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Oct 8, 2013 12:05 AM

Singapore - Traditional "Red Tortoise Cakes"/Ang Ku Kueh ( 红龟粿) from Ji Xiang Confectionery (吉祥食品)

"Ang Ku Kueh" (紅龜粿) is a mochi-like traditional Chinese steamed glutinous rice-flour cake which is both popular as a snack, or as an offering to the gods. Common among the Hokkien-Chinese community in South-east Asia and also in China/Taiwan, "Ang Ku Kueh" is the Hokkien dialect pronunciation for "Red Tortoise Cake" - "Ang" (red), “Ku” (tortoise) and “Kueh” (cake), tortoise being a symbol of longevity for the Chinese and hence an auspicious symbol.

Even among the Straits-born Chinese community (Peranakan Babas & Nyonyas), the "Ang Ku Kueh" also holds an esteemed place among its rich collection of traditional Nyonya "kuehs". The most common variety of "Ang Ku Kueh" consisted of a slightly chewy glutinous rice skin, enfolding a sweet filling of mashed mung beans, sometimes perfumed with pandanus leaves. Usually, the red-hued skin (an auspicious colour among the Chinese) will be brushed with vegetable oil, giving the "kueh" an attractive glossy look.

In recent decades, there has been newer varieties: the savoury-sweet mung bean filling which incorporated salt and crushed black pepper, the Teochew-inspired Asian purple yam filling, and the very popular crushed peanuts-and-sugar filling, tasting almost like super-chunky peanut butter

"Ang Ku Kueh" are available from most "kueh"stalls, including chains like Bengawan Solo ( with more than 40 outlets around Singapore, including Changi Airport; and the smaller Subway Niche chain (Forum Galleria, Wisma Atria, etc.) which has tastier renditions.

The 25-year-old Ji Xiang Confectionery at Everton Park has some of the *best* "Ang Ku Kueh" around - the skin (stamped with their trademark - Ji Xiang/吉祥) was thin and delicate. The mung bean filling was moist and super-fine, whilst their peanut-sugar version was chunky. It's opened from 8.30am on weekdays - be there early as the queues do form and the more popular "kuehs" do run out quickly sometimes.

Address details
Ji Xiang Confectionery
Block 1 Everton Park #01-33
(Near Cantonment Road).
Singapore 081001
Tel: +65 6223 1631

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  1. ahh i like this place, i forgot about it actually

    this is one thing i can actually get in NY! haha im going to ctown later maybe ill pick one up (obviously not as good as there though)

    21 Replies
    1. re: Lau

      Hope you can post some photos on the NY ones, Lau :-)

      1. re: klyeoh

        i think i have some laying around here somewhere or another, but they look exactly like the ones in your pic (i'll find them later and post).

        It's kind of an obscure thing to make, but a couple of the NY malaysian restaurants make some malaysian-chinese or malaysian confectionary stuff and ang ku kueh is one of them. It's funny that of all the things you can find from malaysia its this! so random

        i buy them somewhat regularly as i love that kinda stuff (my gf thinks they're weird, she doesn't like the oil on the outside...thinks they're like oily mochi haha)

        1. re: Lau

          In fact, the oily exterior is the feature I disliked about this cake - makes eating one pretty messy. Leftovers will turn hard within a day, and it's pretty common for folks here to pan-fry those, turning the skin golden-crisp. Some people will dip the cakes into beaten eggs before pan-frying.

          1. re: klyeoh

            yah i dont think they are as good as say japanese mochi which are my all time favorite rice dough dessert, but i still find them enjoyable. Although i agree that the oily part is the least attractive feature about them (i dont actually see the point of it), but i always eat desserts like these immediately bc the rice dough gets hard otherwise.

            Interesting that people pan fry them, kinda sounds like one of those teochew kueh that are pan fried on the outside or the cantonese nian gao (the brown sweet ones you pan fry)

            found a pic (not a very good pic, but u can see the ones in NY)

            1. re: Lau

              Your NY ones look pretty authentic - are the makers from Malaysia? The oiliness is needed to prevent the cakes from sticking to each other - which the Japanese have surmounted by applying powdered sugar-flour icing to their mochi dumplings. Of course, in Singapore, we have our own traditional mochi-like dessert: the "muah chee" (I think it shares the same word origin as "mochi") which are covered with crushed/powdered peanuts & sugar:

              I used to detest "Ang Ku Kueh" but, as I grew up, began to appreciate the mung bean-filled ones, though I usually dispense with most of the skin when I eat one. But Ji Xiang produces very thin, delicate skins, so they are pretty edible.

              Yes, pan-frying items with skins made from glutinous rice-flour is indeed the same concept as that applied to pan-frying "nian gao" in HK during the Chinese New Year.

              1. re: klyeoh

                yah, i like the powdered sugar better.

                that's funny about you hating them when u were a kid and still not really eating the skins, i guess they do seem like old people food, but that's the kinda desserts i like for some weird reason

                This particular restaurant is run by chinese from malaysia that speak cantonese as lingua franca, but i know some of them arent cantonese as ive talked to some of them, one waitress was hakka, another was hokkien. I've also heard them blabbing in malay to some malay customers that came in.

                I know they make all these themselves (very small market for stuff like this in the US...most people even in chinatown have no idea what the heck most of this stuff is). they've got a whole counter with lots of malay or chinese-malay type desserts that i go buy maybe once or twice a month (in particular i buy alot of kaya)

                1. re: Lau

                  I guess the NY bakery must offer Nyonya kuehs (which are Malay-Chinese fusion products), if there are Malays going in there. Malays do not normally eat strictly-Chinese "kuehs" - in fact, in Malaysia, Malays will *not* step into a Chinese-owned eatery due to concerns over the food's "halal" quality. My Malay friends/colleagues here in KL will not even eat at Indian vegetarian eateries because, according to them, even Indian vegetarian is *not* halal or suitable for Muslims - they are that strict.

                  Do you recognize any "kueh" in the New York bakery from the picture charts by Singaporean artist, Lee Xin Li?

                  1. re: klyeoh

                    yah i remember alot of the kueh from when i lived there although i guess i forgot there are so many of them.

                    they actually have kueh lapis and rempeh udang and some others. their kueh lapis is not that good, the rempeh udang is ok.

                    This other place overseas asian which unfortunately shutdown actually made pretty decent kueh dadar (3rd pic i attached), but they didn't have them all the time. They were actually better than the ones i had randomly picked up at some malay hawker center thing close to the ritz-carlton in KL! (not saying NY makes malay stuff better than malaysia haha just this particular batch)

                    i really wish i could get good ondeh ondeh here, i was just watching that 8 days eat show with the ieat guy and they went to that one place to eat it and i had totally forgetten about them

                    1. re: Lau

                      Very good selection indeed, considering that you're in New York!

                      Yes, Malay "kuehs" available in the streets in KL are *not* necessarily good, so you really need to pick and choose. The most "palatable" versions, if you're ever in this neck of woods again, can be found at Nyonya Colours - there's a new outlet in Suria KLCC mall.

                      By the way, "onde-onde" as we know it in Singapore and Malaysia is called "klepon" in Indonesia. What the Indonesians call "onde-onde" is actually Chinese "jin deui" (煎䭔 煎堆), i.e. those deep-fried globular pastries stuffed with mung beans and studded with sesame seeds on the outside. You can see from this Wikilink that "jin deui" is called "onde-onde" even in the Netherlands due to Indonesian influence:

                      My first encounter with Indonesian "onde-onde" two years ago:

                      1. re: klyeoh

                        yah kueh lapis is generally not my favorite kind of kueh, i do like kueh dadar if u make them right

                        interesting that onde onde are jin deui in indonesion, i didn't know that. i like jin deui with that caveat that its hard to find a good one bc alot of them are kind of oily messes

                        you ever try this place in singapore? go 4:50, looks pretty good.

                        the cendol place in the 1st video looks good as well

                        1. re: Lau

                          Yes, of course - Singapore is so small (comparatively - now that I've been in KL/Malaysia the past 2 years!), I realised that there's practically no popular/well-known eating place in Singapore which I'd not been to. After all, I'd been eating out in Singapore for > 40 years! Nowadays, I can only get excited if there is a *new* place which opens in Singapore.

                          BTW, Tong Heng egg tarts featured in that episode - waaaay too sweet!! It's the best-known in Singapore but, if it's located in Hong Kong, it would *never* even be rated.

                          Re: Chendol - best in the world, in my opinion, is Penang Road Teochew Chendol in Penang:

                          A few years ago, I went to Nyonya Makko in Malacca, which was very, very highly-touted. It was very good - I spoke to one of the owners, and she said that Nyonya Makko is proud of having the 2nd-best chendol in Malaysia. I said, "What? Who's better than you?!". She said, "Oh, the Teochew chendol in Penang lah!" :-D

                          1. re: klyeoh

                            haha yah i guess that is true, i feel like i know a good amt of the famous places (and have eaten at alot of them) even though i haven't lived there in 10 years and only been back 2-3 times (kinda went nuts though each time haha). Are either of the places good?

                            i think ive been to tong heng a really long time ago, i dont remember it as being anything special and im pretty sure if i would've if it was bc dan ta has been a favorite pastry of mine forever basically. what's your fav in HK

                            Penang really seems like its a food paradise, i was talking to another guy about making a trip sometime in the next few years

                            1. re: Lau

                              Yes, in fact, both the onde-onde and chendol spots are the *best* in their respective categories in Singapore - but everyone knew that, so this programme is not really telling us anything new.

                              My fave egg tart place in HK closed down over a decade & a half ago - it was located in Tsimshatsui, but I can't remember its name at the moment.These days, I'd not found any place which measured up to its standards - definitely *not* Tai Cheong.

                              1. re: klyeoh

                                really? i still like tai cheong, i remember them being a bit better in the past, but i still think its a pretty damn good dan ta.

                                i should go search out the best ones in HK next time. they are one dessert that my gf and i fully agree on, so it will be easier than dragging her to old school cantonese desserts which she rolls her eyes when i try to drag her all over HK finding that kinda stuff haha

                                the best ones are probably somewhere in macau though

                          2. re: Lau

                            P.S. - Not sure that I liked the exaggerated, bimbo-esque acting in this latest Singapore food programme (8 Days Eat!) where the hosts try to act like overgrown kids, unlike Axian's food programmes in Malaysia which tend to be more detailed, well-researched and rather contemplative, with a sincere respect for the cooks.

                            I'm afraid, eventhough "8 Days Eat!" is a Mediacorp 5 (English language channel) production, its style appears to be very much influenced by the more commercially-successful, Mandarin-language Mediacorp 8 which, in turn, copied the childish, comedic-style used in many Taiwanese and Hong Kong variety shows & entertainment programmes.

                            P.S. - I used to work for Radio Television Singapore (and then Singapore Broadcasting Corporation) back in the late-80s/early-90s.

                            1. re: klyeoh

                              yah its very annoying, i know exactly which kind of show they are trying to rip off in Taiwan / HK, which in turn is a rip off the the korean shows which in turn are a rip off the japanese shows haha

                              while i dont really agree with his taste, i generally like leslie tay, seems like a nice guy, but this is way over the top cheesy

                              1. re: Lau

                                Axian: "Mr Lee's passion shows in his cooking, his meticulousness in coming up with a delicately flavoured soup. It's cooking which touches our heart and soul".

                                Dr Leslie Tay/Belinda Lee: "Wah, shiok! Wah, SHIOK!!"

                                I felt like weeping when I watch our Mediacorp Singapore production these days.

                                1. re: klyeoh

                                  Hahahaha, you cracked me up, klyeoh. And so true actually. All this overacting. I gave up watching after 2 episodes. The durian episode was a complete waste of my time!

                              2. re: klyeoh

                                I liked Jacinta Abisheganaden's Mum's Not Cooking in the 1990s which is probably the first local food guide on TV!

                                1. re: makanputra

                                  the thing i like about TV shows about food in Asia is they will go to specific tiny stalls, mom & pop places etc and will go try whatever is supposed to be good. There are very very few shows like this in the US bc the food culture is quite different (basically i think alot more emphasis is put on setting and service vs asia where its usually much more about the food itself).

                                  The thing is hate about food shows in asia is the cheesy overacting, bad jokes and hosts that you sometimes want to punch.

                                  oh well you can't get everything

                        2. re: klyeoh

                          actually found one other pic

          2. I really like this place also.