Kueh Ho Jiak – Traditional Kuehs with a Colourful Twist
Make a guess what these are? One look and you might think that they are artsy pendants, but these are ang ku kuehs that you can find in a hawker centre!
Not your typical ones, right? Meet the mother-and-daughter duo behind these beautiful kuehs – Sandy Tan (52 years old) and Elizabeth Chan (29 years old).
Kueh Ho Jiak started from my mother. She just had this thought that, how nice would it be if we can pass down this heritage. It’s like a piece of art.
Located in Tanjong Pagar Food Centre, Kueh Ho Jiak is easy to spot. The stall, which rocks a colourful signboard, sells more than 10 types of local snacks, such as pumpkin yam cakes, glutinous rice and soon kueh.
The most creative item here, however, is the modified ang ku kueh.
At Kueh Ho Jiak, the traditional red tortoise shell snack is given a makeover. It comes in shades of purple, orange and green, and in shapes of animals, flowers and more. While most shops rely on food colouring, Kueh Ho Jiak uses four types of sweet potato for the coloured kueh skin — Japanese (purple and green), Jewel (orange), Garnet (orange) and Hannah (white).
In the past, hawkers learnt recipes from their parents or mentors. But Elizabeth and her mother did not come from a line of hawkers, they had to start from scratch. They went online to learn the technicalities of the craft and tweaked them on the fly. Many of the important lessons were learnt on-ground running the business.
Now, her mother focuses on making the kueh while her daughter promotes it online. Work starts as early as 3am as they have to start steaming the kuehs and prepare the fillings. After the stall closes, Elizabeth’s mother has to go back to the kitchen to make the kuehs till 11pm at night.
I didn’t know what flavour each kueh was until I took a bite. That’s the surprise! I was lucky to get the durian one first. This flower-shaped kueh is one of the best sellers! The rich durian filling is wrapped in a soft and thin sweet potato skin. What’s not to love?
Using wooden moulds to create each piece of kueh, Elizabeth told me that their peanut ang ku kueh uses peanut butter instead of the usual crushed peanut fillings. I like that it was not too dry and the crunch of the peanut bits was delightful. The red bean version was not too sweet, and the paste with zesty orange peel was just brilliant.
Hawker is very hands on, you really need to work for long hours. It’s not easy but there are a lot of stories and heritage behind each dish which you cannot find in a restaurant. These are things that we should pass down.
There is just so much love and passion poured into these handmade kuehs. I really take my hats off the folks behind stalls like Kueh Ho Jiak. They keep the tradition alive and tweaked their craft to keep things relevant with the times. If you want to get some of these goodies, go early as stocks start to run low by 1pm.
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KUEH HO JIAK
Address: Blk 6 Tanjong Pagar Plaza, Tanjong Pagar Food Centre #02-20, Singapore 081006
Phone: 8750 9271
Opening Hours: 7am to 2pm (Mondays to Saturdays), closed on Sundays