June 21, 2009
Cheap & Good
By Thng Lay Teen
Curry puff seller Moh Kway Kheng certainly knows how to make the humble snack look cute and appealing.
When she started selling the puffs more than 20 years ago in the Bukit Timah area, the 56-year-old stall owner wanted to make them stand out from the usual fare.
Instead of the commonly seen semicircular shapes, her chicken curry puffs ($1.10) look more like pyramids with three pleated folds coming together in the centre. They proved to be a hit.
And it is certainly not a case of style over substance. The curry puff skin is thin and crispy and the generous curry chicken filling with potato and boiled egg is moist and yummy.
The correct proportion of pastry margarine to flour is important for the skin to turn out crispy, says Madam Moh. Add too much pastry margarine into the dough and the skin breaks during frying, but if there is not enough of it, the skin is too soft to hold the filling nicely.
Rolling the dough repeatedly also requires patience and skill to ensure that the hard pastry margarine enclosed within is evenly distributed throughout the pastry itself.
Equally important in the making of a good curry puff is the filling. Madam Moh's homemade curry paste is just spicy enough, so even children can enjoy it.
A lot of work goes into making each puff, whether it is the chicken curry, spicy fish otah (80 cents), sardine (80 cents) or vegetable versions (80 cents).
For the chicken puffs, thigh meat is marinated before it is fried till just cooked but still tender.
The potatoes are boiled but not overcooked so they do not become mushy before they are cut into cubes and fried in the curry paste.
All the puffs are handmade and small batches are prepared each time to make sure they are always piping hot and fresh.
Since I chanced upon the stall not too long after Madam Moh relocated to a coffee shop in Toa Payoh Lorong 7 about 10 months ago, I have been going there for my weekly curry puff fix.
A close second to the chicken curry puff is the otah puff. The juicy homemade bei kah (horse mackerel) filling with curry paste is, like the chicken curry puff, spicy but not overwhelmingly so.
The sardine puff is also not too bad, with the canned fish fried in a little of the same curry paste, young ginger and big onions.
However, the vegetarian puff is unremarkable. The filling of carrot, turnip and taukwa (fried beancurd) is a bit dry and not tasty enough for me.
HOME-MADE CURRY PUFFS
Block 19 Toa Payoh Lorong 7, 01-264
Open: 9am to 6pm (or till sold out), closed on Mondays