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Food

Ah Kong Wah Kueh, Chinatown: A piece of heritage to keep

Last Updated: April 8, 2021

Written by Nicole Lam

On a Saturday morning, I find myself here again, at the bustling and often crowded Chinatown Complex Food Centre. Though, I must admit the crowds have thinned out quite considerably since the pandemic. As I have mentioned before, Chinatown Complex Food Centre is a mecca of hawker stalls, and every pilgrimage brings about something new.

Store front of Ah Kong Wah Kueh

Seeing as this is my second instalment in my Chinatown series, I’ve decided to go off the beaten track from Hawker Chan, copious fish head curry Stalls, and the famous mala stall to Ah Kong Wah Kueh.

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Ah Kong Wah Kueh is not like most of the flashy stalls at Chinatown Complex Food Centre. The sign is simple and to the point, no discotheque light show, and selling one thing only—wah kueh.

As a food writer, I’m rarely stumped by food items seeing as I do eat for a living, but that day I was. As any trusty millennial would do, I turned to the internet for help. It turns out that wah kueh, meaning ‘bowl cake’ in Hokkien, is a traditional Hokkien snack and one of those rare hawker dishes that are quickly disappearing.

I would put this in the same rank as the other heritage dishes on the precipice of pulling a vanishing act such as the tau kwa pau. You know, the golden tau kwa that’s fried to perfection and stuffed with the likes of braised egg bits and fish slices. A dish that is largely appreciated for its rarity and impending extinction, the same could be said for the wah kueh.

What I tried

Like most hawker stalls in Chinatown Complex Food Centre, they do operate in AM shift, so coming after 1pm might be a little risky. A quick chat with the genial uncle informed me that he opens at the bright and early time of 7.45am and closes the stall once he’s sold out.

Bowls of Wah Kueh

Only a few hawker stalls still maintain that ‘hawker price’, which I suspect is to accommodate the growing silver generation. Jia Ji Mei Shi is one stall that still has those ‘hawker prices’ that are just as rare as the kind of dishes they serve. Similarly, a Wah Kueh will set you back an affordable S$2.50.

Container of Wah Kueh

The Wah Kueh bears a resemblance to the more famous chwee kueh except that instead of savoury chai poh pieces on top, Ah Kong’s one is covered in a brown sauce, minced garlic, and chilli sauce. If you eat it right there and then, you’ll be served your wah kueh in a bowl that explains its namesake.

I’ve always been game to try anything—see kambing soup with lamb brain—so this was clearly no biggie. The kueh of the Wah Kueh is springy and bouncy and a lot firmer than your chwee kueh.

Scoop of Wah Kueh

I spotted some shredded mushrooms and dried shrimps interspersed in the kueh. They did lend some of that rich umami flavour that they are known for, although I would have liked just a touch more.

The sauce is a sweet, savoury, tangy thing that the uncle keeps continuously stirring with a fancy gizmo. The minced garlic adds the punch that garlic is known for, while the chilli sauce ties everything neatly in a bow.

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Even though I appreciated its cultural significance, I have to admit that I wasn’t quite warming up to wah kueh as much as I thought I would. Still, there is something to be said about preserving these traditional dishes in our food mosaic. Ah Kong is not the only stall peddling this dish of yesteryear, and perhaps it shall be my next mission to find more after this one.

Final thoughts

On hearing that I would be trying Wah Kueh as one of my reviews, my mother’s ears piped up and told me emphatically how much she loved it as a child. She did try one of Ah Kong’s wares, and though she found it agreeable, I knew she felt something was missing.

Maybe it was the lost years of childhood that was the missing piece; either way, Ah Kong Wah Kueh is a piece of heritage that we have to keep for time to come.

Expected damage: S$2.50 per pax

Other articles you might like:

Jia Ji Mei Shi, Chinatown: The food ain’t pretty, but it will feed you well

Kebun: SG’s 1st Vegan Tea Latte Bar With Homemade Cashew Mylk At Chinatown

Price: $

Our Rating: 3 / 5

Ah Kong Wah Kueh

335 Smith Street, Chinatown Complex Food Centre, #02-116, Singapore 050335

Price
Our Rating 3/5

Ah Kong Wah Kueh

335 Smith Street, Chinatown Complex Food Centre, #02-116, Singapore 050335

Operating Hours: 7.45am till sold out (Tue to Sun), Closed on Mon

Operating Hours: 7.45am till sold out (Tue to Sun), Closed on Mon

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