During a tour of the beautiful Baba House (the restored residence of a 19th century Peranakan shipping magnate), in the kitchen our guide showed us a wooden mold used to make Ang Ku Kueh, a traditional Chinese confection. As it happens, one of the best places to buy these sweet cakes is at a traditional bakery just down the road
Ji Xiang Confectionery specializes in Ang Ku Kueh — literally red tortoise cake — a kind of dumpling with a chewy skin made from glutinous rice flour and sweet potato flour, with a variety of fillings. The mold is in the shape of a tortoise shell, stamped with auspicious symbols. The tortoise symbolizes longevity and the colour red, happiness. It is customary to present the cakes to friends and relatives when a newborn child is one month old, to wish the child a long and happy life. Ang Ku Kueh are also offered to deities and served at New Year and other Chinese celebrations. They are also a popular everyday snack.
The traditional cake is red, with a slightly sweet filling of ground peanuts. Its very dense — like the inside of a Reese’s Peanut Butter cup — and pretty filling.
Nowadays Ang Ku Kueh come in a variety of colours and with different fillings. They are presented on a square of banana leaf.
Salty mung bean paste (my favourite, above) and yam are traditional fillings.
Modern fillings include durian, sweet corn, black sesame and coconut (above). The skin is sticky and stretchy like Japanese mochi, and slides down your throat with a pleasant gloop. The fillings are not overly sweet.
Mrs Toh Bong Yeo has been selling her authentic cakes since 1988 and was recently acknowledged by Slow Food Singapore as a Heritage Hero.
Ji Xiang Traditional Ang Ku Kueh
Blk 1, Everton Park, #01-33