Special Feature: Tau Sar Piah: Singapore's very own pastry!

Lotus Seed Paste Tau Sar Piah

Have you ever noticed that freshly baked Tau Sar Piah from the bakery tastes different from the more traditional Teochew Tau Sar Piahs that you can buy from the Supermarkets? The freshly baked ones have a flaky, crisp and buttery pastry while the packet ones are flaky and dry. It turns out that the Tau Sar Piahs, which were popular from the 70s to the 90's have a history such that they can rightly be called Singapore's very own pastry.

Everyone knows that the Hainanese are famous for putting western-style food on Singaporean plates. Hainan is an island, so many Hainanese men in the past worked on European ships and learnt how to cook Western food. Thus, when they landed in Singapore and decided to stay, they opened coffeeshops selling western cuisine like coffee and toast. Our kaya toast heritage was thus born back in the early 1920's.

In the 60's, one such Hainanese, Mr Lee, owner of Loong Fatt Coffeeshop joined forces with his old Hainanese Village friends Mr Loo and his wife Mdm Lee to bake western-style cakes to suit the local tastes. The cakes fad flourished in the 60's but begain to wane by the early 70's. Then one fateful day in 1973, one of the customers of the coffeeshop suggested that they bake the traditional Teochew Tau Sar Piah. It was then that the lightbulb above Mr Loo and Mdm Lee's heads lit up. They decided to give a western twist to the traditional Teochew pastry by retaining its flakiness but adding a buttery cookie like crunch to it. Thus was born Singapore's very own Tau Sar Piah (1st edition)

In 1992, the couple left Loong Fatt to collaborate with Mdm Lee's younger brother Mr Lee Hee Tuang to set up the first specialty Tau Sar Piah shop a few shophouses from Loong Fatt. Mr Lee went on to modify the recipe by making it more crispy, less oily and added exotic flavours like Durian and Green Tea amongst others. The success of their Tau Sar Piah gave birth to an explosion of shops along Balestier Road.

Penang Tau Sar Piah

Fads come and fads go, which is why they are called fads. Unfortunately, the Tau Sar Piah fad has long since been replaced by other pastries to tickle our fickle palates. I can still remember stuff like Pandan Chiffon cakes, Blackforest Cakes, Japanese Cheese cakes right up to Apple Strudels and Roti Boy in recent times. As the Tau Sar Piah fad wanes, only the most popular shops like Loong Fatt and 611 Tau Sar Piah still remain.

Will the Tau Sar Piah make a revival amongst our younger generation who may not have tasted Tau Sar Piah yet? That remains to be seen. But a young entrepreneur is trying to make it happen.

Ms Lee Shan Shan, the daughter of Mr Lee from 611 Tau Sar Piah, an occupational therapist by training, decided to quit her job in an attempt to reintroduce the Tau Sar Piah to the younger generation. Her first step was to open an outlet at Vivo City and there are other plans underway to bring the Tau Sar Piah into the 21st century.

Truth be known, I am one of those new generation of Singaporeans who have yet to appreciate the pastry. For me Tau Sar Piah was the stuff that came ready packed in B grade packaging with a Malaysian address printed on it. I never realised how a freshly baked Tau Sar Piah could taste so different. The crust was really crunchy like a light butter cookie but flaky at the same time. The taste of the salty Tau Sar (mung bean paste) was a nice contrast to the sweet pastry. Just in case you feel that salty and sweet don't mix, may I politely remind you of salted eggs in Mooncakes and cheese with dried apricots.


This should rightly be called Singapore's very own pastry. With a bit of clever marketing and packaging, I don't see why it can't be similar to the "Lo Por Pang" of Hong Kong. Something that is tasty enough to create a fad in the past remains tasty even though the fad has passed. It just takes a little tweaking to bring the taste to a whole new generation of Singaporeans!

611 Tau Sar Piah outlets:

Sembawang Shopping Centre #B1-13
Open daily 10am-9.30pm
Tel: 6 750 30 611

Little Red Shop ( by 611 Tau Sar Piah) outlet:
VivoCity #B2-K10
Open daily 10am-10pm
Tel: 6 37 68 611


In case you are curious about how the crispy flaky pastry is made, the friendly bakers from 611 Tau Sar Piah have graciously consented to share their secret with our readers.

You basically start of with 2 different doughs. One is the water based and the other one is the margarine based.

The two are then combined to together as shown in the pictures with a technique akin to making croissants or puff pastries.

The pastry is then molded around the tau sar to form balls. Finally, and this is what I think is the fun part, the balls are squashed flat with the palm of the hand. Walla!


liverpool1965 said...

oooo looks good must go try and compare with my fav Loong Fatt!

genetonic said...

Hi Leslie, remember me? Me joined you, Za and your mum for the Beach Road Hawker Centre recce...

Shan Shan is my friend & client. While I'm not a fan of Tau Sar Piah, methinks Shan Shan should be given a pat on the back for taking up the challenge of running the family business and "modernizing" it. Not an easy task.

Ash said...

Did you submit your site at blogsearch.sg?

You can reach blogsearch by just typing blogsearch.sg in your browser window or click here

This is a service by bizleadsnet directory of web logs.

Anonymous said...

To be honest, I think the tau sar piah tastes pretty average.

liverpool1965 said...

some might prefer this over Loong Fatt's as this is less oily and sweet :)

Justin said...

Ahh I still miss the Tau Sar Piah at lakeview hawker centre. Have anybody tried that before, its one of the best in Singapore!Ive tried all the famous ones in Singapore but none is comparable to it!

Anonymous said...

'walla!' is spelt 'voila!'

jems said...

well, I think it IS very good. Tried it 1st them few months back and I return to buy on and off esp I go to Vivo often enough. My mum, dad and my girl absolutely loves it! The durian is the best! She asked for it every now and then. So I guess you can say they have succesfully intro it to the younger generation - at least my girl. I also like the sweet and salty and green tea. coffee flavored one didn't quite come together.

amazingbiscuit said...

Is there a Shop called Thye lee? it used to be along upper payar Lebar Road/tai Seng until the shop houses were torn down several years ago to make way for the circle line...

ieat said...

No, its called 611 Tau Sar Piah or Little Red Shop now. Its at Vivocity basement.

champagne said...

Hi amazingbiscuits, the following would be helpful.

Thye Lee Confectionery
Blk 108 #01-1283, Hougang Ave 1 Singapore 530108
Tel: 6288 9514

Happy eating.

amazingbiscuit said...

Hey thanks champagne! Wonder if anything has changed there... Will go check it out!

Anonymous said...

May i know if the sweet tau sar piahs at Thye Lee Confectionery are less sweet and oily than loong fatt's or rather,not too sweet and oily?I really disdain overly-sweet fillings and oily skin.I returned to loong fatt a few days ago.my first eating experience just last year was memorable as i felt the filling was amazingly not sweet at all and it was "beany" in a rich and delightful way.The mung bean flavour really came through.However my second eating experience was sorely disappointing.The characteristics of the piah was completely the opposite of the above-mentioned.To think that i deliberately made a trip to the shop to get my ideal tau sar piah.I now prefer little red dot's piah(though i tried only the lotus flavour in recent times and the lotus green tea flavour last year).It has a branch in the newly-reopened Sembawang Shopping Centre.

Anonymous said...

I finally tried little red dot's sweet tau sar piah and i found the filling to be sweeter than it's lotus flavour and my expectations(though i guess still a tad less sugary as loong fatt's).The crust was buttery,loong fatt style(did'nt notice that when i ate the lotus flavoured piah.I guess it was to be expected as the owner probably is grounded in the loong fatt tau sar piah-making methods.)As such,i am still searching for my agreeable piah.I forgot to mention that i tried 603's(a few doors down from loong fatt's)sesame paste piah on the same day that i had loong fatt's.The saesame taste,though not strong,was bearably detectable.What surprised me was the interesting and unique herbal taste(think TCM herbal ingredients)that accompanied it.The filling was also not sugary,just the way i love it.Be warned though that the paste was chewy rather than "grainy" like those we are accustomed to.The crust was also thankfully not buttery at all though it was'nt crispy either.
*I would not recommend little red dot's lotus paste piah as the flavour just did'nt come through enough.I am now suffering from tau sar piah overdose after all the sampling.Any help to be had with my enquiries regarding Thye Lee Confectionary's piah?

Jyoan said...

This didn't impress me at all. Was so disappointed, and even though it was only a few dollars, I found it an absolute waste of money. I bought because I have walked pass it so many times, and keep seeing Moses Lim on the signboard. Apart from the newer flavours, like green tea and coffee, the rest just didn't came through. My brothers are in agreement on this one. Feels very cheated when they claim to be authentic and all. I didn't even enjoy the crust. =(

Anonymous said...

Hi Leslie

I'm a child of the 70s (best decade EVER if you ask me)am now in my early 40s and tau sar is one of the loves of my foodie heart. I feel a bit heartpain when you say that you fail to understand its charms LOL Actually my grandmother used to feed me bits of her tau sar piah when I came home from school so it grew on me. I have never tried any of the Balestier Rd specimens and have made my own tau sar piah for years because the stuff out there is just so sad compared to the ones I ate in my childhood.

ieat said...

Yeah, I grew up in the 70's too. Come to think of it, it was awesome wasn't it? I on the other hand was never hand fed tau sar piah, so I guess that's why I never understood its charms.

Melvin Koh said...

The ones at thye Lee are really quite good. Prefer the Salty ones though. Its now a second generation shop, Founder died back in 1993.The original sign board has been kept and the younger son has taken over. The skin is flaky and not too oily. You should try the yam mooncakes which are also made in the shop too!


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