If you are in the vicinity of Katong, or rather Joo Chiat area, and are wrecking your brains as to what to chow down for breakfast or some afternoon tea, look no further than this longstanding confectionery (Chin Mei Chin Confectionery).
You will be disappointed if you think you would find the trendier, more westernized/Hongkong-nized/Non-singaporean-ized varieties of toasts such as peanut butter or sugar milk butter that you would at Yakun or Toast Box, but if you are old school Kaya (coconut) jam purist at heart, love and strongly believe in the theory of traditional cooking techniques always produce the best, most authentic flavors and food that never disappoints the taste buds, this is the place to wash your morning blues down with milk tea and Kaya jam smeared generously on charcoal grilled buns with a slab of butter ( Now, who charcoal grills their bread these days? or even owns a charcoal grill. )
Now, bear with me while I let my mind ramble on a little. You can still find charcoal grilled toasts, but a plane ride away in Thailand, finding it is made even easier with one push cart vendor selling his popular toasts in the uber-touristic Khao San Road district. But it is hard to find all these old school food in countries that are charging to imitate the west. Isn’t it sad that so many just hanker after the trendier food these days, forgetting food from their roots, from the good ole days. Why go crazy over Bubble tea with fake starch in the shape of black balls when there is the awesome hand-pulled local milk tea or teh tarik. Why the ever increasing number of Asians trying to grasp the cooking skills, secrets and techniques of the French or Italian? Why not learn and promote our own traditional recipes. Is it because of the time and effort it goes into making all our Asian goodness? I shudder to think that one day, I wouldn’t be able to find those red tortoise shell ang ku kuehs ( already fast disappearing, especially in Taiwan), or nonya kuehs, or chinese pastries, or chinese hot sweet soups and the list goes on. That said, I probably should not comment about this, given that I have done nothing to keep tradition, except eat. That said, I will redeem myself by saying I can make a pretty decent Kueh Lapis cake (eaten yearly during Chinese New year). But alas, I feel no need to learn other traditional recipes because I am still able to find what I want to eat now. Shame on me. Whatever.
Anyhow I divert, back to this outstanding coffee shop tucked away at the corner of the food haven district in the East of Singapore. The lady in charge of the toast skillfully toasts the buns on a charcoal grill, ensuring the end result of soft insides and crispy exteriors, the way every toasted bun should be, slathers them with Kaya Jam they make in house and a slab of cut butter. The kaya jam is at the right level of sweetness and consistency, with a fragrant hint of pandan. And to make kaya, many grandmamas would know it takes a good recipe, skills and lots of effort and patience to stand by the huge pot to stir and produce a paste to the right consistency and color. Knowing that you are sinking your teeth into tradition and much effort, with the kaya and butter softened and melted into the bread, close your eyes and savor every bite. The sweetness of the jam, balanced by the saltiness of the butter, completed with soft fluffy buns, What do you get? A three in one knockout. Then, after you recover, wash it down with a nicely pulled aromatic milk tea. Doctors’ prescriptions can’t beat this perfect remedy for those morning blues and blahs.
AA was quite partial to the pastries, with oohs and ahhs over that conical looking pastry in the picture which apparently held really good butter-sugar whipped cream, the technique and skills of the maker must have come from years of making it. A pattissier, I believe the words spoken. The tart casings were excellent, with hint of saltiness, evident that the pastries sold here are all made in house. A rarity these days.
As for me, I go straight for the kaya buns any given day. Or if possible, be given a spoon to dive right into the coconut goodness, pure and unadulterated. Now, this is what food “sin” is.