Wednesday, 14 March 2018

Making Sak Kei Ma at Chinatown Tai Chong Kok Hue Kee 牛車水大中國餅家餘記

Sak-Kei-Ma-Chinatown-Tai-Chong-Kok-Hue-Kee-牛車水大中國餅家餘記

Soon after I blogged about Pan Ji stall in Chinatown and stated that it is the only place in Singapore I know that makes Sak Kei Ma by hand, I was introduced to Chinatown Tai Chong Kok (Hue Kee) - the famous old name in Chinatown which also makes Sak Kei Ma by hand 😄 I am so grateful for the opportunity to observe how Chinatown Tai Chong Kok (Hue Kee) make the iconic pastry, the traditional way.

Sak-Kei-Ma-Chinatown-Tai-Chong-Kok-Hue-Kee-牛車水大中國餅家餘記

Making Sak Kei Ma the old way is tedious and requires two days - it's a recipe and process passed down through the generations at Chinatown Tai Chong Kok (Hue Kee). Owner Tham Wing Cheong starts the process by preparing the dough from scratch. The main ingredients are chicken eggs and wheat flour. This stage reminded me of making whole egg noodles 全蛋麵 for wanton mee.

Sak-Kei-Ma-Chinatown-Tai-Chong-Kok-Hue-Kee-牛車水大中國餅家餘記

After resting the egg and flour dough, Wing Cheong hand rolls it into thin sheets with a giant rolling pin.

Wing Cheong had been working at his dad's confectionary, learning the ropes of the craft since he was a child. A mechanical engineer with a First Class Honours degree, Wing Cheong with his electronic engineer brother Wing Woh decided to go full time at Chinatown Tai Chong Kok (Hue Kee) when their dad went into semi retirement. The brothers committed themselves to carrying on the legacy of their grandfather 👏👏👏

Sak-Kei-Ma-Chinatown-Tai-Chong-Kok-Hue-Kee-牛車水大中國餅家餘記

Wing Cheong hand cuts the flatten dough into broad noodles with a cleaver. You cannot get any more old school than that 😄

Sak-Kei-Ma-Chinatown-Tai-Chong-Kok-Hue-Kee-牛車水大中國餅家餘記

The team in action, hand cutting and tossing the egg noodles to loosen them.

Sak-Kei-Ma-Chinatown-Tai-Chong-Kok-Hue-Kee-牛車水大中國餅家餘記

The freshly made noodles ready for the deep fryer. They looked like chicken intestines to me 😄 I can smell the lovely eggy fragrance of fresh egg noodles.

Sak-Kei-Ma-Chinatown-Tai-Chong-Kok-Hue-Kee-牛車水大中國餅家餘記

Wing Woh tossed the fresh egg noodles into the deep fryer.

Sak-Kei-Ma-Chinatown-Tai-Chong-Kok-Hue-Kee-牛車水大中國餅家餘記

Wing Woh fries the noodles till they are golden brown and crisp. He has to keep his eyes constantly on the noodles to make sure that they are done perfectly. A moment's inattention and the noodles may be burnt.

Sak-Kei-Ma-Chinatown-Tai-Chong-Kok-Hue-Kee-牛車水大中國餅家餘記

The crispy fried noodles are air cooled before packing. Wing Woh calls them crackers. (I forgot to taste a piece at this stage 😂 )

Sak-Kei-Ma-Chinatown-Tai-Chong-Kok-Hue-Kee-牛車水大中國餅家餘記

Once cooled, the crackers are kept in biscuit tins for the night. This ends stage one (day one) of the traditional process of making Sak Kei Ma.

Sak-Kei-Ma-Chinatown-Tai-Chong-Kok-Hue-Kee-牛車水大中國餅家餘記

The next day, Wing Cheong got the ball rolling by preparing the malt sugar.

Sak-Kei-Ma-Chinatown-Tai-Chong-Kok-Hue-Kee-牛車水大中國餅家餘記

Wing Cheong cooks the malt sugar. It takes skill and experience to cook the malt sugar to the right viscosity. It is easy to burn and ruin the malt sugar.

Sak-Kei-Ma-Chinatown-Tai-Chong-Kok-Hue-Kee-牛車水大中國餅家餘記

The crispy fried crackers (from the previous night) are tossed into the tub of melted malt sugar.

Sak-Kei-Ma-Chinatown-Tai-Chong-Kok-Hue-Kee-牛車水大中國餅家餘記

The fried crackers are tossed and turned by hand in the fryer to evenly coat it with malt sugar.

Sak-Kei-Ma-Chinatown-Tai-Chong-Kok-Hue-Kee-牛車水大中國餅家餘記

Once the crackers are nicely coated with malt sugar, they are scooped onto a shallow baking tray.

Sak-Kei-Ma-Chinatown-Tai-Chong-Kok-Hue-Kee-牛車水大中國餅家餘記

The malt sugar coated fried crisps are spread out evenly on the tray.

Sak-Kei-Ma-Chinatown-Tai-Chong-Kok-Hue-Kee-牛車水大中國餅家餘記

Wing Cheong rolls the malt sugar coated fried crisps under a heavy rolling pin, compacting it.

Sak-Kei-Ma-Chinatown-Tai-Chong-Kok-Hue-Kee-牛車水大中國餅家餘記

The tray of flattened malt sugar coated fried crisps are then allowed to cool and set.

Sak-Kei-Ma-Chinatown-Tai-Chong-Kok-Hue-Kee-牛車水大中國餅家餘記

The final step of the long process of making Sak Kei Ma is to hand cut the sweet crisps bond by malt sugar into small blocks. Chinatown Tai Chong Kok Hue Kee's Sak Kei Ma is hand made from start to the very end product.

Sak-Kei-Ma-Chinatown-Tai-Chong-Kok-Hue-Kee-牛車水大中國餅家餘記

Sak Kei Ma is a Manchurian sweet pastry that spread across China when the Manchus (from the northeast) conquered the great plains, defeating the Ming Dynasty and establishing the Qing Dynasty in 1644. The Manchu horseback armies riding with Sak Kei Ma, greatly extended the Qing Dynasty's realm. 

Known as Sachima in Manchu language, it means "to cut and arrange". To this day, Sachima or Sak Kei Ma (殺騎馬 in Cantonese language) is exactly that, "to cut and arrange". Thanks to traditional confectioners like Chinatown Tai Chong Kok (Hue Kee) which passionately preserve the heritage in a world where the buzzwords are "productivity", scalability, Instagramability (what is this?)...., you got the idea.

Sak-Kei-Ma-Chinatown-Tai-Chong-Kok-Hue-Kee-牛車水大中國餅家餘記

牛車水大中國餅家餘記 Chinatown Tai Chong Kok Hue Kee's Sak Kei Ma is sold at their Alexandra Village and Chinatown outlets at $1 per piece. Seeing how it is meticulously handmade from start to finish, it is a very reasonable price, indeed for an authentic piece of heritage.

Sak-Kei-Ma-Chinatown-Tai-Chong-Kok-Hue-Kee-牛車水大中國餅家餘記

The block of Sak Kee Ma felt tacky to the fingers. The honey yellow looking pastry felt crispy to the bite - a unique kind of crisp and tender blend as the molten malt enveloped and infused the fried crisps. The sticky malt sugar holds the fried crisps tightly together and felt gummy to the bite - the mouthfeel that excites me as a child, and still does today. 

Biting into the sweet biscuit, our nose is greeted with a subtle eggy aroma which I like. Our tastebuds taste the sweetness of malt sugar with an underlying egginess. If you pay close attention, you may detect a very subtle fruitiness from the malt's fermentation.

I also like it that Chinatown Tai Chong Kok Hue Kee's Sak Kei Ma is not greasy. It is easy to get addicted to this centuries old snack that has spread from Manchuria to every continent. Sak Kei Ma is still marching across the world - global F & B giant Nestlé recently patented their version of Sachima targeting the younger generation. Sachima will be productive, scalable, and Instagramable soon.

Sak-Kei-Ma-Chinatown-Tai-Chong-Kok-Hue-Kee-牛車水大中國餅家餘記

🎀 Note to self: Pack this in my carry-on every time I take a plane 😋

You can get 牛車水大中國餅家餘記 Chinatown Tai Chong Kok Hue Kee's traditional Sak Kei Ma at any of their two outlets:

Alexandra Village Branch 
Address: Blk 122 Bukit Merah Lane 1 #01-62  Alexandra Village, Singapore 155122 (near the food centre)
GPS1°17'11.2"N 103°48'15.4"E
Tel: (65) 6270 8994 
Hours: 9:00am to 8:00pm  

Chinatown Branch 
Address: Blk 5 Banda Street #02-72  Singapore 050005 
GPS: 1°16'53.2"N 103°50'37.0"E
Tel: (65) 6223 0456
Hours: 9:00am to 7:00pm

Date visited: 11 Mar 2018

Return to Johor Kaki homepage.

No comments:

Post a Comment

I share hoping that everyone will have a good time but your experience may differ from mine. I love to know how you enjoyed yourself or if you didn't.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...