COCONUTS HOT SPOT — Old Chang Kee, the name synonymous with curry puffs and fried snacks, has come full circle: From a tiny kiosk in the 1950s, expanding worldwide with a variety of F&B concepts such as Bun Times, Dip ‘n’ Go, Curry Times, and Mushroom Cafe — the homegrown brand has now opened its flagship coffee house at the original location of its very first stall.
Positioned just across the street from Rex Cinema, the eatery is easily identifiable by a massive curry puff (naturally), like a ship’s figurehead fronting its 50-seater shop house.
Some history before we delve into the food: Old Chang Kee was initially established by a Hainanese hawker in 1956. After 30 years of perfecting his craft, he retired and headed home — but not before current executive chairman Han Keen Juan bought the business from him in 1986.
Things expanded quickly from there, growing from a small shop house central kitchen to the present-day 53,000 sq ft venue in Woodlands. Besides 90 outlets scattered across Singapore, the brand has also ventured overseas to set up shop in Australia, Indonesia, and Malaysia, as well as London next month.
Step inside the coffee house now and it’s like you’ve just traveled back in time. Everything about the space screams “retro”, harkening back to the golden days with vintage furnishings such as rattan chairs, floral plastic table covers, enamel ware, antique photos, and plenty of old school knick knacks.
Millennials will probably be intrigued by this blast to the unfamiliar past, while the rest of us cry a little cry, basking in sentimental memories.
As for the food, it’s just like what you’d expect from Old Chang Kee — no-frills, classic, and comforting. Among the outlet’s exclusive offerings, one of our favorites was the slightly sweet, fluffy pull-apart Flower Bread served with a bowl of curry chicken ($11.90), chicken stew ($11.90), or beef stew ($13.90) in the center.
Tip: The gravy is free flow, so go right ahead and mop up every last bit before you ask for seconds.
There’s also the mess tin beef stew rice ($9.50), touted as an item that salutes the brand’s Hainanese heritage, which can be upgraded with a layer of melted cheese on top ($10.90).
But since this cafe is all about nostalgic familiarity, expect to see signature dishes from Old Chang Kee’s various concepts at the flagship.
Think curry puffs ($1.50), fried chicken wings ($1.80), sotong head skewers ($1.80), sardine/ikan bilis/hae bee hiam buns ($1.70), deep fried chicken skins ($4.90), nasi lemak with dry curry chicken ($8.90), Hainanese chap chye ($6.20), and the deservingly popular dry laksa goreng ($8.50).
End off with a colorful bowl of hot bubur cha cha ($5) for spoonfuls of coconut milk, sweet potato and yam chunks, and chewy sago balls.
Old Chang Kee Coffee House is at #01-01, 19-23 Mackenzie Rd, 6732-1665. Mon-Thurs 11am-9pm, Fri-Sat 10am-10pm, Sun 10am-9pm.