I feel sad that hawker food in Singapore has largely lost its soul in the past decade with attention to preparation and flavour sacrificed to expediency and profitability. Whenever I find any hawkers who retain the richness of flavours and techniques from the past, I feel compelled to tell all my friends about these last bastions of hope for us to savour these traditional flavours before they completely vanish.Chwee Kueh 水粿 @ S$ 1 (4 pieces)
I remember eating Chwee Kueh for breakfast on weekends while growing up in Singapore and it has always been one of my favourite hawker food. I loved the small, saucer-shaped steamed rice cakes (after which this dish is named) topped with a savoury chye poh (salted radish) garnish. We used to eat them with toothpicks where our skills with handling the delicate rice cake was put to the test. We had to spread the topping over the kueh evenly, cut the kueh to bite-sized portions with the toothpick and skewer the bit onto the toothpick without it breaking apart or losing all the topping before it reached our mouths. I used two toothpicks for more leverage. Hawkers these days give forks to make it easier for diners.
The hallmark of a good Chwee Kueh is a smooth, springy and soft rice cake that had been lightly salted to enhance the flavour of the rice flour. The texture is similar to that of mango pudding but with a slightly coarser feel on the tongue as it is not creamy. It should bear a little resistance but break apart fairly easily when cut into. The chopped up chye poh topping is also crucial to the success of the dish as it needs to be cooked till aromatic and crunchy but with a tender core. The texture should be quite similar to that of al dente rice grains in a risotto albeit alot smaller. For me, the chye poh makes or breaks the dish because I like it to be savoury and many places serve chye poh that is too sweet for my liking. The chye poh topping here is well-balanced in flavour, bearing just the right amount of saltiness with a slight hint of sweetness. The Chwee Kueh here tastes like the ones I ate while growing up. This is a Must-Try!
Bedok Chwee Kueh 207 New Upper Changi Road, #01-53 Bedok Interchange Food Centre (aka New Upper Changi Road Food Centre) Singapore 460207 Operating Hours: Daily from 6.30 am to 10.30 pm Bedok Chwee Kueh (Chinatown Branch) 335 Smith Street, #02-43 Smith Street Market and Food Centre Singapore 050335 Operating Hours: Daily from 7 am to 9 pm