Singaporeans might be happy (or at the very least indifferent) to hear that homegrown brand Old Chang Kee has expanded to Covent Garden, London:
Enter Jay Rayner, a London-born "award-winning writer, journalist and broadcaster" who has been a judge on Masterchef as well as a decorated food and restaurant reviewer.
Unfortunately, he has not taken a liking to Old Chang Kee curry puffs.
How bad was it? Rayner goes as far as to liken it to bathroom-tile material in a review published on The Guardian.
To rub salt into the wound, the article wasn't even about the curry puff — it was actually reviewing another restaurant in London called "Ugly Dumpling".
Here are some of Rayner's feelings regarding our savoury, puffy snack:
- Regarding it as a thing with "awfulness thrust upon [it]", because the curry puff has outlived its time
- Instead of being a puff, it's a "dense, stodgy, turmeric-yellow" pasty
- The curry filling was described as "weird over-sweetened generic chicken curry mush"
- And said mush could be used to "grout the tiles in a dodgy-coloured bathroom"
- The puff also stuck to the roof of his mouth, like his "swollen tongue after a bad night’s sleep"
After his two-paragraph diatribe, Rayner goes on to insult something else briefly.
But almost inexplicably so, he turns his attention towards the curry puffs again, calling it an "act of revenge" by Old Chang Kee.
Because the food item was adapted from a Cornish pasty once bought to us by the British colonials.
And one last ostentatious punch:
"I suspect the people who will want them most are homesick Singaporeans who crave their awfulness."
Here are his paragraphs in full:
"And then there are things which have awfulness thrust upon them by virtue of having existed long enough for the world to have moved on without them. So it is with the curry puff from Old Chang Kee, which began life as a food item sold from a Singapore street-food cart in 1956. The cart became a restaurant, which in turn became a 100-strong chain across Asia and Australia.
And now they’re in London’s Covent Garden. Obviously I had to. Apparently, they’re “iconic” and “legendary” and I do so love an iconic legend. Plus, the word “puff” makes me think fondly of both dandelion heads and smoking, which I miss dreadfully. (I was terrific at smoking back in the day.) Except, of course, they’re not puffs. They’re dense, stodgy, turmeric-yellow pasties with a filling of weird oversweetened generic chicken curry mush, which could possibly be used more successfully to grout the tiles in a dodgy-coloured bathroom. It stuck to the roof of my mouth, like my swollen tongue after a bad night’s sleep. The Singapore crab version had a crab stick down the centre.
Old Chang Kee itself recognises that their curry puff is probably an adaption of a Cornish pasty-like object brought across by British colonials to somehow suppress the locals. Now they’ve brought them back here, possibly as an act of revenge. I suspect the people who will want them most are homesick Singaporeans who crave their awfulness."
*leaves home to buy curry puff*
Top image adapted from Old Chang Kee Singapore and London