Another one bite the dust. One after another, Singapore eateries that have accompanied us over the years have closed down one after another. Chin Mee Chin is also calling it a day after so many years.
Founded in 1925, it was rumoured to be closing back in 2013. It seemed that this time, it’s true. I grew up near CMC, just down the road near the Red House (another famous coffeeshop along Katong Road). CMC was also one of my family old favourite, especially it’s Swiss rolls.
A nostalgia trip for many older Singaporeans, old-style bakeries like Chin Mee Chin are a dying breed, with their geometric floors, wooden chairs and industrious aunties pouring kopi (coffee).
Like the clock on the wall, the place had seen better days. But the mosaic floor was so clean, you can eat off it. On a busy weekend like this one, the aunties had not time to even sit down and have a proper meal. A half-eaten lunchbox laid open on the staff table.
I always wondered what this was for. A room thermometer? Then why it’s measuring up to 100ºC? Humidity? Why is there negative humidity?
CMC baked its own pastry and cakes. This afternoon, they had finished their last tray of Swiss rolls. Only their cupcakes were available. These were very old-school cupcakes with nothing by eggs, flour, sugar and Moschino cherries. Other flavours included dried raisins, chopped cherries, no icing, no frosting, no frills.
Unlike HK egg tarts which are made of puff pastry, CMC tarts were made of a hearty pastry crust. And the egg custard was a lot firmer. I would not say they were the best in Singapore and JB, no where close, but they were definitely old school and the first egg tart I had.
Local kopi-o (black coffee) was a concoction of really bad coffee bean roasted to death and sweetened with enough sugar to cause diabetes. But that was what generations of Singaporeans like myself grew up with.
Chin Mee Chin made their own kaya and buns. Unlike Ya Kun, they do not serve kaya-butter toasts. The dinner bun with homemade kaya was a favourite. The skin of the bun was toasted to a slight crisp. The charcoal marks were so cool.
You could see the thick slice of SCS butter (salted of course) on the bun. That was how it should be, a bit sweet, a bit savoury, all wholesomeness.
Before the days of sous vide cooking, we boiled our eggs with exact precision through experience to get that running consistency in the yolks, yet firm white like these in CMC. This was accomplished by years of experience of failed attempts and sticking to the same egg vendor.
There’s nothing better to go with the soft boiled eggs than a dash of dark soy sauce and a bit of white pepper. Together with the kaya butter bun and the kopi-o, this would be the breakfast for champions.
Detractors of Chin Mee Chin would say that their standard has dropped over the years, and they deserved to close. But I say, “哥吃的是回忆” and you get the memories in buckets. While the economics of running a profitable coffeeshop it may not, CMC sits on a property that has been family-owned for generations that would be worth millions. Although it is a conservation shophouse, which means that it cannot be torn down to be rebuilt, it still stands in the Siglap food row and would fetch a higher value or return than to be operating a coffeeshop. I say the owners were just keeping it as long as possible so that the elderly in the family had something to look forward to everyday. And finally it’s time to call it quits.
Thank you for the memories.
Date visited : Dec 2015
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