died in 2020, devoted to leading their Disaster and Humanitarian Relief program. He also served on boards including the Australia-China Business Council for 25 years, the Hong Kong – Australia Business Association for 24 years, the Sydney Haymarket Chamber of Commerce for 21 years, and the Australia Business Enterprise Centre for 25 years.

After half a century, his restaurant stood as one of few still owned by the same family. Not just a restaurant, but a legend, his story woven into the fabric of his adopted city, earning a badge of honour for enduring quality, as so called " an institution".

When Harry sailed into the next life in 2020, he left behind a legacy even grander than the voyages of his youthful dreams. As the Essential magazine famously declared, “Harry’s Singapore Chilli Crab is a Sydney restaurant icon. Having opened in 1982, it’s fed half the city and almost all of its local celebrities at one time or another.”