The Pastry Maker
“People make pastry requests two months ahead of the celebrations”
Ana Fong is Chief Operating Officer at Tong Heng, a Cantonese pastry shop opened by first generation owner Mr Fong Chee Heng in the late 1920s. It has grown from humble beginnings as a street side vendor in Pasir Panjang to a heritage store today. The flagship outlet is in Chinatown, and there’s a takeaway kiosk at Jurong Point Shopping Mall.
“Tong Heng’s founder, Mr Fong Chee Heng, was my great grandfather. I started helping at the family business in my early teens. My grandmother would round up any of her grandchildren who were available to help out after school and at the weekends. Back then, I did front-end work such as sales, cashiering, and serving customers. It wasn’t until 2012, after I’d had a steady career as a private tutor, that I went into the shop full-time. This time I went to the back of the kitchen, learning how to make pastries from scratch, picking up the skills needed for starting the dough, making the filling, and the entire baking process.
My aunties, the third generation owners of Tong Heng, Constance and Rebecca, taught me the ins and outs. Their work was integral to our specialisation in traditional Chinese pastries, and as they conceptualised the design of our unique diamond shaped egg tart, there was much to learn. While our recipes have been passed down through generations, I believe each one makes tweaks to cater to the current market. For example, I’ve reduced the sugar content in some of our items such as the egg tarts and icing shortcake to appease new generations. I enjoy making the walnut cookie best as it’s the easiest to do!
Tong Heng’s peak season is Chinese New Year, followed by the Mid-Autumn Festival. Work is almost twice the amount for the entire team as people make pastry requests two months ahead of the celebrations. Tong Heng is popular because we produce traditional Chinese pastries. Overall, we keep true to the traditional recipe, don’t add preservatives, and the hand making process and method of baking has remained the same. These days, fewer stores make traditional pastries like we do.
We’re most famous for our egg tarts. This is due to their unique diamond shape, but more importantly, the handmade element. These egg tarts are baked fresh throughout the day to ensure our crust is flaky and our custard is moist and wobbly. Of course, I indulge every now and then, but I joke that I’m immune to them by now!
CNY serves as a good break for me, giving me the opportunity to bond with loved ones. Nothing compares to catching up with relatives over the new year. The moment the shutters on Tong Heng come down for the holidays I know I can finally relax, pineapple tart in hand.”
Signs of a Tong Heng pastry
- Handmade look & homemade taste
- The diamond shaped egg tart
- No preservatives