Old-school bakeries are a thing of the past, but now and then, I stumble upon a hidden gem that brings me right back to my childhood. Nestled along Bedok North Avenue 2 is Katong Sin Chew, a family-run bakery that’s been churning out homemade nostalgic bakes since 1962.
Funnily enough, having stayed in the Bedok area since I was a child, I must’ve walked by Katong Sin Chew a dozen times, especially since the famed Fatcat Ice Cream Bar was literally right down the block.
A landmark shop in Bedok, Katong Sin Chew is easily recognisable with its bright purple signboard and cosy vibes. Brightly lit commercial bakery shops cannot hold a candle to this homey bakery, which was founded by Mr Foo Chee Kio in 1962. Its initial space was located along East Coast Road (opposite the now defunct Odeon Katong cinema), thus explaining the “Katong” in its name, and the shop moved to its current location in 1978.
Interestingly, Mr Foo was never a baker. In fact, he was an electrician, but decided to teach himself how to bake and bought himself a stack of baking books. To this day, Katong Sin Chew remains family-run, and it’s a well-loved bakery for those living in the Bedok neighbourhood.
While I had gone down early in the day in hopes that they’d have plenty of bakes laid out, I was disappointed by half-empty shelves, as the staff bake by batches. For example, its famed Curry Bun and Coconut Bun are freshly baked at 1pm, so you’ve got to come down at that time to snag a hold of these elusive bakes.
With it being an old-school and traditional bakery, there are also no labels or price tags telling you what each bake is— you’ll just have to guess based on its appearance, or ask the aunty at the counter.
What I tried at Katong Sin Chew
It was nearing 1pm and to my delight, I realised that Katong Sin Chew’s Curry Buns were almost ready— there was a steady queue of folks waiting in a haphazard line.
The chaos that ensued was one to remember. The minute the staff came out holding trays of piping hot Curry Buns, everyone scrambled to grab the quantity of buns they wanted, and the buns would literally be gone in a blink of an eye.
After jostling with close to a dozen people, I managed to grab an elusive box of Curry Buns (S$2 each) and Coconut Buns (S$1.90 each).
Served piping hot, these Curry Buns were something else. Each bun, which came with a thin crisp crust and fluffy bread, contained a good dollop of homemade curry (which uses in-house rempah), potatoes and carrots.
Though it looked slightly flatter than I would have liked, these buns remained solid and hefty, and the fragrant curry was incredibly delicious, reminding me of curry puffs. I could also taste a light sweetness from the fresh butter used in the bread, which complemented the savoury and spice-filled curry.
Freshly baked as well were Katong Sin Chew’s signature Coconut Buns. These featured shredded white coconut flesh, which is quite interesting as most coconut buns I’ve had are filled with its brown variant thanks to the inclusion of gula melaka.
This was incredibly fragrant, and I loved how the shredded coconut remained juicy and moist on the inside. The fluffy softness from the buns went well with the slight crunch from the coconut, creating a tropical-like sweetness that was refreshing on the palate.
Note that if you want to grab yourself some Coconut Buns and Curry Buns, do drop by between 1pm and 2.30pm, but beware! They sell like hot cakes (pun intended).
Apart from the iconic Curry Bun and Coconut Bun, Katong Sin Chew also sells a variety of old-school bread, pastries and cakes, one of which was the Pandan Chiffon Cake (S$1.70).
I was quite excited to try this, as this was my grandmother’s signature bake.
What a wonderful piece of chiffon cake. This was so fluffy and soft that I had problems picking it up with my hands! Each piece of Pandan Chiffon Cake was incredibly airy, like a cloud, but the minute I placed it in my mouth, it melted into a dense moistness that made the entire experience simply magical. The lightness of the pandan came through delicately.
While I usually dunk my chiffon cakes into hot coffee, this deserved to be eaten entirely on its own. So good!
Katong Sin Chew also sells a range of Swiss rolls, such as the Chocolate Swiss Roll (S$2) and Vanilla Swiss Roll (S$1.80).
While I usually stray away from Swiss rolls because of how commercially artificial most of the cream tends to be, Katong Sin Chew’s versions were authentic and homemade.
The Chocolate Swiss Roll was soft and airy, with a rich creaminess in the middle. The taste of chocolate was quite muted (in fact I could only taste it strongly in the chocolate sprinkles), but I still enjoyed it very much. I preferred the Vanilla Swiss Roll for its moist cake-like texture. The fresh cream melted in my mouth, leaving none of that plastic-like taste of artificial cream in my mouth.
When I read online that Katong Sin Chew also sold Cup Cakes, I initially thought they had meant cupcakes— the tiny cousin of the muffin, most well known for its most cake-like denseness and elaborate frosting.
Instead, I was pleasantly surprised when I found out that when they said Cup Cakes, they literally meant cake that was shaped like a cup! These were slightly bigger than a muffin, and sat comfortably in the palm of my hand.
Oh, these were absolutely delicious. Texture wise, Katong Sin Chew has really perfected its cake-baking skills. These were light, bouncy and airy pieces of chiffon-like cake that tore apart like cotton candy. Yet, the minute I popped it in my mouth, I was amazed by how moist it was. I loved the top roasted layer, which added a nice touch of char to the fragrant vanilla.
As I stood there, with close to a dozen people waiting for a piece of elusive Curry Bun, I felt like I had stumbled upon a golden secret. Katong Sin Chew doesn’t announce that its Curry Buns nor Coconut Buns are ready to be sold, and yet, you have a throng of people from all walks of life queuing at the same time everyday for a piece of history. The power of tradition and word of mouth is real!
The way Katong Sin Chew has managed to perfectly execute each bake still baffles me, even after I’ve stuffed myself silly with close to 10 bakes from this family-run bakery. Its Pandan Chiffon Cake was fluffy yet moist, and the rest of the cakes such as its Cup Cake and Vanilla Swiss Roll were airy yet rich.
Though each bread isn’t fancy, with none of the typical cheese, pork floss or cream that you see most commercial bakeries dishing out these days, every single piece was wonderfully executed. I’ll certainly be back again to buy more nostalgic bakes for my family.
Expected damage: S$1.70 – S$5 per pax
Our Rating: 5 / 5
Katong Sin Chew
416 Bedok North Avenue 2, #01-45, Singapore 460416
Katong Sin Chew
416 Bedok North Avenue 2, #01-45, Singapore 460416