Makansutra: Old Seng Choong's local makan souvenirs make perfect gift
Share Singapore's culture with others with local flavours of Old Seng Choong cookies
Singaporeans travel a lot, more than many in the world.
And because we are so receptive of other cultures, our friends can be bringing home Chinese sausages from Hong Kong, banana chiffon cake from Hokkaido, preserved mangoes from the Philippines and fine dates from the Middle East - all very recognisable snacking pleasures form those lands.
But what is the ultimate makan souvenir from Singapore?
Kaya, bak kwa, bak kut teh spices, laksa packs and bottles of sambal come to mind.
How about a little of all of these, executed by a serial snack entrepreneur?
Mr Daniel Tay is a wizard in the pastry kitchen and he wanted to be more than just a good baker.
So in 1998, with a $300,000 loan from his father, he set up Bakerzin, a bespoke cake boutique that dazzled with decadent eclairs and the signature lemon meringue pie and cakes.
Soon, he was opening his 30th outlet in Singapore and around the region.
He sold the business in 2007, stayed on for six years to implement new strategies and then set up Foodgnostic in 2013.
He introduced locally-flavoured cheesecakes with his Cat And The Fiddle kitchen, dabbled in mooncakes and also Old Seng Choong, a local cookie boutique at Clarke Quay Central in honour of his late father's defunct bakery.
His shop is tempting and the batik/Nonya-inspired tin packaging design is culturally correct and not overdone nor too decadent.
On offer are 15 varieties of uniquely Singapore flavours.
The cereal prawn cookies ($19.80) are by far one of the easiest to devour.
They come crispy to the last bite and have bits of dried shrimp all over, inside out, and topped off with a little shrimp.
The savouriness gets you first before the gentle sweetness of the cookie dough surfaces.
But Old Seng Choong's bestseller is the bak kut teh cookies ($19.80), perhaps because of the tourists who just ate at a famous bak kut teh stall nearby.
But his is done Malaysian-style, with hints of traditional Chinese herbs like dang gui.
It is not what I like in a cookie, but obviously, I am a minority here.
Then there's the range of Nonya-flavoured bites.
His laksa version ($19.80) is one of the best I have had.
The spiciness is not tourist-polite and it heats up your palate after just one little piece.
The laksa spice is nicely balanced and does not lean towards laksa leaves or lemongrass flavours.
I also like the smokey bak kwa cookies ($19.80).
The smokiness comes across through the well-grilled bak kwa bits and the sweet-savoury flavour works well in such cookies.
For just the right amount of heat, hit up his hae bee hiam cookies ($19.80).
The spicy dried shrimp flavour is present and it's easy on chilli.
With Old Seng Choong, Mr Tay has more than fully repaid his dad.
He continued the legacy and in the spirit of an entrepreneur, is now looking to China for even bigger opportunities.
Old Seng Choong
Clarke Quay Central, #01-48
6 Eu Tong Sen Street
11am to 10pm daily
Order online at www.oldsengchoong.com
K.F. Seetoh, the founder of Makansutra, dabbles in street food businesses like Food Markets and has his own TV shows on cable. He publishes food guides and online content. He is also the creator of the World Street Food Congress. Follow him on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram