[Singapore] Hoo Kee Bakchang (和记肉粽) @ Amoy Street Food Centre

One of my fave snacks of all time is the Chinese bakchang - this is Hokkien-speak for what Mandarin speakers call “zongzi” (粽子), but inestimably tastier in Southern China/Guangdong and South-East Asia (like in Singapore) than in Northern China.

My fave spot for bakchang in Singapore, and which I think still produces the best rendition on the island, is Hoo Kee at the busy Amoy Street Food Centre in Tanjung Pagar, smack in the middle of Singapore’s CBD. Hoo Kee was started in 1948 by husband-and-wife Chew Hai Chwee and Lim Soek Loo. Its first location was Fu Xing coffeeshop at 104 Amoy Street. It’s currently run by the 3rd-generation of the family - and the grandson who manned the stall when I was there recently was a bespectacled, well-spoken chap, more accountant than bakchang vendor.

Hoo Kee’s large bakchang which comes with a stuffing of marinated pork belly (with lots of sinful fatty bits), shitake mushroom, chestnut, and salted duck’s eggyolk, was the stuff of dreams. Its cloak of glutinous rice was just the right consistency: not too stiff and hard (most vendors added too much lye water to their mix) and deliciously flavoured & coloured brown by a mix of soysauce and oyster sauce. It’s slightly greasy, like all good bakchang must be, and very substantial. My fave bakchang in the whole wide world is from Guan Kee in Ipoh (another food paradise city in Malaysia), but that’s 1 hour’s flight north of Singapore. Hoo Kee seems to have improved in recent years, and is now every bit as good as Guan Kee’s.

Address

Hoo Kee Rice Dumpling
Amoy Street Food Centre #01-18
7 Maxwell Road (do NOT mix up with Maxwell Road Food Centre, which is on the other end of Maxwell Road)
Singapore 069111
Tel: +65 6221 1155

Thanks for sharing the spot. The bakchangs there are even better than the ones from Southern China? That’s quite some achievement. Where did the original owners come from?

Majority of Singaporean-Chinese are descendants of immigrants from Fujian and Guangdong in the 19th-century: Hokkiens, Hakkas, Teochews, Cantonese. Hoo Kee’s founders are Hokkiens, so their bakchang has Fujianese characteristics. They also sell Nyonya (Straits-Chinese) chang, but I go to Kim Choo in Katong for those. For good Cantonese “chung”, my go-to places are Crystal Jade Palace in Ngee Ann City, Taste Paradise in ION Orchard, or Imperial Treasure in Great World City.

Bakchangs from Malaysia and Singapore tend to have more pronounced flavours compared to those back in China, but some localisation to suit the local palate has obviously occurred. I like bakchang in Bangkok, too - the fillings there combined savoury elements (marinated pork, duck, dried scallops) with sweet ones (mashed, sweetened taro, lotus seeds) - the use of taro betrays the Teochew (Thai: Taechew; Mandarin: 潮州) heritage of most Thai-Chinese.

Given the more liberal use of spices in Malay and Singaporean cooking, the cantonese zongzi can almost seem too muted for the local palate. (Of course there is a certain subtle harmony that comes from the cantonese version) Does the marinade that goes into the pork and duck have more than just soy sauce and salt?

I should think 5-spice is also used in Hokkien bakchang, besides Shaoxing wine and oyster sauce, whereas Nyonya ones (which also incorporates candied wintermelon) use coriander powder for flavouring.

I like Cantonese ones, where lightly-marinated pork belly is incorporated with mashed mung beans for the filling, to be eaten with good soy-sauce and sugar.

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