You are immediately drawn to Sing Hon Loong (新丰隆面包厂) by the unmistakable scent of freshly baked bread. Ghee Leong is a Singaporean baked good that has been around since the early days of Singapore’s history. This old-style bakery in Whampoa is one of the final traditional bakeries to exist in Singapore.
Old Place is a documentary about Singapore’s historic and disappearing sites directed by Royston Tan, Victric Thng, and Eva Tang. The video below is a one-minute film about this bakery.
In the modern-day, when chains of major bakeries are established in convenient locations like air-conditioned malls and MRT stations, selling a wide range of bread and bun designs, Hon Loong is remembered. In Singapore, as well as other countries, cafes with unusual bakeries and unique bread and artisanal coffees have become increasingly popular.
According to a Straits Times article in 2012, there are now only eight traditional bakeries left in Singapore, a far cry from the 1970s, when there were more than 200 of them. The factory produces an estimated 1,400 loaves of famous brown and white crustless bread. The next step is to distribute the buds straight from the farm to cafes and provision shops on a daily basis.
The tedious task of making bread is unchanged even with the use of technology. Workers manually roll and knead dough to create a loaf. The dough, once placed in bread pans, is baked in large, traditional ovens. When you’re ready to serve, the outside of the cream pie will be blackened and charred, but the inside will be fluffy white. A machine then cuts the loaf into slices.
The cutting of the bread reminded me of a street vendor who sold bread on his bicycle cart in my neighbourhood in the late 1980s. CJ would travel around the estate selling his bread to local inhabitants. Customer orders are sent to the wholesale bakery, and after the crust is charred, it’s sliced. It was undoubtedly years of expertise that allowed him to cut each portion to the same uniform thickness as if he were cutting with a machine.
4, Whampoa Drive, off Balestier Road, is the address of Song Hon Long.