There are some things in life that are so simple and yet so good. Things like ban jian kueh (慢煎粿 – lit slow fried cake) for example. Mix flour, eggs and milk into a batter, slowly pan fry it till it turns golden brown and serve it with crushed peanuts and sugar. Crispy on the outside, chewy in the middle, the combination of the warm chewy carbs with the savoury sweet ground peanuts is a good as it gets!
Then there are other simple things like luncheon meat. Most of us grew up eating this mysterious, canned, ostensibly meat product which has been the life saver of many a busy homemaker. It’s one of the most versatile canned foods on the planet.
You could eat it in a bun, you could eat it on the run,
you could eat it with porridge, you have no problem with storage!
You could eat it after noon, you can eat it with beehoon.
You can serve it with fried rice, some days even twice!
You could eat it here or there, you can eat it anywhere!
Who doesn’t like fried eggs and spam?
Who isn’t praising it, like I am?
(parody of “Green Eggs and Ham” by Dr Seuss)
Put these two simple things together and you what do you get?
Something that I am sure you would want to try right?
I got to know of this little cafe several months back when I stumbled upon it on my way to CT Hub which I often visit to pick up books from the Cru bookstore. The cafe is actually located at CT Hub 2 but is visible from the entrance to the carpark of CT Hub. It is one of those places which one is likely to overlook unless you are working there.
What caught my attention was the fact that this was a cafe which serves ban jian kueh. With all the hipster cafes in town selling cakes and waffles, a cafe serving traditional fare is something that is worth a second look.
That was when I got to meet Victor and Xiao Yi, the couple who both left their executive jobs to pursue their passion. Xiao Yi grew up in Ipoh where her father has been selling ban jian kueh since before she was born and wanted to introduce his Malaysian style ban jian kueh to Singaporeans.
The typical Singapore style ban jian kueh is usually about an inch thick and soft and chewy throughout. The best one I know of is Tanglin Halt original peanut pancake where the the old man is still fermenting his batter overnight and frying his own peanuts. This was the type of peanut pancake that I grew up eating. In the past decade or so, there has been the introduction of the thin and crispy type which is crunchy all the way through which you can find at those bean curd kiosks located just outside of the supermarket.
Pantree’s version is a bit of both. It is crunchy around the edges and on the exterior but is still chewy in the middle. The batter is excellent and my favourite flavours are the chicken floss and ham and cheese. 4.5/5. The peanuts, unfortunately, are not done in-house and lacks that nutty aroma of freshly fried and ground peanuts. 4/5
I have since been back quite a few times and have been trying to get Victor and Xiao Yi to introduce a few more flavours which I would love to eat.
I am glad to announce that luncheon meat ban jian kueh is now on the menu! This one is a no-brainer, “win oredi lor” version for luncheon meat lovers. It is served with either cheese or egg or you can have both if you like. It’s the perfect complete breakfast-on-go for me! The other flavour which we tried that worked really well was my sauteed portabello mushrooms with truffle oil. Unfortunately, you won’t get to try this yet as the young couple haven’t really gotten round making this. (If you are really interested, do let them know!)
Great to see this young couple bringing the humble ban jian kueh to the next level. And why not. We already have so many hipster cafes serving waffles, pancakes and crepes! It’s about time we see more cafes taking something local and revving it up a few notches!