This article was originally published on burpple.com.
Singapore's local desserts are humble and simple, yet they possess a wondrous ability to comfort us like a snug little hug. Check out these great #Hawkerpedia stories about Local Desserts, and find out where you can get these sweet treats!
The cheng tng - favourite Chinese dessert of my childhood
When I was in kindergarten, my great-grandma (ah chor) would carry me or hold my hands and walk to the Cheng San wet market (it was way bigger before the latest renovation) for grocery-shopping every morning as we lived only a few blocks away. After which, ah chor liked to spoil me with a bowl of cold cheng tng from this particular stall. I complained to her constantly that I want ice kacang because there were no attap chee in the boring cheng tng. Never once did she give in to me.
However, one incident happened and changed my view of the unassuming cheng tng. There was once when my ah chor needed to search for some loose change to pay for the vegetables. She let go of my hands and I was tempted to get the ice kacang by myself. While she was distracted, I braved the morning market crowd and made a beeline for the dessert stall. To my greatest horror, I failed to find the stall despite running a few rounds (I forgot to mention I was only six years old). That was when the reality that I had lost my ah chor hit me. I cried and shouted "I want cheng tng and I want ah chor!" hysterically in Mandarin.
After a few minutes of drama, somebody grabbed my hand. There stood the cheng tng auntie, coaxing me to stop crying with a bowl of ice cold cheng tng. Not sure why, but I felt secure seeing her. The boring cheng tng which I took for granted, suddenly become super sweet and comforting.
And yes, ah chor managed to find me in the end. Ah chor is not around any more, but I went back to the stall with my grandma and mum recently. So glad to see the auntie still selling the same desserts, served in the same yellow bowl with the same metal spoon. All of us had a brief chat with her and laughed at the above incident which happened 22 years ago. Of course, we had to order her legendary cheng tng - the magical dessert that had the power to calm the nerve of the "lost" child. #Hawkerpedia
Chun Bao Dessert Stall #01-136
Opening hours: Not fixed
Chen Shun Mei tau huay($1)
Tau huay is my ultimate comfort food and I found the reason for this special love over this bowl of Chen Shun Mei tau huay (probably the most life-changing tau hua yet). My mum took a lot of tau huay when she was pregnant with me, hoping to give birth to a beautiful Snow White. In fact, her wish for me to be fair (as opposed to tanned) was so strong, she almost named me 'xue er', which means snow in Chinese and has a similar pronunciation to my English name, Sheryl. But alas, I ended up with quite a natural tan, nothing like the Snow White she had hoped for.
Nevertheless, her intensive tau huay-eating habits while I was still in her womb probably fortified tau huay's position as my ultimate comfort food even before I was born. To me, Chen Shun Mei tau huay is the king of all tau huays. Aside from the interesting day where I discovered the reason for my love for tau huays, I feel it boasts the best taste and texture. Velvety smooth soya beancurds drenched in pandan-flavoured sugar syrup, this seemingly innocent tau huay is actually very addictive and my family just can't stop coming back for more. #Hawkerpedia
Growing up, I mostly only wandered around my neighbourhood at Bukit Gombak. McDonald's was not that ubiquitous back then, and to my family it was a luxury item. Fast food was never on the family menu. What I had instead was "orange bee hoon", or at least that's what I excitedly shouted to mum whenever I wanted something fast and filling.
Needless to say, it was tasty for a kid to keep asking for it endlessly - putu mayam. Mum would buy it back, set the steamed vermicelli-like noodles on a metal plate, then sprinkle it with the snowiest coconut shavings and fairy dust orange sugar that never fails to give me that sugar rush thereafter. Yes, I may not know McDonald's till secondary school, but happiness can come in many forms. Hawker fare and comfort food is one. Winning my mum's approval and her beautiful smile when she tosses my putu mayam up for the excited puppy by her side? That's happiness, bliss and something money cannot buy. My kind of happy meal, literally. #Hawkerpedia
Penang ice kacang
For me, a good bowl of of ice kacang is all about the shaved ice, roasted peanuts and red bean. Annie's ice kacang is definitely on point for all three - finely shaved ice, fragrant roasted peanuts and well-cooked red beans. You could say I grew up eating my grandmother's ice kacang, and this is the only stall that wins my heart over hers.
My cousins and I used to have a weekly affair at my grandmother's stall, the hawker centre was our playground, from DIY ice kacang to mini ice ball fights outside her stall. Annie's reminds me of my grandmother's cause of the roasted peanuts and red bean and how it's traditionally served. I chanced upon it during lunch one day in Tanjong Pagar and loved it! And started going back since then, but of course not forgetting my grandmother's which I can have my own version of ice kacang ;) A bowl of ice kacang is more than just my sweet tooth craving, it's a childhood memory. #Hawkerpedia
Golden Mile Food Centre is one of my favourite places to eat whenever I am craving local food!
I still remember when I was in secondary school, my mum often brought me here because the army market is located just upstairs, where they sell all the essential items for NPCC, which was my co-curricular activity in school. Also during my polytechnic days, my internship was located really nearby, so I often ate here for lunch break.
There are actually so many awesome things to eat here such as the chicken rice and Hokkien mee, but I have to say that one of my favourites has got to be the Ah Balling glutinous rice balls! This stall has been there for quite some time. They sell rice balls with many flavours such as green tea, red bean, peanut and sesame seed. I love that the price is so reasonable (five for $2) and the rice balls are so big, chewy and filled generously. Beware of the oozing of the fillings though, haha! These glutinous rice balls are then served in either peanut or ginger soup. Peanut is more favourable for me as I feel that it's tasty but not too sweet. Even though I have officially ended my internship, whenever I am nearby, I would try to make it a point to have this soup! So head over and try it if you love tang yuan.
Mee chiang kueh always tasted sweeter with you, mama
Back in my primary and secondary school days, I'd look forward to the term holidays like any other kid. Not just because I could finally kick back and not have to worry about homework (for at least the first few days or weeks until I start to panic from the impending reopening of school gates), but also because I get up a bit later to eat breakfast with my late grandma. She'd always ask the night before what I wanted, before listing a whole list of items that I could choose from, such as carrot cake or char siew pau.
But I'd always choose my favourite, mee chiang kueh (pancake with peanut/red bean filling). I just loved the dense pancake, slathered with silky smooth red bean paste or crunchy peanuts in between. The next morning, she would then walk all the way to the market just to buy what we wanted to eat, despite her having difficulty in walking. So when we got to the breakfast table, we'd be able to eat our favourite dishes from the market together.
I never got to tell her this, but what food we had for breakfast didn't matter; what mattered to me was being able to eat with her beside me. Now whenever my mum buys back some mee chiang kueh, it always brings back good stories and laughs at the breakfast table with my mama, as I would call her. Mee chiang kueh always tasted sweeter when she was around, and I'm always thankful for the sweet memories I had with her. #Hawkerpedia
I have been living in Haig Road all my life and this stall has been around since I was a little kid. My mum would buy this for me whenever I was sick. Till now, I still crave for it occasionally and I could easily get it since it's just below my block. This is my favourite childhood snack. From $1 for three pieces to $2 for five pieces, it's taste has never changed. The skin is thin and soft, while the generous amount of gula melaka filling is gooey and not too sweet. The grated coconut is slightly salty to compliment the sweet taste, while the pandan leaves further enhance the fragrance. I hope this traditional Malay kueh will be passed on to the next generations. #Hawkerpedia
Cold beancurd with grass jelly
This bowl of unpretentious old school beancurd (with toppings) was introduced to me by my dear aunt who stays around the area and loves taking me out for good food. Since then we'd visit the stall to end a precious day of catch-up on a sweet note. It is also a must-get when my family happens to be around the area. The smooth beancurd here has an unexplainable homely taste, making it a family favourite. Toppings-wise, I would recommend their red (kidney) beans, as unlike the usual bland, small and coarse-textured red beans you get at bad hawker dessert stalls, the ones here are sweet and wholesome! P.S. this stall is right next to Loy Kee Chicken Porridge & Rice. #Hawkerpedia
Red bean ice is something I grow up lovin'.
There isn't a particular stall I go to but the one near my place has won my heart, and this has always been my dessert when dining at the hawker. Thankful that it's still available today though not everywhere has it, and my parents know how much I adore this bowl of old school red bean ice. The key thing is the condensed milk and well-cooked red beans which gives a soft and smooth azuki texture. I'm a big fan of this and glad that I have family and friends who shares the same joy as me. Who else is crazy over this too?
Mango sago and chendol
My favourite and definitely my family's go-to dessert store since I was young, Kim Lotus is frequented by most living in the neighbourhood, be it young or old. There is always a steady stream of people queuing, often for take-away and at times sit-in to enjoy the desserts. A sweet reward after swimming lessons or a pick-me-up following a gruelling day at school or just a simple after-meal dessert... Food plays a large role in my childhood hence affordable and consistent the variety of desserts at Kim Lotus are always a treat. (P.S. their cold bubur cha cha is my favourite.) #Hawkerpedia