Cheap & Good

Chewy handmade Hakka delights

The soon ban is generously filled with turnip, black fungus, dried shrimp and mushrooms.
The soon ban is generously filled with turnip, black fungus, dried shrimp and mushrooms. ST PHOTO: EUNICE QUEK

It is getting tougher to find traditional Hakka food, especially in hawker centres. I guess the closest option would be Hakka lei cha fan (thunder tea rice).

While on a search for another stall at Shunfu Mart Food Centre off Upper Thomson Road, I chance upon Mei Zhen Hakka Delicacies.

The stall opened in the early 1980s at the now-defunct Lakeview Market & Food Centre along Upper Thomson Road, and has been at its current premises for almost 20 years.

Over the years, the Hakka delights are still made by hand, so I figure that this oldie must be a goodie.

Its Hakka version of soon kueh - known as soon ban ($1.20 a piece, minimum order of two pieces) - is the star. The thin skin is made with, among other ingredients, yam, which gives it a pliable and slightly chewy texture. Each piece has a generous filling of turnip, black fungus, dried shrimp and mushrooms. The turnip is cooked just right, tender but not too soft and with a slight crunch.

I take it back to the office and after about half an hour, the skin - though cold - is not hard and doughy, but still nicely chewy. No additional sauces are needed even though I normally douse the soon kueh I eat with sweet sauce and chilli - this one is tasty enough on its own.

  • MEI ZHEN HAKKA DELICACIES

    Shunfu Mart Food Centre, Block 320 Shunfu Road, 02-26, tel: 9799-0397, open: 7am to 1pm (Wednesdays to Fridays), 7am to 2pm (weekends), closed on Mondays and Tuesdays

    Rating: 3.5/5 stars

I also like the abacus yam ball or suan pan zi ($3.50, $6.80 or $12), which also has a chewy texture and is lightly peppery. It is slightly mushy when I eat it again in the office, but I can overlook that. After all, how often do I get to eat handmade abacus beads at this price?

Other menu items include glutinous rice ($2.20), yam cake ($2), chee cheong fun ($2), and yam porridge ($2). Yes, I realise it's quite a starch overload - so, like me, you have to pace yourself.

I see other diners ordering what I believe is the perfect double combo - two soon ban and a portion of chee cheong fun or yam cake. I do the same: Order that breakfast of champions, then start planning what to take away.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on February 12, 2017, with the headline 'Chewy handmade Hakka delights'. Print Edition | Subscribe