The distinctive diamond-shaped egg tarts at Tong Heng, a 78-year-old pastry institution in Chinatown, are legendary. Each of the delectable tart has a bright yellow wobbly egg pudding nestled in a crispy and flaky crust that tempts you with the maddening scent of freshly-baked pastry.
While the bakery underwent a bold and hip interior overhaul in April, much of the kitchen remains the same. After nearly eight decades, just what is it that keeps people coming back for more? Ana Fong, who is part of the third-generation Fong family that runs Tong Heng, reveals some of the time-honoured tips and techniques employed in an exclusive tour of the shop's operation.
What is the secret to making perfect egg tarts?
At Tong Heng, much of the egg tart-making process is still done manually by a team, which has been working there for more than 10 years. This includes rolling out the dough and pressing each ball of dough into each mould by hand.
During the tour, Fong proudly points out that only three types of baking equipment sit in the kitchen — the oven, planetary mixer and encrusting machine. The latter is crucial in yielding the trademark flaky texture of the egg tart crust.
The dual-layered dough, which yields an airy and flaky texture when baked, pops out of the machine as ping pong-sized balls. The balls of dough are then rolled out and placed in the diamond-shaped metal egg tart moulds.
Later, two seasoned kitchen staff step in to press and spread the ball of dough with their fingers till it hugs the mould with a thickness of about 2mm. With their speedy and nimble moves, it is little wonder that the duo have been at this for more than two decades.
After the baked tarts are cooled, they are knocked out of their metal moulds by hand.
What makes Tong Heng’s egg tarts different from the rest, Fong replies in a heartbeat: “We do not use a drop of dairy products — no milk, butter and cream.”
She explains: “Dairy products make the egg yolk mixture runny and when dairy products are used to make the crust, it becomes firmer.”
And of course, lard is the secret weapon that is used in the egg tart’s pastry dough to add fragrance. She says: “This is the same as eating char kway teow without lard; you know that something’s missing without it.”