For the bulk of his 30-career as a pastry chef, local food entrepreneur Daniel Tay has always looked to the West for inspiration.
“I was trained in French pastry and have been creating European cakes and pastry for many years, but after turning 40, I think it is time to go back to my roots and celebrate local Singaporean flavours,” Tay shares, as he shows us around the new Old Seng Choong shop located at The Central at Clarke Quay.
Old Seng Choong was named after Tay’s father’s now-defunct confectionery shop, Seng Choong Confectionery, a household name in Marine Parade in the 1970’s. The shop, which closed in 1996, was known for its oldschool butter cakes, buttercream cakes, black forest cakes, apple pie and baked goods.
In 2016, Tay launched the Old Seng Choong old school bakery brand online as a bid to revive the brand with lower cost. It’s initial collection of Gu You Gek (Hokkien for butter cake), and local treats such as savoury yam cake and radish cake were instant hits. Even now, the line of products that are a marriage of Western pastry techniques and local flavours continues to evolve.
“I want to bring back heritage recipes and nostalgic local flavours, in part to honour my dad, and in part to preserve the food memories of the older generation. We should be proud of what we have. Our local dishes and chefs are just as good as those of any other country, and we should not, in any way, neglect our local gems.
“In fact, we need to talk about our local food more, so that our children will learn to appreciate and love local flavours, and so our food culture would not be lost,” Tay says, who is also the founder of food solutions company Foodgnostic and cheesecake shop Cat And The Fiddle.
Tay explained that he wanted to develop a line of products for Old Seng Choong that are Singaporean at heart and have universal appeal, as he observed a lack of food products that could represent Singapore on the international stage. After much R&D, they’ve decided to go with cookies, as they travel well and are convenient for customers wishing to bring the familiar flavours of Singapore back home.
“Cookies work well especially for tourists. Previously, if you come to Singapore for a holiday and tasted satay, for example, you can only describe the taste to your family and friends back home. But now, you can bring back our satay cookies for them to experience a taste of Singaporean flavours,” Tay says.
“Daniel and the R&D team took months to perfect each cookie flavour, and it took us a long time to decide on the first collection of flavours as we had so many to choose from,” says Verone Tan, director of Old Seng Choong.
Current favourites include cereal prawn cookies, smokey bak kwa cookies, laksa cookies, and, of course, satay cookies. Tan also shares that new flavours, such as Goreng Pisang, and Coffee, are in the pipeline, and they will also be looking to collaborate with other local chefs and F&B personalities to launch special cookie flavours.
Moving forward, Tay tells us that he hopes to open 10 more shops in Singapore, and also market the Old Seng Choong brand abroad. “I would like each shop to have a distinct look and feel, with different local elements, and always have a little surprise. I am excited just thinking of our next shop – it could have those old metal gates, and a beautiful wall painted with old school wall murals, perhaps some old bicycles, a trishaw, maybe have an ice-cream man or have ding dang candy in the shop,” he muses.
Clarke Quay Central, 6 Eu Tong Seng Street, #01-48; 11am – 10pm daily
All products available at the retail store will also be available online at www.oldsengchoong.com