by Growing Needs | Apr 24, 2023 | Food & Nutrition, Lifestyle & Wellness
When I was growing up, one of the little joys in life was waking up in the morning to the sounds of grandma’s bustling kitchen. The incessant thuds of pestle on mortar, the rhythmic drumming of knives on a chopping block and tap water merrily dancing in the kitchen sink always brought about a surge of anticipation. Some home-made delicacies are in the making, and soon, the house will be perfumed with a myriad of mouth-watering fragrances – a sure sign that we are in for a scrumptious treat later that day!
Although grandma’s cooking was far from gourmet, there was always a magic about the home-cooked flavors she produced. A combination of loving attention to details, insistence on using only the freshest natural ingredients and the seasonal use of premium produce when one can afford it, produced delightful taste journeys that warmed both hearts and bellies, etching themselves in the memory for keepsakes.
The magic of grandma’s cooking is definitely a heritage worth keeping and sharing. For elderly seniors and those of us who grew up with them, these flavors are a treasure store of memories about fond family times. For younger generations of Singaporeans, they serve both as a bridge to the past, as well as a means of capturing special taste moments with loved ones that will be treasured for years to come. However, in the hustle and bustle of modern Singapore where families are becoming increasingly nuclear and dual incomed, it can be a challenge for small working families to invest the necessary time and effort needed to re-produce and experience these home cooked flavors on their own.
For this reason, the mission of Katong Delicacies, a small-batch producer of Home-Made Traditional Delicacies takes on a special significance. Striving to preserve the heritage of grandma’s cooking for future generations, Katong Delicacies aspires to keep the flavours and traditions passed down from yesterday, while reaching out to the tastes and preferences of today’s generation. Beginning with the owner’s own grandma’s recipes as a foundation, Katong Delicacies offers modern twists to old classics by including options for adding premium produce to their traditional offerings. In keeping with grandma’s tradition, all this is done using only the freshest and finest of ingredients that one would use when cooking for the family, so as to deliver the heritage of home cooked flavours.
It is worth noting that being a small batch producer, all the delicacies offered by Katong are prepared only upon order. There are a few advantages to this approach. Firstly, it is a more sustainable and environmentally friendly way of doing things as food waste and carbon foot prints are kept to a minimum in the production process. Secondly, you can be sure that the food items you ordered are freshly made and reaches your table in their tastiest moments. Finally, since there is minimal food wastage, more premium ingredients can be used in the making of the delicacies without fear of them going to waste.
Among the delicacies offered by Katong, their Signature Item has to be the Radish Cake (i.e. Chinese Carrot Cake – Luo Buo Gao). After much cajoling from us, Katong was willing to reveal that their radish cake is made using a traditional family recipe passed down from their great grandmother. It contains radish (of course), dried shrimps and “Lap Cheong” (Chinese Sausages). The rest is a closely guarded family secret.
The Growing Needs Sg team tried Katong’s signature radish cake and found it to be really smooth. The combination of shrimps and lap cheong imparts a deep umami flavor, and the bits of ingredients are chopped up to just the right degree, providing a complementary textural bite to the soft yet bouncy radish cake base.
What is really exciting about Katong’s Radish Cake offering is that it comes with the option to “upgrade” the dish for special or festive occasions by adding premium Dried Scallops or Baby Abalones. On the taste front, this takes the dish up a few notches to another level. In terms of cultural significance, dried scallops and abalones are both Oriental tokens of abundance and prosperity. If you are celebrating grandma’s or grandpa’s birth day and want a less creamy and sweet option in replacement of the usual birthday cake, these are more than great items to have on the festive table.
For those who wish to try something different, consider Katong’s Yam Cake or Pumpkin Cake. These are made using a similar approach to the Radish Cake. However, instead of using Radish, Yam or Pumpkin provides the base flavor for the dish. Each of these tweaks add interesting enhancements.
For the Yam Cake, besides eating it steamed, consider cutting the cake into slices or thick finger sized strips and panfrying them till they are crispy and fragrant. Fried yam has its own unique umami and the process wraps the cake with a yummy crispy outer skin.
For the Pumpkin Cake, besides having it steamed or as is, you can also dip slices of the cake in an egg wash before pan frying them. The sweeter and more intense taste of the pumpkin pairs really well with the rich toasty pan-fried egg skin to give an additional punch of flavor and fragrance.
Katong Delicacies also supplies an offering of some Peranakan Kueh that make for great every day nibbles and desserts. According to Roots , Kueh is an Intangible Cultural Heritage of Singapore in the Food Heritage category.
“Kueh (or kuih in Malay) are types of snacks that have become a staple in Singaporean food culture. Malay and Peranakan kueh were typically made in households, with recipes passed down from generation to generation.”
As the process of making Kueh can be laborious, few people are making them at home today even though Kueh remains very popular in Singapore. The demand is largely met by commercial establishments mass-producing these delicacies. However, as Mr Raymond Khoo, Executive Chef at The Peranakan Singapore observed, “The taste of handmade kueh cannot be replicated by machines.” In Chef Khoo’s experience, it took him many years of practice to get the kueh batter to taste the same as what his mother used to make.
For an authentic taste of kueh just the way mum or grandma used to make them, one would have to go to small batch home producers such as Katong to get their Kueh fixes. Katong Delicacies offers four types of Kueh in their product listing, and yes, they are still being made by real mums and grandmas using traditional recipes and methods in authentic home kitchens.
Ang Ku Kueh Soon Kueh
Kueh Salat Kueh Bingka Ubi (Tapioca Cake)
In the busy Singapore of today where time is such a premium, the traditional flavours of mum and grandma’s home cooked delicacies can be so hard to come by. More than keeping stomachs full, such cooking have kept families warm, happy, and close together as Singapore developed from a small fishing village into a cosmopolitan modern city. These Heritage Flavors truly deserve to be recognized as an Intangible Cultural Heritage of Singapore.
Growing Needs Sg is glad to have discovered a small batch home producer like Katong, who is still offering such traditional delicacies, making them in just the way that mum and grandma used to make them. Katong’s efforts can help to preserve our heritage flavors for future generations to come and provide seniors in Singapore with vignettes of tastes that can bring back wonderful memories of the good old days!
Growing Needs grew out of our own encounters with caring for our aging parents and reflecting on the Growing Needs that we ourselves would face as we advance in years. We hope to build a community that will learn, share and contribute towards caring for the growing needs of our loved ones.