Hock Ann Coffeeshop
by Thulaja, Naidu Ratnala
Hock Ann Coffeeshop, a.k.a. Hock Ann Eating House, was located at 125–127 East Coast Road. This eating house is synonymous with the famous tau kwa pau stall, Say Seng Tau Kwa Pau, which was co-occupying the coffee shop.1
Hock Ann Eating House, a quaint coffee shop at the junction of East Coast Road and Joo Chiat Road, initiated the famous Katong tau kwa pau. Tau kwa pau is a pocket of fried bean curd stuffed with a delicious mix of pork, fishballs, fried yam, eggs and cucumbers, all thinly sliced. The tau kwa pau stall at Hock Ann was founded by Khoo Buck Teck in the 1950s. Born in the early 1920s, Koo started off as an itinerant trader with a pushcart selling tau kwa pau to passers-by.2
In the early days, itinerant tau kwa pau hawkers roamed the streets with pushcarts. They would challenge those walking by to a game of dice which would attract other people to watch the game. The stake would range from a few cents to a dollar for the vendor, but if the customer won, he would win a tau kwa pau. Sometimes, depending on the bet placed, the customer could win even a whole duck. An enterprising man who captured the hearts of his customers with his unique-tasting tau kwa pau, Khoo presumably did well enough in his business to establish his own stall at Hock Ann Eating House. The unique taste of Khoo’s tau kwa pau made the stall and Hock Ann a famous eatery in Katong.3
Khoo’s son, Khoo Lian Hwa, ran the stall after he retired in 1989. The tau kwa pau sold looks like a bulging burger. It has ingredients with a whole range of textures stuffed into it, and comes with a special duck sauce and dipping chilli sauce. The sauces taste different due to the presence of garlic and sugar with sliced green chillies floating on its surface. The stall sells approximately 600 pieces a day at an affordable price of 90 cents per piece. A customer can also order braised duck, wuxiang, kway teow, duck rice, and pig’s tongue, heart and intestines. The shop is opened from 8.30 am to 5 pm daily, and closed on Mondays.4
The site on which Hock Ann Eating House sat went through multiple changes. When the eating house moved to 131 East Coast Road, Say Seng Tau Kwa Pau stall followed suit. Orange Katong Coffeeshop then took over 125 East Coast Road with its own tau kwa pau stall, called Mary’s Corner.5 Currently, a “hawker-bar” called Ali Baba Eating House occupies 125 East Coast Road.6 Say Seng Tau Kwa Pau is currently at Dunman Food Centre.7
Naidu Ratnala Thulaja
1. Seetoh, K. F. (2006, August 27). Tofu face-off. The New Paper, p. 26; First to roti john stall, then to Botanic Gardens. (1998, August 23). The Straits Times, p. 10; Mah, K. K. (1994, September 18). Bean curd for a snack or complete meal. The Straits Times, p. 19. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
2. Mah, K. K. (1994, September 18). Bean curd for a snack or complete meal. The Straits Times, p. 19. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
3. Mah, K. K. (1994, September 18). Bean curd for a snack or complete meal. The Straits Times, p. 19. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
4. Mah, K. K. (1994, September 18). Bean curd for a snack or complete meal. The Straits Times, p. 19. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
5. Seetoh, K. F. (2006, August 27). Tofu face-off. The New Paper, p. 26. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
6. Tan, T. H. (2013, June 1). New faces in old paces. The Business Times. Retrieved from Factiva via NLB’s eResources website: http://eresources.nlb.gov.sg/
7. 梁淑晶 [Liang, S. J.]. (2016, January 24). 《丹戎加东火红档口 $1.50豆干包 外国游客也赞》 [Foreign tourists also sing praises of $1.50 tau kwa pau from famous stall in Tanjong Katong] [Microfilm no.: NL 33741]. Lianhe Wanbao, p. 9.
The InnCrowd. (2002). Geylang Serai, Joo Chiat, Marine Parade & Stadium Cove. Retrieved 2016, September 29 from The InnCrowd website: www.the-inncrowd.com/joochiat.htm
The information in this article is valid as at 2016 and correct as far as we can ascertain from our sources. It is not intended to be an exhaustive or complete history of the subject. Please contact the Library for further reading materials on the topic.