Started in 1968 in a home kitchen, the orders got so overwhelming that they decided to open a shop in 1987. In the old days, there was no such thing as advertising and through word-of-mouth, the halal certified shop has survived for over 20 years. That’s quite a remarkable feat. They even supply to hotels now. The secret to their success is hand-made kuehs with fresh ingredients, no preservatives, so the food can only last for a day. In modern parlance, we call them artisan kuehs.
The ang ku kueh is the specialty that established their reputation but they quickly expanded into different but related food items.
Ang Ku Kueh
Ang Ku Kueh (or red tortoise cake) is an auspicious food item. Red is an auspicious color and tortoise represents longevity in Chinese culture. In fact, if you look closely at ang ku kueh, in the middle of the “shell,” there is a Chinese word, 寿(shou4), longevity. Traditionally an essential food item for babies’ first month celebration–Lek Lim still provides first month package–it is now available everyday. Hey, no complaints here. We need good luck everyday.
We were fortunate to have a hands-on session to make ang ku kueh. In the picture on the left, the auntie explained to Hookerlily, domestic goddess in training, how to roll an AKK and surprisingly, Hookerlily is quite talented. Don’t play play, this is her AKK:
How does it taste? The red ang ku kueh ($0.50 each; $2.30 for 5) has a thin and chewy skin that doesn’t stick to the teeth but we didn’t care for the mung-bean filling, which lacks a robustness. We much prefer the green ang ku kueh ($0.50 each; $2.30 for 5) with coconut shreds stained brown from gula melaka. The fibrous filling works well with the chewy skin.
Nonya/ Malay Kuehs
We sampled three types of tapioca-based kuehs, kotoh ubi and kotoh ($0.40 each); kueh lapis ($0.40); kueh salat ($0.40, half green pandan custard, half rice); pulut inti ($0.40); kueh kosui ($0.40, coagulated gula melaka blanketed with shredded coconut) and odeh-odeh ($0.40). In general, the kuehs are less sweet than elsewhere. Our favorite? Two out of two votes went to odeh-odeh, a coconut-dusted thin layer of glutinous rice ball with gula-melaka-coconut filling. The glutinous rice is chewy but dissolves in the mouth.
Savory Kuehs/ Glutinous Rice
The savory kuehs are very well-made with an extremely delicate layer of skin but the filling could be more to plump up the kuehs. Hookerlily said the savory kuehs are as good as that of a very famous stall she frequents. The unique kuehs are the kui cai kueh ($0.70), a pungent, grassy vegetable that is very delicious; and yam soon kueh ($0.70), which has limited amount a day.
Our favorite section. The curry puff ($1) is robust with onions but equally fantastic is the sardines puff ($1) that has a strange proportion of tomato and chili that it is both sweeter and spicier than elsewhere. The favors of the puffs are so unique that if you give us a taste test, we can identify them. The puffs are so good that Hookerlily contemplated going back to buy more after we stepped out of the shop for 10 minutes. Another not-to-be-missed item is orh kueh ($0.80) or yam cake, the sister of carrot cake. It is rather uncommon and although it has been fried and left in the open for a while, the shredded yam within gives the kueh a rustic, more kampong feel and breaks the monotony of texture.
Lek Lim impresses us that despite inflation, the prices remain affordable. This is one of the rare places that score 10/10 for value-for-money. Definitely a bang for your buck, while the old-skool Nonya kuehs are standard, it is really the savory kuehs and fried snacks that surprise us with its unforgettable flavors.
Lek Lim Nonya Cake Confectionery 陆林娘惹
Blk 84 Bedok North St. 4
T: 6449 0815
Rating: 3.750/ 5 stars
ps: Thanks, Gavan, for the invite.