Things from the past usually bring back fond memories. Which is why old songs still sound good and cars like the Beetle and the Mini are still well-loved. Food from a bygone era is no exception. Some kinds of food evoke nostalgic memories from our past. It was therefore a delight to run into a shop like Tan Hock Seng cake shop along Telok Ayer Street Singapore. It seems to continue live in a different time zone and still churns out cakes and other confectionery items from our childhood days.
Tan Hock Seng cake shop sells a wide range of traditional cakes, cookies and biscuits. Most of the items are familiar items. But like neighbours in the modern-day, we recognise them but do not know their names.
We believe that the products from this shop will make excellent gifts. Which recipient of a gift of these multicoloured sugar biscuits or the elephant ear biscuits will not squeal with delight? For those who are married, what better gift can you give your wife than these wife biscuits 老婆饼 and mom cakes 老妈糕. The biscuits are the ones with the flaky skin and winter melon fillings. The cakes are the translucent ones that are soft and chewy like Japanese mochi.
There are some romantic stories about the origins of the wife biscuit. Our research on the origins threw up many versions. Perhaps the versions offered from an authoritative source like Hong Kong’s South China Morning Post should be reliable. One version goes like this. A long time ago, a dutiful wife in a poor family sold herself to raise money to pay her father-in-law’s medical bills. The husband, a good cook, made use of humble ingredients – flour, winter melon and pork lard to create a snack for sale. It was a success. He made enough money to redeem back his wife.
We think the wife biscuit would be a perfect gift to show one’s appreciation for the spouse. At $3 for 4 pieces, they are also quite affordable. The piglet cookies will also make a cute gift, but she might not be amused. Anyway we bought a pack of the wife biscuit ($3) and a box of the wife cake ($2) to see what they were like.
The wife biscuits are about 10 cm in diameter and quite thin. Their pastry skins are extremely flaky and have to be handled very gently. Use a big plate to avoid messing up the room. The winter melon filling was light and not too sweet. There were some tiny crunchy bits in the filling.
The mom cakes were more modern looking. We do not know the connection between these and the more traditional wife biscuits. They have a very mild taste and are soft and chewy. We think they also have winter melon in them. They have a similar but much more diluted taste than the filling in the biscuit. These are more easy-going snacks and not messy.
We thought both versions of the wife snacks are best served as a combination. The contrast in both looks and taste is rather attractive. A cup of jasmine tea would go well with this.
Tan Hock Seng Cake Shop 陳褔成饼家
86 Telok Ayer Street #01-01
Tel: +65 6533 1798