There are few places that I blog about twice and even fewer that I give a 4.75/5 rating. These are places where I go back again and again because I simply find the food so addictive that I think about eating it at work, at church, on the bowl, in the bath, when I get up and when I lie down. These are also the kind of places that, once I find them, I tend to stop looking for other places because I am so happy with them that I really don’t need to search elsewhere for something better. It’s been awhile since I have given any dish a 4.75 rating and during that while, I have been back at Oven Marvel countless times to buy their Chicken Pies, using my daughter’s incessant clamoring as an excuse to indulge in them myself.
I love these pies.
I know that some people on our facebook page have commented that they are too flat and don’t look like your typical British pies which are made with shortcrust instead of puff pastry.
Too bad, you are just missing out.
There are few things which I can’t stop eating and this is one of them. Many readers whom I get to meet for the first time would invariably comment that they expect me to be a little more well endowed. Well, that is what many people expect of a foodie. But hey, I am a foodie but I am not a glutton. I love to eat, but I eat responsibly. Those readers who have followed this blog long enough would know that my mantra is “Never Waste Your Calories on Yucky Food!”. That means that you appreciate the good stuff when it is available and eat the healthy stuff the rest of the time.
When it comes to these Chicken Pies though, I must confess that I can sit down and have a couple of these with a cup of Teh Tarik. I know it is an indulgence of which I would need to offer penance later on, but I find them simply irresistible.
Mind you, such adoration is very personal. You might not find them as delectable as I do. With all the wonderful French bakeries that have sprouted up all around the island, many of you Francophiles might not even blink an eye at these humble chicken pies. But I have always been an unabashed Teochew Ah Hia (local boy) and these pies just brings back happy memories of my childhood. I must admit that I have never actually eaten pies that are exactly the same as these but what I like about them is that they have that Hainanese touch that make them uniquely Singaporean.
The thing that makes these pies so good is the passion and attention to details that go into making them. Chef Johnny Ngiam had been working as a pastry chef for most of his life. He last worked as the pastry Chef at Hilton hotel before he decided to open his own little bakery at Sunshine Plaza. He makes just three things here. Chicken Pies, Curry Puffs and Muffins. Why so few? Well, if you really want to drill down on the details then you cannot afford to lose focus!
The puff pastry is made at the bakery and is flaky and buttery. He uses good quality butter so that you have that wonderful aroma and buttery aftertaste rather then the off putting smell of hydrogenated vegetable oils that you get from margarine. One thing you will notice every time you eat his pies is how little oil there is at the bottom of the pastry. He manages to get the balance just right so that it is not dry but at the same time it does not leave your serviette drenched in oil.
The chicken filling is peppery, creamy and complements the puff pastry perfectly. He uses really good quality peas which are sweet and tender that don’t shrivel up and have that tough membrane that gets between your teeth. To make the filling, he slowly cooks the chicken thigh meat till the fibres have just separating before he adds his homemade bechamel sauce, peas, onions and carrots. It is a stew that characterizes the kind of pies which I used to eat as kid at the neighbourhood bakeries and to me they are the perfect chicken pie filling! 4.75/5
His Curry Puffs are also very good. It is made with the same puff pastry but the filling is a very nice curried potato filling instead. These are also the kind of curry puffs which you find in the neighbourhood bakeries of the past together with sausage rolls. However, his puff pastry is much better and the potato filling is more generous.
To make the potato filling, Chef Johnny uses the waxy local potatoes which has a nice buttery sweetness about them. He boils them first before peeling off the skin. This extra step requires more work but it helps keep all the flavour of the potato inside its jacket. After they are diced, he then fries them in his mix of curry powder which he grinds himself. Unlike the Curry puffs which I used to eat as a kid, each of these curry puffs are choc-a-bloc full of the spicy and savoury sweet potato filling. If he had added a quarter of a hard boil egg in it, it would really be perfect! 4.5/5
This place used to be known as Delicious Muffins back in 2009 when I first wrote about them. It was subsequently changed to Oven Marvel because they eventually realized that it was a bit funny to buy Chicken Pies and Curry Puffs from a shop called Delicious Muffins. It is the kind of place that you wouldn’t even notice if you happen to walk past it. But just one bite and you will find that one reason to visit Sunshine Plaza.