Thursday, 19 March 2015

Good Bye Chye Kee Chwee Kueh 再見财记水粿 Singapore

Today, we hurried down to Chye Kee Chwee Kueh 财记水粿 at Circuit Road food centre because Uncle Martin, veteran Singapore food spotter got news that the last handmade chwee kueh stall in Singapore is winding up it's business in a few days' time.

Chye-Kee-Chwee-Kueh-财记水粿

Chwee Kueh is a simple Teochew staple dish of small cup size rice cakes eaten with savoury braised diced turnips (and optional chili sauce). Chwee kueh is a popular breakfast meal in Singapore, and also in Malaysia.

In Singapore, handmade chwee kueh made with 100% rice is rare - Chye Kee Chwee Kueh 财记水粿 is probably the only one left, but not for long.

Soon, there will be none.

Thanks to Uncle Martin's arrangement, we had the opportunity to document the process of old school chwee kueh making at Chye Kee Chwee Kueh 财记水粿.

Soon, memories and these records are all we have left.

Chye-Kee-Chwee-Kueh-财记水粿 Chye-Kee-Chwee-Kueh-财记水粿

Mr. Leow learnt the trade of chwee kueh making at a (now defunct) rice cake factory. In 1983, Mr. Leow founded Chye Kee Chwee Kueh 财记水粿, running the stall together with his wife. From the beginning, Mr. Leow keep faith with the traditional way of making chwee kueh while many most have succumbed to shortcuts due to commercial pressures and quest for bigger margins.


Gracious Mr. Leow patiently shared with us his chwee kueh making legacy.


Chwee kueh begins and ends with rice.


Chye-Kee-Chwee-Kueh-财记水粿 Chye-Kee-Chwee-Kueh-财记水粿

Mr. Leow personally selects the best rice for making milled rice gruel. Every harvest of rice is subtly different; in the same way as there are different grades of grapes and coffee beans (for wines and coffee). 

Mr. Leow would buy a small packet of rice and test it by making a batch of chwee kueh. If the result is good, if the taste and texture are right, Mr. Leow would go back to the supplier and buy the particular harvest in bulk. He would store the rice in a rented store room.

Mr. Leow goes the extra mile, incurring additional effort and expense to ensure that only the most suitable rice goes into making his chwee kueh.

Kudos to Mr. Leow for his dedication to his trade and quality commitment to his customers, even though it is just humble rice cakes which he sells at SGD 2.20 for 10 pieces.

Chye-Kee-Chwee-Kueh-财记水粿 Chye-Kee-Chwee-Kueh-财记水粿

Mr. Leow soaks the rice grains in water overnight.

The rice softened by overnight soaking is scooped into the electric rice miller.

When I asked how old is the electric rice miller, Mrs. Leow poked fun at me. "Older than you" she said. 

How I wish.

The miller is less than 20 years old ;-D 

Chye-Kee-Chwee-Kueh-财记水粿 Chye-Kee-Chwee-Kueh-财记水粿

The creamy gruel that comes out of the miller reminds me of latex ;-p

Chye-Kee-Chwee-Kueh-财记水粿

Mr. Leow pours the milled rice into the miller for another grind to get a finer gruel.

Chye-Kee-Chwee-Kueh-财记水粿 Chye-Kee-Chwee-Kueh-财记水粿

Mr. Leow and wife worked as a cheerful team together at the stall for over 30 years.

Here they were laying the small aluminium cups onto the steaming trays.

The next step is to fill these cups with milled rice gruel.

Chye-Kee-Chwee-Kueh-财记水粿 Chye-Kee-Chwee-Kueh-财记水粿

Mr. Leow pours the milled rice gruel (transferred into a kettle) into the tiny cups with amazing precision.

Chye-Kee-Chwee-Kueh-财记水粿

Mr. Leow fills the cups until the rice gruel is just a hair above the rim, with almost no spillovers.

When I complimented Mr. Leow on his skill, he modestly downplayed it saying, "it's just familiarity, after over 30 years of doing this." 

Chye-Kee-Chwee-Kueh-财记水粿

Mr. Leow lowering the covering dome over the stack of chwee kueh.

The chwee kueh is kept in the tower steamer for about 40 minutes until the rice gruel is cooked.

Chye-Kee-Chwee-Kueh-财记水粿

The chwee kueh is ready ;-D

Chye-Kee-Chwee-Kueh-财记水粿 Chye-Kee-Chwee-Kueh-财记水粿

The freshly steamed chwee kueh were laid out to air cool.

Chye-Kee-Chwee-Kueh-财记水粿

Freshly made chwee kueh. 

Cottony soft with rice aroma and a light bounce. The crunchy chye poh was mildly savoury and light tasting (as no lard is used at Chye Kee). The hae bee hiam or chili paste with dried shrimps was mildly savoury spicy.

Pure rice chwee kueh with rice aroma is seldom seen nowadays as most stalls serve "chwee kueh" bulked up with tapioca or corn flour.

Chye-Kee-Chwee-Kueh-财记水粿 Chye-Kee-Chwee-Kueh-财记水粿

Yet another good food stall serving heritage food made in the old way, pulls down it's shutter in Singapore. Swept under by commercial realities.

Chye-Kee-Chwee-Kueh-财记水粿

Mr. Leow is now in the final process of winding up Chye Kee Chwee Kueh. We have a few more days to try the last handmade chwee kueh in Singapore.

Good bye Chye Kee Chwee Kueh 再見财记水粿.

Thank you Mr. and Mrs. Leow, and all the best in future.

Hope we will meet again.

Restaurant name: Chye Kee Chwee Kueh 财记水粿

Address: Blk 89, MacPherson Road, Circuit Road Hawker Centre, #01-29, Singapore
Maphttp://bit.ly/ChyeKee
Hours06:30am - 2:00pm

No pork, no lard, no Halal cert


Date visited: 19 Mar 2015


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