This article was first published in The Sunday Times on April 10, 2011.
My fried food-free diet was doomed the moment a friend mentioned the curry puffs at Rolina in Serangoon Garden Food Centre to me one day, saying they were the “best in town”.
You see, curry puffs are my weakness. Throwing concerns for my health and waistline to the wind, I made my way to the stall immediately to suss out the curried parcels. As it turns out, the ones at Rolina are indeed little morsels of Hainanese chicken curry heaven.
At $1.20 each, they may not be as big as the factory-produced curry puffs out there, but these are hand-made throughout the day. These puffs also did not have the chunky crusts that resemble hair braids – I think I like these puffs already.
Serangoon Garden Market and Food Centre, 01-32, 49A Serangoon Garden Way
Open: 7.30am to 5pm, Tuesdays to Sundays. Closed on Mondays.
Cubes of curried potato, chicken and onion, and a quarter of a hard-boiled egg are tightly packed into each puff, which is about the size of my fist. I cannot resist tucking into a fresh, piping hot puff – deep-fried in oil to crisp, golden-brown perfection. The pastry is not dry or thick and you get right to the filling in the first bite.My mouth and lips tingle from the spice but I cannot stop eating it. Each bite tastes like mouthfuls of traditional Hainanese chicken curry and five bites later, the moreish snack disappears into my tummy.
The shop’s Hainanese owner Tham Niap Tong, 72, tells me he has been making the puffs since he was a teenager. He and his wife make their way to the stall at 6.30am every morning, where they prepare all the ingredients – pastry, rempah (curry paste) and filling – from scratch.
Aside from curry puffs, the couple also sell sardine puffs ($1.20), where the filling is fried in a “secret” sauce. The sardines are first mashed, then fried with onions, chilli and some coriander in a savoury sauce. The result is simply addictive. There is something very comforting about the taste of sardines, which remind me of my childhood, and I end up eating two puffs.
So much for swearing off fried food. Oh well, I’ll restart my diet tomorrow.