Cheap & Good

Cheap & Good: Kueh with sweet potato skin a winner

Kueh Ho Jiak’s ang ku kueh, or red tortoise shell-shaped cakes, come in purple, orange and green and in shapes of animals, flowers or mooncakes. ST PHOTO: KENNETH GOH

With a name like Kueh Ho Jiak (hojiak means delicious in Hokkien) and colourful stained-glass panels, this stall in Tanjong Pagar Plaza Food Centre catches the eye.

It opened two months ago and sells more than 10 types of local snacks, such as pumpkin yam cakes, glutinous rice, curry puffs, soon kueh and ubi kayu (steamed tapioca cakes with grated coconut).

The most creative items here, however, are the modified ang ku kueh.

The traditional red tortoise shellshaped cake is given a modern makeover. Here, it comes in shades of purple, orange and green, and in shapes of animals, flowers or mooncakes.

After trying all seven flavours, my favourite is the red bean ang ku kueh ($1.20), the mooncakeshaped one. The red bean paste, not too sweet, has a zestiness from being cooked with dried tangerine peel.

The skin is thin, soft and malleable. This is because it is 90 per cent sweet potato, compared with most other versions which use more glutinous rice flour in the mixture.

Another winner is the coconut ang ku kueh ($1.20). It is like a cute ondeh ondeh, with an aromatic shredded coconut filling drenched in gula melaka.

The shop is run by a motherdaughter duo, Ms Sandy Tan, 52, and Ms Elizabeth Chan, 28.

They ran a kueh stall at Ci Yuan Hawker Centre in Hougang for six months in 2015. Despite roaring business, they had to close it due to a hike in rent.

In May, they reopened in Tanjong Pagar. Now they sell about 500 kueh a day and are planning new flavours such as red bean chocolate lava and jackfruit.

Unlike most shops that rely on food colouring, Kueh Ho Jiak uses four varieties of sweet potato to colour the kueh skin: Japanese (purple and green), Jewel (orange), Garnet (orange) and Hannah (white).

Being a durian fan, I could not resist one of its bestsellers, the flower-shaped durian ang ku kueh ($1.60).

The durian pulp filling is so rich, it is like durian pengat, but unfortunately, it knocks out the fragrance of the sweet potato skin.

The savoury kueh are hit and miss. The hae bee hiam ang ku kueh ($1.60), also in the shape of a bear, is too spicy for my taste, but the longevity bun-shaped rice kueh with salted egg yolk ($1.80) fares much better.

The glutinous rice filling, studded with peanuts, salted egg yolk and dried shrimp, is moreish and flavourful. Ho jiak indeed.

If you want to get some of these goodies, go early. Stocks start to run low by 1pm.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on July 09, 2017, with the headline Cheap & Good: Kueh with sweet potato skin a winner. Subscribe