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Food

Tan’s Tutu Coconut Cake, Clementi: I would happily brave a 45-minute wait

Last Updated: December 28, 2020

Written by Ping Er

In a shocking deviation from my Clementi 448 series, I make a detour to Clementi Block 449 for a taste of the famous Tan’s Tutu Coconut Cake. This name is even a talking point outside Singapore—on a guided tour overseas once, my mother heard whispers of this name from her fellow tour mates as they waxed lyrical about the food they missed at home.

Tans Tutu Coconut Cake 1

I report to the stall at 5.30pm, but the steamer that dominates Tan’s Tutu Coconut Cake’s shopfront is still chained closed. Apart from a small puff of steam emanating from it, the stall is empty. 

The owner of the neighbouring stall, Yi Shan Popiah, helpfully tells me to come back around 6pm. He’s busy at work rolling out popiahs, and to my amusement, he begins to ask me how many I’d like, as if he has conditioned himself to do so with everyone who approaches his stall. Ah, occupational hazards. 

Well, we all know the teasing experience of waiting for food. I wander the area while I wait. 

At 6.10pm, the stall is open, and there’s only one customer standing in front of it. I’m not deceived for a moment—sure enough, there’s already a waiting list and I am sixth in line. 

The owner of Tan’s Tutu Coconut Cake, Ms Tan Bee Hua, very nicely thanks me for waiting, having heard of me from her neighbour. 

For such a tiny cake, tutu kueh is a labour intensive art. If I weren’t as refined in slowly savouring them as I am, all that effort would be wasted on me.

Tans Tutu Coconut Cake 7

Perhaps it’s my hunger, but watching the tutu kueh making process is hypnotic. The flour flies into its mould before it’s evened out, followed by fillings. Another layer of flour is added to seal off the cake. A white square of cloth holds everything in place as the cake goes into the steamer. 

Everything emerges neat and perfect, maintaining an unmistakable handmade quality to it. Some of the fillings show through the white cake exterior, but for me, it’s still a guessing game to tell them apart. 

Tan's Tutu Coconut Cake 1

After the tutu kuehs emerge from the steamer, they’re each presented on a pandan leaf square, lined up like cadets in a box as a reward for the wait. In fact, the wait has lasted close to 45 minutes, during which I’ve written everything up to here in this article. 

It’s been a long day, and my subconscious has been dwelling on tutu kueh for the past 12 hours. I don’t think I could go to sleep without having some now.

What I tried

Tan's Tutu Coconut Cake 11

The flavours here are ordinary, unlike the wacky ones that my colleague, Felicia, tried at Chub Tutu. After hearing of the strange savoury fillings she sampled there, I felt very on-the-fence. While it’s heartening to see innovation in a treat that’s close to many people’s hearts, it does wrench at the part of me that wants to preserve the traditional flavours we grew up with.

But as with food, to each his own. Tan’s Tutu Coconut Cake’s offerings work for me, with just four simple flavours to choose from. 

Tans Tutu Coconut Cake 15

I pick one at random to start with, and it’s the Coconut Tutu Kueh (S$0.80 each). It’s filled with fried grated coconut with brown sugar, creating a deep sweetness that complements the clean rice cake exterior. 

Tans Tutu Coconut Cake 14

Though the Original Tutu Kueh (S$0.80 each) comes off a little too plain for me, it does drive home the fact that Tan’s Tutu Coconut Cake prepares their steamed rice cakes well. They carry a consistently clean and fluffy texture. With sweet fillings, each tiny cake brings a delightfully balanced flavour profile to the palate.

Tan's Tutu Coconut Cake 13

As a stickler to peanut filling, the Peanut Tutu Kueh (S$0.80 each) at Tan’s Tutu Coconut Cake earns a moment’s silence from me. It checks every box of my childhood memories, reminding me of a time when life felt like it just revolved around my mother and me.

Tan's Tutu Coconut Cake 18

The most adventurous flavour at Tan’s Tutu Coconut Cake is the Chocolate Tutu Kueh (S$0.90 each). Its chocolate sauce filling conjures the image of an uninitiated child, hankering for the familiarity of chocolate in an as yet unfamiliar tutu kueh.  

You can get the Chocolate Tutu Kueh at five for S$4 but I know I’ll be getting all of mine in their classic iterations (five for S$3.50) the next time I queue here. 

Final thoughts

Tan's Tutu Coconut Cake 10

Tan’s Tutu Coconut Cake is one of those places I would happily make an event out of queuing for. It’s awe-inducing to watch Ms Tan hold the fort alone, knowing how her family’s business has become a household name in the area.

Though their original outlet is at Havelock Road, this is the one I’ll frequent in time to come. Clementi is, after all, half my personality. 

Expected Damage: S$0.80 – S$4 per pax

Price: $

Our Rating: 5 / 5

Tan's Tutu Coconut Cake

449 Clementi Avenue 3, #01-211, Singapore 120449

Price
Our Rating 5/5

Tan's Tutu Coconut Cake

449 Clementi Avenue 3, #01-211, Singapore 120449

Telephone: +65 9737 2469
Operating Hours: 6pm - 9.30pm (Daily)
Telephone: +65 9737 2469

Operating Hours: 6pm - 9.30pm (Daily)
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