KEONG SAIK BAKERY
41 Keong Saik Road, Singapore, 089146
A negative image may be the first thing that comes to the minds of the older generation at the mention of Keong Saik Road as it used to be a red-light district back in the 1960s. However, after close to 60 years of development and urbanisation, Keong Saik Road now cuts across the bustling streets of Chinatown, leading up to The Pinnacle@Duxton. Once a brothel, these shophouses have now been taken over by dining establishments, housing a variety of cuisines. Amongst the many eateries, Keong Saik Bakery can be spotted easily with their chalkboard menu and yellow Chinese characters that writes 恭食烘焙坊 (Keong Saik Bakery) on the contrasting white walls.
The bakery dates back to 2017 when Yu Zhong and his friend decided to starts this business. Yu Zhong is in charge of baking cakes while his partner is the bread master. When deciding on a signature bread, Yu Zhong wanted to do something related to the rich history of the street. As someone who enjoys history, the story of Majie* was interesting to him so he decided to pay tribute to this group of Majies. Additionally, the previous tenant of the unit was a Majie so it was even more apt to do something relating to this special group of ladies. That was how their signature bun Sor Hei came about! Aside from paying tribute, Yu Zhong and partner also wanted to use the Sor Hei bun to change people’s negative perspective of the area as a red-light district and introduce another aspect of Singapore’s history. This was why they dedicated a wall in their café to explain more about the history of Keong Saik Road.
History aside, Keong Saik Bakery offers a variety of delights ranging from pastries, buns, cakes, cookies, traditional breakfast sets, sandwiches and beverages. What’s unique about Keong Saik Bakery are their handmade pastries and unique recipes (which are all their own creation)! Quite a few of their items are a fusion of existing pastries and locally inspired flavours, bringing about a new experience to diners. For instance, their signature Sor Hei recipe originated from a Danish pastry. However, they changed the shape to resemble a Sor Hei (combing-up) action.
Keong Saik Bakery serves French pastries with a mixture of local buns and pastries. Their buns contain familiar local flavours with a twist added to it, such as XO Lup Cheong bun, Hei Bi (shrimp) Cheese bun and Black Glutinous Rice with Chicken Floss bread. Aside from their buns, they also offer local cruffin (hybrid of croissant and a muffin) flavours such as milo cruffin and tiger cruffin (burnt cheesecake brown sugar flavour).
Similarly, their drinks, reflect a fusion of western concept and local flavours. Keong Saik Bakery doesn’t serve your traditional Kopi (coffee + condensed milk). Instead, they offer Kopi Susu (Susu is milk in Malay) which is coffee with frothed milk. The concept is similar to a western Latte but instead of using the usual Arabica coffee beans, they use Robusta coffee beans, offering a more localised flavour. For those who prefer a more chocolaty beverage, Keong Saik Bakery also offers a Singapore edition of Caffe Mocha- Kopi Milo! Not forgetting tea lovers, who can try the not so conventional tea option - Teh Limau (Limau is lime in Malay) which is tea with lime for that extra kick and tropical flavor.
At Keong Saik Bakery, it isn’t just all buns and pastries. When looking at the bigger picture, Keong Saik Bakery serves an important role within the Keong Saik community to bridge the old and new, the rich historical past through an innovative and unique café. While feasting on modern pastries and buns, one can also enjoy the nostalgia that Keong Saik Bakery has to offer. For the adventurous, there is always something new for you to try at Keong Saik Bakery. On the contrary, patrons who simply want to reminisce the good ol’ days, can also find something local and close to the heart at the bakery.
Back in the 18th and 19th centuries, there were a group of women who came from China’s Guangdong Shunde Province to work as domestic helpers, housekeepers and nannies for the wealthier families in Singapore. This group of woman were known as Majies or zhishu nü（自梳女）, meaning “women who dressed their own hair”. They were given this name as the Majies dedicated their whole lives to serve the family they were working for and took a vow never to marry. They would usually undergo a sor hei (combing-up) ceremony held either at a temple, ancestral hall or at home, where they would come their hair up in a bun before taking a vow of celibacy to never marry.