Monday, May 06, 2013

Lek Lim Nonya Cake Confectionery (陸林娘惹粿] Where Halal Kueh Are Still Handmade! @ Bedok North [Singapore]

The Gang of Four was recently invited for a food tasting session at a neighbourhood confectionery on the ground level of a housing block in Bedok where it has been in operation since 1987.

Tasting traditional kueh aside, another key attraction was the opportunity to handmade some of the stuff ourselves! More on that later. Let's begin with what Lek Lim Nonya Cake Confectionery has to offer.

Nonya Kueh is a must (given the context) and you can find common Peranakan snacks like kueh salat, pulut inti, tapioca cake, ang ku kueh, ondeh ondeh, nine-layer cake etc.

Older school snacks, in the form of png (rice) kueh, soon kueh, ku chye (chives) kueh and glutinous rice can also be found. Sad to say, many people of the younger generation have no idea how to appreciate such classic fare and i could hardly blame them.

The rapid dilution of Chinese culture and the influx of overseas cuisines have greatly reduced the significance of local, traditional food in the highly competitive food industry in Singapore. Unfortunate yet inevitable. 

Likewise with the nonya kueh, these Chinese kueh were all laboriously made by hand in the same vicinity!

Deep fried items were later introduced as part of their regular offerings and it's not hard to see why from a business point of view. Compared to steamed or baked kueh, deep fried items actually have a loyal following regardless of age; just look at Old Chang Kee.

Top seller was the deep fried yam cake! Frankly, i wasn't too sold on the idea it was that fantastic as no other yam cake can beat my mom's version!

You can also find festive goodies like the multi-coloured rice cakes in the above picture. Strangely, i am more accustomed to seeing the white and yellow variants in the markets and they are usually bigger in size.

Those items placed outside the confectionery were likely purchased from other manufacturers as there is a need to expand the varieties in order to attract more customers.

Before we start with the hands-on sessions, Gavan (the man who sent us the invitation) gave a short history of Lek Lim Nonya Cake Confectionery including its humble origins in a kampong kitchen back in 1968 by his grandparents.

Pulut Inti Making Session
Everything was prepared in advanced and our job was just to "complete" the product. I am quite pleased to hear that since i am a total failure when it comes to actual cooking. 

Note the glaring blue colour of the rice? In the past, the colouring came from a type of flower flower but it's getting increasingly difficult to find the flowers in urban Singapore. Artificial colouring is hence widely used and accepted as a replacement. 

The macik patiently gave us a demo and it wasn't as bad as i imagined! Well, truth was i did only one. Imagine how your back would feel if you have to do a few hundred pulut inti within a short span of time!

Take a sheet of coconut banana leaf (thanks to Ms Lau for the correction), put the glutinous rice in the middle and dump the gula melaka infused (not brown sugar okay) coconut shreds on top! Wrapping the content was more challenging and in our case, consistency eluded us.

Guess which is mine?!

Gang of Three with their pulut inti! It should be quite easy for you to make a good guess on which was mine since all of them were showcasing theirs proudly. 

While waiting for the other group to complete their ku kueh session, Gavan showed us around the kitchen and explained to us the processes required to make some of the nonya goodies. 

Adoption of machines (like the mixer) was necessary in helping to save time and increase productivity. However, the confectionery still persists on having a pair of human hands to mould and finish the end product.

Alex's favourite; nine-layer cake (九层糕). Making it the manual style was so tiring; one layer at a time with intervals (i think five or ten minutes) in between before you can pour the next layer! As a child, i had to compete with my sisters to get my hands on one; peeling off each layer and enjoying every moment of eating it until i was left with the least palatable layer. The base. 

All these were made from tapioca! No prize if you could tell me which was deep-fried, baked or steamed and whether it was tapioca flour or chunky tapioca mixed with other kinds of flour. 

No preservative is used in the making of kuehs and everything is freshly made on a daily basis. Leftovers would be thrown away at the end of the day unless it was a lot. In this case, Gavan would donate them to a school for the mentally disabled. To be consumed on that day of course. 

Ku Kueh Making Session
Time to start our ku kueh session. Why did i not mention ang (red) ku kueh? Because there were chhiⁿ (green coloured) and oh (black coloured) ku kueh also!

In comparison to pulut inti, this was way easier to accomplish! Just think of playing with plasticine or play-doh and you should get a good inkling on what we did to mould them into shape. 

As far as QC was concerned, i think the Gang of Four failed the test miserably! Nevertheless, it was a fun session with Vanessa unknowingly covering my arm with flour, twice. In addition, it was incredibly satisfying to know i personally put on the finishing touch for some of them! 

Steaming the ku kueh will take around twenty minutes and Alex, being the baby of the Gang, could not resist buying a few boxes of kueh to relive his sweet childhood memories. 

I had to try the colourful Kau Ding Kueh (nine-layer cake)! Not the best i had and this was mainly due to the lack of sweetness. The kueh salat was better in my opinion as the supposed kaya layer was egg-less, resulting in a richer pandan fragrance. 

For someone who has always insisted that his mom offers the best yam cake in Singapore and some said Batam, i am afraid Mom has finally met her match; the deep fried yam cake had a nice semi crusty bite perfectly complemented by a savoury filling that would entice you to take another bite! 

Maybe i should ask my mom to deep fried her epic yam cake next time!

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Many thanks Gavan and his family for accommodating the Gang of Four! And it's great to know other bloggers; the funny Ai Lin from Purple Taste, the young Li Tian from Dairy and Cream and her equally young friend, Xinyu!

Location
Block 84, Bedok North Street 4, #01-21

Map
As above

Website

Facebook Profile
https://www.facebook.com/LekLimNonyaCake

Other Contacts
Tel: 64490815 Fax: 64424958 
Email: gavansing@gmail.com

Prices
Refer to the website under Product Catalogue.
Party packs are available! 

Additional Information
For all my Muslim friends, Lek Lim Nonya Cake Confectionery is Halal-certified! 

I never expected Gavan to pass every one of us a huge bag of kuehs from his shop (was only thinking of the ku kueh and pulut inti)! I was eventually left with three big bags when Kon forgot to take his share from my car!!! 

My family members were the biggest beneficiaries given i was extremely bloated after a heavy dinner at Bedok 85 hawker centre (shall be blogging on it soon) following the visit. 

If it helps, my mom and sister especially enjoyed the soon kueh, ku chye kueh, deep fried yam cake and this particular tapioca cake with coconut shreds enriched with gula melaka ! 

4 comments:

  1. haha!! i luv the yam cake here to but i want to try your mum's fried yam cake!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. shall invite u for a food tasting session if she decides to prepare yam cake again! haha

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    2. Heh don't forget me as well. I want to taste your mum's yam cake too :)

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