Poh Cheu – Traditional Delights Come With A Unique Twist!
You might be familiar with the Teochew delicacy, Ang Ku Kueh, which is also known as Red Tortoise Cake. These mounds of crimson red kueh are usually stuffed with mung bean or peanut, but have you ever tried versions that are stuffed with green tea, coconut, or even durian? Well, we sure have not.
We recently stumbled upon Poh Cheu, a kueh shop in Bukit Merah. The brand carries a rich history of over 30 years, since it began in 1985. Not only does Poh Cheu sell the traditional ang ku kueh, which is usually filled with mung bean or peanut, the shop also has another 10 variations of this Chinese classic!
The stall was first established by Mr Neo Poh Cheu and his wife in 1985. Back then, they peddled their kueh by the roadside in Boon Lay. Mr Neo recalled the times when the police would catch him for his illegal hawking, but he had no choice as it helped to put food on the table.
The 77-year-old shared that he and his wife used to work for various eateries, and that was how they picked up the skill of making kueh.
With time, the couple’s hard work paid off and soon, they were able to open a brick and mortar stall in Jalan Kayu, before moving to Bedok, and eventually settling at its current location in Bukit Merah. Over the years, the brand has won many accolades for their offerings, and has garnered a fair bit of media attention too.
Every piece of kueh is painstakingly hand made: from the cooking of the filling, to the rolling of the dough. Though labourious, these are essential requirements to ensure tip top standards. We could definitely taste the love that went into making each kueh!
When we asked what makes a good ang ku kueh, Mr Neo replied that the filling has to be generous, and the skin has to be soft with a QQ consistency. The ang ku kuehs ($1.10) at Poh Cheu definitely meet this golden standard.
As age catches up with Mr Neo, his daughter, Esther, son-in-law and niece, Lay Hoon, also help to run the stall.
On how they came up with so many modern varieties of ang ku kueh, Esther shared that it was all thanks to her late mother. “Sometimes, customers would come and ask for a certain flavour. My mom would then try to make that flavour and add that to our list of ang ku kueh offerings.”
Some of the more unique flavours of ang ku kueh include fruit variations, such as durian, mango and pineapple. However, we found the flavouring a little too artificial for our liking.
On the other hand, the flavours such as coffee, green tea and yam, were delicious. These interesting twists reminded us of Japanese mochi, with its springy skin, and flavourful and aromatic filling. The yam ang ku kueh was like a local take on Japanese mochi, incorporating the flavours of orh nee – Teochew yam paste – into the ang ku kueh filling.
Besides the 12 different ang ku kueh varieties, Poh Cheu also churns out other old school kuehs, such as soon kueh, png kueh ($1.30), yam cake and even the traditional Hakka dish, abacus seeds ($2.30 onwards)!
Even for their soon kueh ($1 to $1.30), the stall has three versions of this timeless savoury snack. Diners can choose from bamboo shoots, gu chye (chives) or the standard mang kuang (turnip). Each kueh is packed with a generous portion of filling, and we especially enjoyed the unique addition of tau pok in the gu chye kueh. It gave the kueh a different mouthfeel, and lent a natural saltiness to the overall filling.
Esther shared that they use more yam than flour in their abacus seeds, which ensures that the abacus seeds still taste of earthy yam instead of bland flour. The abacus seeds were also soft and chewy, which, when paired with the accompanying ingredients such as fried onions, hei bi and mushrooms, gives a good play on texture.
Esther’s son, Jerome, has decided to take over his grandfather’s shop. He used to work part-time for the stall, and has learned the ropes and art of making kueh. The 24-year-old is an accounting graduate, and decided not to pursue a job in accounting mainly due to filial piety. He shared: “Because my grandfather is getting old and his health issues, he can’t continue the business. That’s what triggered me to take over from them”.
Although he is of Hokkien descent, Mr Neo said in Hokkien: “I don’t have to be Teochew to make Teochew kueh. As long as I enjoy what I do and make it well, that is all that matters.”
The family plans to expand into selling their kuehs online. I think its heart-warming to see a third generation taking over a brand that has been going on for over 30 years. By putting a modern spin to a timeless classic, it definitely helps Poh Cheu stay ahead of the competition!
MissTamChiak.com made anonymous visit and paid its own meal at the stall featured here.