Old Chang Kee, a Singaporean casual restaurant and snack chain, will open its first permanent site in the UK, in London’s Covent Garden, later this year Big Hospitality reported today. Though the brand has international outposts in Malaysia, Indonesia and Australia, London will mark the brand’s European debut.
Singapore’s national cuisine is rich in dishes that reflect its history as a former British colony and South East Asian trade hub. In the city-state itself, many of those dishes can be found in local kopitiams: coffee-shop-slash-snack-bars serving kaya toast and coffee sweetened with condensed milk, nasi lemak, noodles, and — if a hungry diner is very lucky — curry puffs.
This iconic snack of flaky pastry stuffed (most commonly) with curried chicken and / or potato can be thought of as Singaporean fusion food in miniature: a blend of Cornish pasty, Portuguese empada, Indian samosa and Cantonese dim sum that nevertheless remains entirely (and deliciously) itself. It finds hundreds of expressions across the island, and whilst purists may prefer those offered in local bakeries (or at rival Tip Top), few are more deservedly popular than those sold at Old Chang Kee, a super-fast, super-casual snack chain with dozens of sites across Singapore and in neighbouring countries.
The news that Old Chang Kee is opening its first site in London should therefore be met with some excitement. It’s not, strictly speaking, the brand’s first foray here — it popped up briefly in Kentish Town last year, with predictable results — but it is the first time it has opened somewhere permanent, a 300 square-foot space on New Row, Covent Garden where, in addition to its puffs, it will sell other classic kopitiam fare.
Old Chang Kee’s UK director, Sandra Leong told Eater: “We’re really looking forward to introduce Londoners to the humble yet tasty curry puff. It’s an iconic Singaporean snack that’s a marriage of two things British people know and love — a good pasty and a good curry!
“So London is the ideal place for our first European outlet. We’re also be serving up some classic Singaporean dishes like our signature curries, nasi lemak and laksa, which foodie Londoners will love.”
As a street stall favourite plans the opening of its laksa bar and news filters through that the Roti Kingdom may be expanding further, it suddenly looks like London may have a lot more Singaporean-Malay food to explore. To which the only appropriate response, surely, is shiok!