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Entertainment, Food & Beverage

BreadTalk revives bakery selling traditional pastries

Decades-old Thye Moh Chan, which closed last year, now has two outlets.
December 15, 2012
By: Eunice Quek
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BreadTalk revives bakery selling traditional pastries A Thye Moh Chan employee helping a customer choose from the various options available, from favourites such as salty tau sar piah to cranberry tau sar piah, at its Chinatown Point outlet yesterday. -- PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI FOR THE STRAITS TIMES

THE BreadTalk Group has stepped in to revive traditional Teochew bakery Thye Moh Chan, after it closed its doors in September last year.

Previously located at Geylang Lorong 27, the 68-year-old business now has two outlets - in Chinatown Point and Parkway Parade's Food Republic. These will turn out classic favourites such as sweet and salty tau sar piah, or bean paste pastries.

Thye Moh Chan's former third-generation owner Koh Hong Chua, 66, said: "Our chefs are already in their 70s and getting on in years. My children have no interest in the business, so I had no choice but to close it down.

"Many people were keen to buy the brand but I wasn't interested... until I met Mr Quek."

BreadTalk Group's chairman George Quek, who is also vice-president of clan association Teochew Poit Ip Huay Kuan, said he has been enjoying the store's traditional cakes since his childhood days.

The 55-year-old said: "The brand is also closely tied to Singaporean Chinese culture with its handcrafted products for weddings and births.

"When they announced their closure... I felt it was a great pity that the legacy would discontinue and felt compelled to do something about it."

Both parties declined to reveal the amount Thye Moh Chan was sold for.

Besides ageing staff, the popular cake house had also faced staff shortage over the years.

Mr Koh said: "Young people are unwilling to join the business because of the hard work and long hours. For example, just producing 10kg of mung bean paste requires about five hours of labour to wash, steam, hand-grind, dry and cook the beans."

It takes seven hours to produce the signature flaky pastry, which has at least six layers.

Other signature items include Teochew Double Delight, with red bean paste, winter melon and melon seeds. Vegetarian options, wedding and full-month packages are also available.

But while the classic recipes will be retained, there are also new flavours such as cranberry tau sar piah, in a bid to "reconnect younger folk to traditional baked goods", said Mr Quek.

Prices start at $10.80 for a set of eight or $15 for a large piece.

While Mr Koh has retired, he was a key consultant during the six-month skills transfer process and will help out "in case of teething issues".

He added of Mr Quek: "I felt assured that he could appreciate Teochew culture and tradition, and run Thye Moh Chan in a way that preserved its essence. Plus, he has many years of food and beverage experience.

"I can't afford to let the brand fail in the hands of someone less experienced or capable."

Housewife Nancy Lim, 58, said: "I grew up eating the Teochew piah and it's sad that the former owners will no longer be continuing the business.

"But at least it has a new lease of life now and, hopefully, the authentic taste will be maintained."

euniceq@sph.com.sg

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