A good local or Asian dessert is just that, nothing old or new about it so as long as it pleases the palate after a nice local meal. To me food isn’t always about new or old -new is good if it’s about more efficient equipment or new treatment to an old dish (think blast freezing raw fish to kill bacteria before we enjoy that next plate of yu sheng). Or, how good old red bean dessert is done with a scintilla of dried tangerine peel, to steal you away from the polite sweetness of the concoction.
These days, we find a lot of new thinking dessert hawker putting just about anything they like, or saw online into shaved iced, our honeyed something. Nice and very agreeable on many occasions. But it is getting rare to find the hard core old soul and old school Chinese dessert hawker that still does it by old fashioned instincts and skill. I eat at this hawker centre quite often as it’s near my office and I wind up with their desserts on most occasions, not because it’s convenient, but because it’s very comforting (there’s one other bigger hawker centre and loads of coffeeshops around, mind you). The thing that strikes me is how the stall is set up- clearly not for stall front visuals, which is important- to lure the clueless and hungry, like bees to honey. But it’s not really the case here, sure they have the usual bain marie slots laid out but it’s not lit up like some food altar and really used to..store and warm the desserts. They store the warm desserts in many large pots at back of stall.
A learned foodie immediately asked when I took him there, “is the Bobo Chacha as good as it looks on the photo?” It gleamed with tubers, and colourful jelly peering above a rich milky brown concoction (which meant they use palm sugar or gula Melaka- the real deal method.). It is, and it came the way it was pictured ($2.20). The coconut/gula Melaka combo was just rich enough, but not cloyingly so. The tubers were soft and easy on the bite and absorbs the rich milky goodness. Most hawkers today take the easy way out and use sago pearls to replace the tedious hand-made sweet potato coloured jelly cubes. They use both here- heavenly. Their signature red bean soup ($2) comes with longan, soft medium sized beans, bits of red dates and dried tangerine peel and sits so well with the not-too-sweet broth. That dried peel was ever so gentle and ungrudgingly in the back of it all, it was ever so easy in. Although the Gingko Barley with bean skin was, as you will tell, boiled long enough to soften and blend all the ingredients into the sweetish broth, I felt the bean skin (foo chok) was a tad to broken and messed up. If it was separately rendered to shape, texture and placed in when served it would’ve been a joy. Even better if they placed a quail egg in and charged more. The Bubur Terigu ($1.70. sweet wheat porridge) was right in all the notes. Each grain had a soft texture and the broth was thick with a splash of salted coconut milk over.
I missed this one, but I am going back for their Sweet Potato and Longan dessert soon.
Tian Yi Desserts
#01-112, North Bridge Road Hawker Centre
Closed on Sunday and Public Holidays