THE HISTORY OF JI XIANG
Ji Xiang Confectionery started its business from a kitchen in a HDB flat. This family run business started out selling only two flavours, peanut and sweet bean paste, to provision shops an hawker around the neighbourhood. Their hand made Ang ku kung soon garnered them a loyal following, which led to the setup of their space at Everton Park in 1988. Since then, JIxiang Confectionery (吉祥食品, ‘吉’ ‘meaning Luck and ‘祥’ meaning prosperity) has been a mainstay at Block 1 Everton Park and commonly known to customers as Everton Park Ang ku kueh.
Till today, Mr Toh, is still the resident towkay of the business while his wife continues to be the chief baker.
While ang ku kueh has its roots in China, most Singaporean stalls, including Ji Xiang, have adopted the Nonya style of making this delicacy. The key difference being that of the much chewier red pastry skin that is primarily made out of glutinous rice flour, coconut milk, sugar and food colouring.
Business for Mr Toh started out in 1985 by selling only two flavours, peanut and sweet bean paste, to itinerant stalls and hawkers around the area. Soon garnered them a loyal following which led to the setup of their space at Everton Park in 1988.
IT’S NOT JUST LUCK (吉) THAT LEADS TO PROSPERITY (祥) HOW JI XIANG STANDS OUT FROM THE REST
While some heritage hawkers abide by strict secrets and guidelines to their craft, Ji Xiang has over the years, managed to balance keeping up with the times while ensuring that quality is ultimately still the key element in their product. One such factor is the insistence of filling and moulding the ang ku kuehs by hand to ensure that the skin remains the right thickness and chewiness.
It may be hard to notice at first, but the ‘Red’ (红) of Ji Xiang’s kuehs actually have a tinge of orange to make it more appealing, their popularity and also marketing genius of placing their shop name ‘吉祥’ on their kuehs, instead of the usual ‘寿 ‘ (meaning longevity)
A multiple winner of The Green Book Best Food Awards and more recently, the Slow Food Singapore Heritage Hero Award, the story of this family run business is as endearing as that of the local delicacy that is ang ku kueh.
Though there is no official confirmation on this, Ji Xiang is also perhaps the first stall in Singapore to introduce new flavours beyond the traditional peanut and sweet bean paste, this after Mr Toh received feedback from customers who were keen on new and exciting flavours. Today, Ji Xiang sells a total of eight flavours that include, salty bean paste, corn, coconut, yam and durian (seasonal), each easily distinguished by the different colour of the skin.
Typically, the stall will prepare thousands of ang ku kueh in a day and are particularly busy during the Hungry Ghost Festival and 7th Day of the Lunar New Year (人日). Ang ku kuehs, which symbolise prosperity, is also a frequent feature as a gift to celebrate the turning of a month old of a child (满月).