Makansutra: Traditional kueh with a twist
Kueh Ho Jiak's colourful fare tastes as good it looks
A catchy name like Kueh Ho Jiak is a smart marketing ploy, but the coupling of a Hokkien term (meaning "delicious") with a prettily-designed sweet stall at Tanjong Pagar Plaza Food Centre struck me as very curious.
In addition, the menu touts traditional stuff like ang ku kueh, but nothing on the kueh shelf looks traditional.
Elizabeth Chan and her mother, Sandy Hannah Tan, had no prior professional experience in selling cakes and sweets. But they trawled the Internet for recipes over a few years, and tweaked them on the fly.
They also listened to well-intentioned advice from friends and customers at their first hawker stall in Hougang.
The stall's Nyonya-inspired colourswere the first thing that attracted me (although the owners are Teochew), then the kuehs - little blobs of brightly-hued flower, fruit and cute cartoon animal-shaped steamed pastries.
I didn't know what flavour the flower, fruit or animals came in until I peered at the little signs.
The black charcoal cartoon cat had roasted crushed nuts and sugar - very traditional, yet not so. The crunch of the handmade fillings was a delight in the mouth.
The cute bear-faced kueh, a kid magnet, was unfortunately stuffed with a bold and robust hae bee hiam (dried shrimp sambal) - not exactly a child-friendly flavour.
Their purple and orange flower-shaped version had sweet mashed mung bean fillings which were easy on sugar.
One other bear-faced ang ku kueh featured gula melaka grated coconut, and had a pleasant texture and richness.
The traditional-looking purple one hid a gorgeous orh nee (sweet yam paste), and the orange rendition had orange peel red bean paste beckoning inside.
A green flower-shaped creation was one of my favourites (aside from the hae bee hiam) - soft and toffee-like, it reminded me of the durian dodols that I usually get on market trips to Malaysia and Indonesia, except it was moreish and very soft all through.
It all sounds and looks very confusing, but all's forgiven when you realise just how attractive and refreshing it all is.
The owners said that they use a lot of coloured yams and sweet potatoes for the skin colour, nothing unnatural, from purple to green and orange.
But I've saved the best two for last.
Their ubi kayu (tapioca) balls are one of the best I've had in a long time here - not too sweet, soft and with fresh grated coconut dusted through.
If you are a fan, I doubt you will stop at two.
Then their salted egg yolk png kueh (steamed rice cakes), which come in the strange shape of some purple berry, had a high swoon factor in my books.
The hae bee-flavoured glutinous soft rice was elevated with a little chunk of salted egg yolk.
Ladies, keep the intrigue and deliciously colourful twist on tradition going.