AND THE WINNERS ARE...

No. 2: Old Chang Kee

Extensive research has gone into ensuring that the pastry of Old Chang Kee's deep-fried curry puff is not oil-logged after frying.
Extensive research has gone into ensuring that the pastry of Old Chang Kee's deep-fried curry puff is not oil-logged after frying.ST PHOTO: SEAH KWANG PENG

Where: More than 80 outlets, including at Paragon Shopping Centre, AMK Hub, VivoCity and West Mall, various opening hours

Info: www.oldchangkee.com

Verdict: Another round of unanimous approval from the judges for the curry puffs, which they noted have a generous amount of chicken in the filling. Sanmugam says: "I like that the potatoes are well-cooked, but still in cubes - not just mashed up."

Score: 71/100

 
 

It is one of the remaining curry puff businesses that took off at Rex Cinemas along Mackenzie Road, and Old Chang Kee has come a long way since it opened in 1956.

Now, the production of its curry puffs works like a well-oiled machine - from the automated manufacturing process for its pastry dough and filling to its temperature-controlled environment for delivery of the chilled puffs to its various outlets, where they are fried on site.

It is this stringent process that ensures the consistency of the puffs. Although the making of the filling and pastry are automated, the puffs are still hand-crimped - there must be a minimum of 12 folds to seal each puff.

The filling is made with a mix of potatoes from Indonesia and China, as well as chicken and egg.

As for the pastry, Old Chang Kee's chairman Han Keen Juan, 64, emphasises that extensive research has gone into ensuring that it is not oil-logged after frying.

He says: "The pastry cannot be like a sponge and soak up all the oil, but it has to be puffy enough. No one wants to bite into an oil-filled curry puff."

Founded by Hainanese immigrant Chang Chuan Boo, Old Chang Kee began as a stall in Koek Road before moving to Albert Street. It gained fame when a second outlet opened in Mackenzie Road.

When Mr Chang retired from the business in 1986 to return to China, Mr Han - who met him through the Hainanese Association - bought the stall for $30,000.

He has since transformed it into a listed company that made $5.3 million in profits last year.

Despite rumours that the puffs are made in Thailand, they are in fact made in a 20,000 sq ft factory in Woodlands. By next year, the production space would have doubled as the company has acquired a neighbouring factory to expand its manufacturing facilities.

It also has a factory in Malaysia to cater to the outlets there, as well as a network of local and overseas business partners to process seafood items, including crab claws and sotong balls.

Also in the business is Mr Han's nephew, Old Chang Kee's chief executive officer William Lim, 55, who joined the company in 1995.

The company also owns other subsidiary brands such as Pie Kia, which sells pies; fast-food cafe concept Take 5; and casual restaurant chain Curry Times.

On the universal appeal of curry puffs, Mr Han says: "Curry puffs are a snack that can be eaten by all, regardless of race or religion. For our young customers, we always try to create new flavours, such as chilli crab, and chicken and mushroom."

Engineer Dylan Lim, 35, says: "When I think of curry puffs, I always think of Old Chang Kee. The puffs are a good size, not too small like other curry puffs. I like that there is egg inside as well. It helps that it has so many outlets. It's hard for me to walk by its outlets and not buy at least one."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on July 05, 2015, with the headline 'No. 2:Old Chang Kee'. Print Edition | Subscribe