Er Gu Tang Shui, Chinatown: Old-school Chinese desserts using traditional recipes from 1955

All it takes is one look at Er Gu Tang Shui’s simple storefront to know that this humble stall goes way back. A big tell-tale sign: The constant long queue of elderly folks patiently waiting for their bowl of dessert.

Turns out, Er Gu Tang Shui was a pioneer hawker stall in the Chinatown district. It started out as a roadside store at Chinatown’s night market in 1955, and later relocated to Chinatown Complex in 1983. It has been dishing out traditional Chinese desserts ever since then, using the same old-school recipe from 1955.

Er Gu Tang Shui

The legendary dessert lady, Er Gu, has since passed away, and the stall is now being run by her godson and wife.

Chinatown Complex isn’t the easiest to navigate (I’ve got to admit that my dining companion and I got lost several times while going in circles trying to find this stall), but to make things easier for you, Er Gu Tang Shui is located in the blue zone, right next to the bridge connecting it to the yellow zone.

More than that, you can find Er Gu Tang Shui from the constant line of people queuing up for a nostalgic taste of the past.

What I tried

Er Gu Tang Shui

Er Gu Tang Shui sells eight traditional Chinese desserts on its menu, and I got several of its most popular items. 

I was most excited to try its Sesame Paste (S$2.50) and Peanut Paste (S$2.50). I also wanted to try its Sweet Glutinous Rice Balls with Ginger Soup (S$3), but unfortunately, it was already sold out.

Er Gu Tang Shui

The Sesame Paste (S$2.50) surprised me. For its thick consistency, I expected it to be rich, nutty and intense in flavour. Instead, it was mild and palatable, with a pleasant smoothness that made it really drinkable. 

While I would’ve preferred the sesame flavour to be more pronounced, I enjoyed how warm and comforting this dessert was. The one thing I appreciated was how it wasn’t overly sweet, so the original sesame flavour came through quite well.

It was only after a few mouthfuls that I realised why the sesame paste wasn’t as gao as I’d like — because if it was any thicker, I wouldn’t be able to finish the whole bowl in one sitting.

Er Gu Tang Shui

Stirring through the Peanut Paste (S$2.50), its texture reminded me of cake batter right before you pop the tray in the oven — smooth, shiny and heavy.

Er Gu Tang Shui

The freshly toasted ground peanuts hit me instantly. Milky and creamy, the paste was mildly sweet and fragrant. I loved how the paste wasn’t powdery nor too thick, so it didn’t coat my mouth with a sticky film afterwards. 

Definitely could see myself enjoying this on a rainy afternoon, together with a piping hot cup of teh o kosong.

Er Gu Tang Shui

I was intrigued by Er Gu Tang Shui’s Chou Cao Green Bean Soup (S$2), so I decided to get a bowl.

Chou cao, or 臭草, can be directly translated into “stinky grass”. Upon Googling, I found out that chou cao is a traditional Chinese herb that’s commonly used to treat fever, blood circulation and gastrointestinal ailments.

Upon stirring the dessert, I also found bits of orange peel.

Er Gu Tang Shui

I love green bean soup and often have it at home, but Er Gu Tang Shui’s Chou Cao Green Bean Soup belongs to a whole different league.

The soup wasn’t paste-like at all. Light, fragrant and sweet, I loved how the green beans themselves weren’t overly mushy, which can happen if you boil the soup for too long. The addition of orange peel added a refreshing touch, and I could taste a tinge of herbal sweetness towards the end of each mouthful.

Er Gu Tang Shui

The last dish was Er Gu Tang Shui’s Gui Ling Gao (S$4). It’s quite rare to find a stall that makes its own gui ling gao these days, so I knew I had to give it a try.

When the jelly first hit my tongue, I couldn’t taste anything at all. However, the more I chewed, the more a light sweetness crept in, followed by its characteristic mild herbal bitterness.

This was a dessert that really cleansed and refreshed my palette. Unlike other stalls, Er Gu Tang Shui doesn’t give any sugar or honey along with this dish, but I didn’t see a need for it. The Gui Ling Gao wasn’t overly bitter, and any artificial sweetener would’ve masked the light herbal-y flavours of the original dessert.

Final thoughts

Er Gu Tang Shui

The one thing I noticed about Er Gu Tang Shui was how natural and authentic each dessert was. Unlike other stalls which use sugar to complement or mask their desserts, Er Gu Tang Shui does a fantastic job of allowing its original flavours to shine. 

Given that Er Gu Tang Shui still follows its traditional recipes since 1955, this is definitely the place to go if you’re ever looking for authentic old-school Chinese desserts.

Expected damage: S$2.50 – S$4 per pax

Other articles you might like:

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Charcoal Traditional Toast, Sin Ming: “One of the most underrated kaya toast gems of Singapore”

Price: $

Our Rating: 3 / 5

Er Gu Tang Shui

335 Smith St, Chinatown Complex Market & Food Centre, #02-224, Singapore 050335

Our Rating 3/5

Er Gu Tang Shui

335 Smith St, Chinatown Complex Market & Food Centre, #02-224, Singapore 050335

Operating Hours: 10am - 9pm (Daily)

Operating Hours: 10am - 9pm (Daily)
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