If you have been a reader of Daniel’s Food Diary for a while, you would know that a substantial part of what I do is to discover NEW food places in Singapore. Better still if it is under the radar, what we call the “Hidden Gem”.
Chong Wen Ge Café 崇文阁 is definitely one.
Its location alone may raise a few eyebrows – right next to Thian Hock Keng Temple, and that is still within Singapore’s CBD we are talking about. (Thank you reader Jensen Ho for the recommendation.)
A brief history about its name: “Chongwen Ge” is Singapore’s earliest Chinese school, said to be constructed in 1849. Singapore Memory mentioned it was subsequently known as “Chong Hock Girls’ School”.
Sharing the same building as a Peranakan tile gallery and Singapore’s first music box museum, Chong Wen Ge café attempts to pay tribute to a part of the local history.
This is quite a fascinating find.
I LOVE THOSE PERANAKAN TILES. This place reminded me of Penang.
There are no typical brunch and waffle items here, but local delights that can literally delight many locals (okay, pardon the pun) – Nyonya Laksa ($8.80), Nyonya Mee Siam ($6.80), Satay Bee Hoon ($8.80), Nyonya Curry Chicken ($9.80), Nonya Otah Sandwich ($4.80) and a selection of Peranakan Kuehs (cakes).
Be prepared to be patient and wait, as the café seemed to be still fine-tuning their cooking process. I was told, ”The laksa may take a while.” Turned out to be about 35-40 minutes or so.
I spent the time watching the Cantonese movies starring Chow Yun Fatt and Anita Mui that they were playing, and the instrumental music of “Beauty and the Beauty.”
Of the few items I tried, the Nyonya Mee Siam was a thumbs up – capturing some of those home-cooked flavours, with a slightly tangy-spicy gravy, that almost reminded me of my grandma’s very own.
All that with a huge prawn and two pieces of ‘abalone’ clams. Things my ah-ma would have done – add those extra ingredients.
The recommended Curry Chicken had this milky, not too spicy or intense gravy. I liked the soft potatoes, but not the mid-joint wings. Tasted ‘pale’ and as if they were thrown into the pot minutes before serving.
The gems here were the assorted Nonya Kuehs. You can get 5 of them with 2 basic cups of local coffee or tea for $10.
”No horse-run. All home made.” Indeed they were, not the generic factory-made taste, beautiful colours, a taste of that sweet heritage.
The kids in the family next to us said this was “OLD Singapore food”. Seen before, never really eaten. What a real pity.
The CBD lunch crowd had started discovering this place, and you could choose to sit under a pavilion. Hot I know. If not, take a leisure time during the weekends to discover some ‘old Singapore food’, at an ‘old Singapore place’.
Chong Wen Ge Café
168 Telok Ayer Street Singapore 068619 (next to Thian Hock Keng Temple, 5 minutes walk from Telok Ayer MRT Downtown Line)
Tel: +65 8688 3028
Opening Hours: 7:30am – 6pm, 9am – 6pm Daily
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