Chinatown Tai Chong Kok 大中国饼家 Nian Gao 年糕

年糕 nian gao, new year cake, from Tai Chong Kok, SingaporeSeeking shelter from the sun at Alexandra Village, I almost came to a sticky end, backing into trolleys loaded with nian gao 年糕 – traditional glutinous rice cakes usually shared amongst families at Chinese New Year.

Chinatown Tai Chong Kok (Hue Kee)” read the sign above the shop, to distinguish it, I suppose, from the Sago Street Tai Chong Kok 大中国饼家 stable.

年糕 nian gao, new year cake, from Tai Chong Kok, SingaporeThe names of both confectioneries suggest that they originated from the same stall. A trope in any narrative of Singapore food history is the splitting of ways after a quarrel amongst family members who used to work in the same shop, with both parties laying claim to the goodwill already associated with the name of the original stall.

In such event, who should be recognised as the “authentic” stall? The current owners of the original site of the first stall? The assistants to, then successors of, the original bakers to whom secret recipes might have been passed? What is the essence of the reputation of a food brand?

年糕 nian gao, new year cake, from Tai Chong Kok, Singapore

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