The hard blow dealt by the Covid-19 pandemic is still sorely felt by our local hawkers after 18 long months. Before the latest reopening of dine-in options, the once bustling local food scene has been reduced to glaringly empty tables and chairs, some wearing red and white tapes for a good number of months. Many hawkers and restaurants were even forced to shutter for good. But one of the good things that emerged from the disruption in the food scene is the booming home-based food business. Some of them have even taken to serving Singapore’s heritage foods.
In a bid to #supportlocal and see if they are up to par in their traditional handmade kuehs, The Homeground Asia team checks out three bakeries: The Honeycomb Cake, All Things Hainanese and One Sweet Bite.
The Honeycomb Cake
As its name suggests, The Honeycomb Cake is a home-based bakery specialising in a traditional delicacy that has a honeycomb texture. Called Bika Ambon, the cake originated in Medan, Indonesia, and has since made its way to Singapore. Bika Ambon is typically made using tapioca flour, eggs, coconut milk, pandan leaves, kaffir lime leaves and lemongrass. It has evolved over time to feature many different flavours, such as durian and cheese. The Honeycomb Cake has taken it further by including flavours like orange and coffee.
When we first opened the box, we were greeted by a cake with a gorgeously golden sheen.
Slicing the cake, the interior revealed a bright and glossy yellow sponge that reminded us of – ba dum tss – a honeycomb.
Our Bika Ambon was chewy with the perfect amount of sweetness, although there are some who would have liked a more substantial sugar rush. We could taste the flavours of coconut and pandan, and there was an aftertaste of rosewater initially, or so we thought until we concluded that the aftertaste was most likely lemongrass.
The Bika Ambon at The Honeycomb Cake is gluten-free, Halal and vegetarian, perfect for customers with dietary restrictions. It is also the perfect dessert for people who do not have a sweet tooth. But if you like your desserts a lot sweeter, you can request for additional sweetness when you place your order. The Bika Ambon is freshly baked on the day of purchase.
Block 156, Ang Mo Kio Avenue 4, Lift Lobby A, S560156.
It is usually scheduled between 11.30am and 12.30pm.
Deliveries will only be conducted between 3pm and 7pm, and your order must be at least S$35. A flat delivery fee of S$8 applies to all locations. There will only be free delivery when the order exceeds S$70, with the exception of Tuas, Sentosa and Jurong Island.
All Things Hainanese
Hainanese cuisine is often overlooked. Mention Hainanese and chicken rice comes to mind, but the dish is not the only fare offered by the Chinese dialect group. Lesser known dishes include kuehs traditionally served during a baby’s full-moon celebration, at weddings and special family occasions.
From All Things Hainanese, an online offshoot of a physical hawker stall in Toa Payoh, we ordered yi bua, alongside bua art and peanut mochi. All Things Hainanese is a family-run business, one of the few left in Singapore dedicated to preserving Hainanese food heritage.
The kuehs ordered online are freshly made the night before and they are either delivered or for self-collection. The effort of the bakers speaks louder than words about their commitment to preserve the lesser known traditional Hainanese kueh.
Round and wrapped in banana leaf, yi bua is a white glutinous rice dough enclosing an explosion of flavours – shredded coconut, ginger, crushed roasted peanuts, toasted sesame, sweetened with palm sugar or gula melaka.
The ginger provides a good amount of kick, but the kueh left us wanting a stronger coconut fragrance. We had the same complaint for the bua art, which is topped with the coconut ginger mix.
The peanut mochi is described as ‘a deconstructed version of the original yi bua recipe’ by All Things Hainanese. The dish provides a mess-free eating experience for anyone looking for bite-sized finger food.
Reminiscent of muah chee, a street snack made of balls of glutinous rice coated with peanuts widely popular across SouthEast Asia, this version offers not just the flavour of roasted peanuts, but also the sweetness, spice and nuttiness of coconut, ginger and sesame in the encased fillings.
We would have liked the peanut coating to be on the drier side, but that was salvaged by adding crushed peanuts provided separately.
Sinking our teeth into each of the yi bua, bua art and peanut mochi three items, we realised the glutinous rice flour dough offers good springiness in texture without sticking to our teeth.
Each gift set, comprising two yi bua, one bua art, five peanut mochi and 100ml of kaya for just S$12 is good value for money! Orders can be made here.
Hainan Cuisine and Snacks @ Kim Keat Palm Market and Food Centre (Block 22 Lor 7 Toa Payoh)
Tuesday to Sunday, 7am – 1pm (Closed on Mondays)
Dakota MRT Exit B, 12pm. Other times may be arranged privately.
- Delivery timings are between 1 and 5pm.
- There is a flat delivery charge of S$8. Specific delivery time slots cost S$18.
One Sweet Bite
But if you have a penchant for all things Peranakan, then you should not give One Sweet Bite a miss.
To try as many Nyonya kuehs as we could at a sitting, we ordered the assorted box of five different kuehs: kueh dar dar, lapis sagu, kueh salat, kueh kosui and jackfruit bites. The fragrance and different colours they came in unmistakably triggered our salivating reflex.
Whatever coconut cravings that were left unsatiated by All Things Hainanese, we satisfied them with the generously packed fillings of kueh dar dar, a pandan crepe encasing sweet, shredded coconut. The lovely burst of coconut sweetness that oozes with every bite, coupled with the pandan flavour of the crepe, keeps us wanting more. The only thing holding us back from indulging in more coconut-pandan goodness is preserving our stomach capacity for the rest of the kuehs.
Kueh kosui, a gula melaka delicacy coated in coconut shavings, may have the same flavours of coconut, pandan and gula melaka (palm sugar), but its interesting textural consistency that is both jelly-like and chewy, stands it apart from the rest. While the coconut shavings could have been more generous, its sweet and crunchy texture is a good complement to the jelly texture of the kueh. The gula melaka flavour is front and centre in this one, hence some might find it too sweet.
A childhood favourite for many is the lapis sagu, also known as kueh lapis or rainbow kueh. The alternate shades of pink and red presented a beautiful and eye-catching ombre. Our kueh was soft and slightly bouncy, and had strong hints of coconut and pandan flavours which we did not tire of at all. Of course, who can resist the weird satisfaction of peeling off each delicate layer of lapis sagu and eating them separately? We certainly did not hold back.
Another childhood favourite for some is the kueh salat. The two layered delicacy consisted of a kaya custard, which was supported by a sticky block of glutinous rice that was partially dyed blue using butterfly pea flowers. While the kaya custard was a bit too sweet, (perhaps we were biased after having eaten a lot of desserts that featured pandan and coconut flavours predominantly), the glutinous rice helped balance out the sweetness as it was a little savoury. Additionally, the slightly chewy texture of the rice helped to complement the soft and silky texture of the custard, which provided a good textural balance.
While not a traditional nyonya kueh, the jackfruit bites, which are pieces of jackfruit encasing glutinous rice, are a fun and mess-free finger food that are sure to be the star of any show. The fresh jackfruit offers a good balance to the heaviness of the dyed pink glutinous rice, topped with coconut cream and sesame seeds. If you like mango sticky rice, you might find yourself enjoying this too!
This tasty delight, in our books, is definitely worth the S$40 spent! Orders are made through direct message on Facebook.
Self-collection for online orders at 72 Bayshore Road, 469988.
- Delivery timings are between 3 and 6pm or earlier.
- Delivery charges are as follows: North, South and East side: S$10; West side: S$12 ; CBD/Malls: S$13; Tuas/Sentosa: S$15; Specific delivery timings come at an additional S$7.