It's so rare when we hear of younger folks upholding the time-honoured ways of handcrafting things. And it's extra precious when it's not old school for old school's sake, but for better artisanal quality over mass production and profits.
That edge in perfection is what Gavan Sing is championing at Lek Lim Nonya Cake Confectionery at Block 84 Bedok North Street 4, #01-21. They have been around since the 1960s, and is now run by the third generation.
I did a story on Makanation on Gavan and these delectable kuehs - you can click the link and read about how things handmade are better, the multi-faceted challenges they face, as well as how they plan to overcome them.
Gavan and his wife are only thirty-something, but they quit their jobs to help the parents with the family business, and are thinking of creative ways to enhance business. But they aren't compromising on the handmade quality of their goods. Awesomely commendable!
They made a name for themselves with ang ku kueh in the 1980s, but tastes are changing, so they added Nonya kuehs back to their line of goods, and later on things like soon kueh and ku chye kueh.
Ang ku kueh is often given out at babies' first month celebrations. I learnt there used to be different ang ku kuehs for boys and girls. If I remember correctly, I think this one is for boys. Then I read somewhere that it's pointy ones for boys, and flat ones for girls. Ah, sounds similar to the speculation when it comes to analysing the pregnancy bump too!
I had a chance at making ang ku kueh - it's actually quite fun. Like Play-doh that you get to eat eventually.
There really is an art to gauging what the right amount of dough vs filling is, and to see if it's the right texture and consistency. Even the amount of pressure has to be just right.
The kuehs are steamed for about 20 minutes after moulding. Oh, they taste so good when freshly made!
Look at the spread that they have - Nonya kuehs, ang ku kuehs, ku chye kueh, soon kueh, peng kueh, and (more recently) fried items like curry puffs, yam cake, and spring rolls.
My favourites - the ku chye kueh with its delicious savoury filling and smooth skin. You can also taste the handmade goodness in the soon kueh. The turnip filling is not mushy unlike what you get with some machine made ones. The curry puff is richly spiced and comes with chicken and a section of boiled egg. The yam cake is yummy too. The Nonya kuehs are not too sweet.
Oh, they are also halal-certified, by the way!
They've got Chinese New Year cookies out too - mostly handmade by relatives, and the 90-year-old Nonya sifu who taught Gavan's grandparents (she's still making kuehs at this age - amazing!). These really do taste like they came from some aunt's kitchen, with that comforting rustic feel.
I like the round peanut cookies (see centre yellow ones); they are full of chunky crunch inside! And the love letters have this rugged heft which I ironically prefer over the flimsy delicate type. They've also got green bean cookies in cute Chinese fu-lu-shou figurines, peaches and turtle shapes (left).
These are available for order two weeks ahead of the lunar new year. You can view the entire product catalogue and make orders online as well.
LEK LIM NONYA CAKE CONFECTIONERY
Block 84 Bedok North Street 4, #01-21
Tel: +65 6449-0815
7:30am - 5pm, Monday to Saturday
7:30am - 1pm, Sunday
Check out their Facebook page for updates and even videos on how they make the kuehs.