Chin Mee Chin Confectionery

Chin Mee Chin Confectionery, located at 204 East Coast Road, is a landmark kopitiam (Hokkien for coffee shop) in Katong.1 It is popular for its kaya, a type of custard jam. A contemporary of Hock Ann Coffeeshop and the Red House Bakery, the confectionery delights the residents of the east with its traditional breakfast.2

While it opened in 1925, Chin Mee Chin had its humble beginning as a bread delivery business in the 1920s. Founded by Tan Hui Dong, it was his eldest son Tan Joon Ling who turned the corner for the business, buying over the shop’s premises from its original Peranakanowners in the early 1950s.3

Styled like a typical Chinese confectionery, this Hainanese coffee shop exudes an old-world charm with its ceiling fans and marble-top tables, typical of coffee shops of the 1950s. The interior is accentuated by its defining green floor tiles.4 Affectionately known as CMC by Katong residents, it is most famous for its simple breakfast of kaya toast and coffee.5

Kaya is a kind of custard jam made from coconut milk, egg yolk and sugar, flavoured with pandan, or screwpine leaves.6 In the confectionery, kaya is made over slow-burning charcoals.Bread toast and kaya, called “kaya toast”, is still considered the traditional breakfast of Singaporeans.Other specialities of the confectionery include cream horns, custard puffs, swiss rolls and sugee cake.9 As with many traditional coffee shops of the past, CMC used to roast its own coffee beans. Today, the confectionery continues to bake its own bread.10

In pre-independent Singapore, it was the Eurasian community that frequently patronised the shop.11 In recent times, CMC remains popular, especially on Sundays when worshippers of the nearby Church of the Holy Family would pop by the shop.12


Naidu Ratnala Thulaja

1. “Chin Mee Chin Confectionery,” Straits Times, 20 May 2007, 56 (From NewspaperSG); Jean Duruz and Gaik Cheng Khoo, Eating Together: Food, Space, and Identity in Malaysia and Singapore (Lanham: Rowman & Littlefield, 2015), 25 (Call no. RSING 394.1209595 DUR-[CUS]); Melody Zaccheus, “We’re Staying Put: Popular East Coast Confectionery,” Straits Times, 8 March 2013, 9. (From NewspaperSG)
2. Lily Kong and T.C. Chang, Joo Chiat: A Living Legacy (Singapore: Archipelago Press, 2001), 86, 102. (Call no. RSING q959.57 KON-[HIS])
3. Ah Eng Lai, “The Kopitiam in Singapore: An Evolving Story about Cultural Diversity and Cultural Politics,” in Food, Foodways and Foodscapes: Culture, Community and Consumption in Post-Colonial Singapore, ed. Lily Kong and Vineeta Sinha (Singapore: World Scientific, 2016), 108 (Call no. RSING 394.12095957 FOO-[CUS]); Michelle Heng, “Keeping the Legacy Alive,” BiblioAsia (January 2010)
4. “Chin Mee Chin Confectionery.”
5. Sylvia Toh Paik Choo, “The Lazy Afternoon Katong Ramble,” New Paper, 16 February 2003, 57. (From NewspaperSG)
6. Duruz and Gaik, Eating Together, 45; Lim Phay-Ling, “Sleepy Katong Awakes,” New Paper, 11 January 1989, 16; Lea Wee, “Spread Some Love Around,” Straits Times, 5 December 1999, 2. (From NewspaperSG)
7. Heng, “Keeping the Legacy Alive.” 
8. Duruz and Gaik, Eating Together, 45–46.
9. “Chin Mee Chin Confectionery.”
10. Wee, “Spread Some Love Around”; Cheryl Lu-Lien Tan, “In Singapore, Taking Butter with Your Coffee,” New York Times, 1 July 2012. (From Factiva via NLB’s eResources website) 
11. Kong and Chang, Joo Chiat, 102.
12. Magdalene Lum, “Katong Landmark Church to Be Redeveloped,” Straits Times, 11 September 1997, 3. (From NewspaperSG)

Further resources
Kaya Is King,” Straits Times, 12 April 2002, 24. (From NewspaperSG)

“Singapore on a Plate,” Dominion Post, 10 December 2014. (From Factiva via NLB’s eResources website)

Where You Can Find Hainanese Eats,” New Paper, 5 May 2002, 32. (From NewspaperSG)

The information in this article is valid as at 24 January 2018 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.

Coffee shops--Singapore
Trade and industry
Commercial buildings