I have to start and end this story with some cheese. Once upon a time, long before the fancy advent of “branded” breads, buns and sandwiches with “bespoke” fillings like imported ham, blue cheese, and organic this and that in highfalutin places, there was the “loti shop”. Folks of another not too distant era were relishing in loti or roti (bread) buns stuffed with true blue local goodness. Every filling and bread spoke of who we are, the flavours and colours of our people. Think sambal hae bi buns, or nee or yam paste, peanut butter and sugar, curry potato, ham and cheese, hot-dog buns etc.. you get the idea. But sadly, this part of our rich makan history is sadly heading for the history books, except this rare team of old food warriors soldiering on.
They start at sunrise and about 17 types of freshly made on location bread buns are already beckoning you at their two humble little hawker stalls. You can see the industrial sized mixers, ovens and proofing racks. Makansutra ranked them in their food guides since the early 2000s and we are not about to let them fade away and here’s why.
The Sambal Prawn (hae bi hiam) buns was a rare treat in today’s context. It came soft, sweetish, gummy and fluffy (how the heartland masses liked it then, as now too) and it was spicy enough and had some texture and bite. I could’ve breathed in a second helping but 16 more varieties were beckoning. The Peanut Kaya bun was surprisingly good. It looked like a croissant gong wrong and coated with crushed peanuts, lined with some kaya and had a strangely comforting texture that is nothing like anything French. It had a crusty crunch with soft insides plus the kaya weren’t the cloying sweet variety. Those bits of chunky crushed peanuts, were a delight. I miss the old Curry Potato rotis and they serve it up straight, fresh and hot (if you time your visit well). The potatoes was moist, nicely spicy yet softly firm inside and the fluffy bread just completed the show. If you are a fan of curry puffs and never heard of this one before, this would be a nice makan mistress to your cravings.
In that one morning hour I was there checking out the place and buns, there was a steady stream of regulars. It was about 10 long and they came and went very fast, packing away up to 10 items in a go. You and hear the server going “lai, lai, lai, ko lai” (come, come, come, come again) egging you to choose even more. So I next picked the Or Nee buns. If you love your kaya breads, you will fall over for this one. The not so sweet and thick yam paste has a delightful tuber flavour and this was the one to go with kopi-o-siu-dai. I am not a fan of desiccated Coconut in bread. I like them in kuah dada or in desserts (don’t ask me why). Their version was nicely done in gula Melaka and in generous amounts. Another favourite of mine here was the Otah version. The sweetish bread went so well with the fat chunk of spicy otah it made me want to savour it slowly in the mouth. This was the most expensive, ticking in at $1.20 and the cheapest was the custard bun at 80cents.
Of course I did not tear into all 17 items in that visit (you kidding me!). But will be back for more- have to check again, the “hamburger”, tuna, chicken sausage and cheese.
Serangoon Garden Bakery and Confectionery
01-65, Serangoon Garden Food Centre
6am-3pm (to till sold out)
Closed on Mondays