Bringing authentic Singaporean eats to London, the City Pantry team recently sat down with Old Chang Kee owner Sandra Leong to chat about the restaurant's history, curry puffs and more!
Singapore is synonymous with amazing food and thanks to Old Chang Kee we can now enjoy some of the country's best traditional street eats from laksa and nasi lemak to their famous curry puffs. Since setting up their first food stall in Singapore back in 1956, Old Chang Kee has expanded to become a household name with locations across the globe. Famous for their curry puff, a buttery curried pasty with a spiced filling of meat or veggies and potatoes, Old Chang Kee has a near-cult following among Singaporeans, expats and tourists, selling over 1.5 million puffs a month!
Old Chang Kee London-owner Sandra Leong recently sat down with the City Pantry team to chat about the history of this iconic Singaporean brand as well as her favourite menu items, where to grab a fantastic bowl of pho and more.
City Pantry: Tell us a bit about yourself!
Sandra: My name is Sandra, and I run Old Chang Kee in the UK. I grew up in Singapore, a country well known for great food. I’ve lived in London for the past 10 years and motivated by a combination of homesickness and gluttony, I’m on a mission to bring authentic, relatable Singaporean food to everyone here.
Can you tell us a bit of history about Old Chang Kee?
The first Old Chang Kee curry puff was made back in 1956, at a humble street stall by the famous Rex Cinema in Singapore. Since then we’ve grown into an iconic snack and street food chain, with over 100 outlets across Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, Australia and now London.
Legend has it that curry puffs are actually something the British left behind when Singapore came independent from colonial rule in the late 1950s! Our local chefs learnt the art of pastry making from working with the British - think pasties and pies - and then reinvented them with our native herbs and spices to create the curry puff.
To this day, if you mention ‘curry puff’ to a Singaporean (or anyone familiar with Singapore) they’ll say ‘Old Chang Kee’! Our secret recipe for it has been passed down through generations, and is actually locked away in a bank vault!
When did Old Chang Kee come to London?
We opened our first shop in Covent Garden in June 2018. And we’re looking to open more stores soon.
What’s been your favourite memory since opening Old Chang Kee in London?
That’s hard to pin down!
I would say it’s collective memories of meeting customers from all walks of life - and being able to wow them with a taste of Singapore. We have everyone from homesick Singaporeans who are thrilled to see the food they’re so proud of represented in the London food scene; to office workers in the area who have made us a regular lunch stop; to curious passers-by from all over the world who may not know much about Singapore but fall in love with our food.
To add to that, waking up on a Sunday morning to see that Times food critic Giles Coren has reviewed our curry puffs as ‘the best pastry in London’. Being visited by Gandalf/Magneto himself Sir Ian McKellen… I’ll stop now!
What’s your favourite dish on the menu?
Other than our signature curry puff, I’m a fan of our Singapore Laksa, which is a rice noodle dish with prawns, tofu and beansprouts in an aromatic, milky broth, served with sambal (chilli prawn paste) on the side. There are many different interpretations of laksa up and down Southeast Asia, but I like the Singapore version because it’s quite light and won’t put you to sleep after lunch!
What makes Singaporean curry puffs so delicious?
Well they are a marriage of two things that are well-loved by everyone: a really good pastry and a really good curry! Our traditional version also comes with a slice of boiled egg in the filling, which really gives it extra flavour.
What’s your all-time favourite Singaporean dish?
Nasi Lemak, a coconut rice dish typically served with fried anchovies, peanuts, egg and sambal. Mix it all up and you get a burst of flavour and textures. That’s on our menu too.
Other than Old Chang Kee, what are you go-to restaurants in London?
Cafe East in Surrey Quays for some comfort pho.
How have you found working with City Pantry?
Great! It’s given us exposure to many corporate clients. And their delivery riders take care of our food.
What would be your advice to a restaurant or caterer looking to work with City Pantry?
Just do it! Open up your market so you’re not just limited to people who come into your restaurant.
Thanks Sandra for taking the time to speak to City Pantry for our "Meet the Vendors" series!
If you want to discover Old Chang Kee's traditional Singaporean curry puffs and street-stall eats, check out the Old Chang Kee menu for office delivery in London!