Not your typical Chinese bing, the iconic Chinese street snack guo kui is wildly loved by many since ancient China. Both the young and old adore the guo kui, and for the first time ever, this 1,000-year-old Chinese snack has finally touched the shores of Singapore. Brought in by the famous household name Xiao Yang Guo Kui, the guo kui has been capturing the hearts of many Singaporean since its opening in the heartlands of Jurong East and Choa Chu Kang earlier this month.
Making of the Guo Kui
Don’t mistake this crispy thin flatbread for the other Chinese bings you see out there. Unlike your typical bing which is pan-fried on a heated cast-iron skillet, the guo kui is baked using a primitive method –in a huge charcoal-heated cylindrical clay oven similar to tandoors, without any use of oil.
Catch the experienced bakers in action with their deft and practiced movements; knobs of hand-kneaded dough are flattened into a circular disc by their swift hands and dusted with flour before ingredients are added. Together with its filling, the dough is flattened yet again before being sprinkled generously with toasted black and white sesame seeds. The sesame-studded flatbread is then attached to the heated surface and takes about a few minutes to bake.
At any one time, the barrel-shaped clay oven is able to bake six guo kuis, and wafts of aromatic smoke clouds the kiosk as the guo kuis bake. After they are done, the skillful bakers then retrieved the guo kuis from the heated cylindrical clay drum using a specialized long scissors-like tool, serving them piping hot to customers.
Flavours and Textures of the Guo Kui
Charcoal-baked traditionally to a crispy golden brown, the guo kui retains a distinct charcoal roasted fragrance. Every single guo kui is of the perfect thickness, between that of a thin crepe and fluffy pancake. The making of the guo kui is no easy feat as a total of 19 different all-natural Chinese condiments including fennel seeds, Sichuan peppers, ginger, nutmeg, liquorice roots, amomum fruits and cloves are used.
Xiao Yang Guo Kui offers six different flavours – five savoury and one sweet – inspired by the different cities of China. The historical snack has evolved over the years to include localised flavours to suit the taste buds of different Chinese communities, giving rise to a variety of different flavours. Now, you can taste them all in one kiosk!
Named according to the city of origin, you may choose from 3 different types of vegetable fillings – Chongqing 梅干菜(Pickled Vegetables), Jiangsu 雪菜 (Pickled Greens), and Xi An 菜类 (Mixed Vegetables) – or go for their all-in-one Shanghai 全家福 (Happy Family) instead. Those who prefer a spicy kick can opt for the Sichuan 香辣 (Spicy Greens), which packs a punch. Richly flavoured vegetable stuffings are encased within the thin Chinese pastry to give its crisp tasty mouthfeel, and one bite into the guo kui will leave the crispy flaky bits crumbling on the table, leaving you yearning for more.
For something slightly different, try their Shandong 豆沙 (Red Bean); sweet but not overpowering, this makes a scrumptious dessert.
Ways of Eating the Guo Kui
Every single guo kui is freshly baked-to-order and served piping hot, just the way we like our food. Diners are welcomed to enjoy it plain or pair it with hot Soya Bean Milk or Iced Chamomile Tea for maximum satisfaction. It is also highly recommended that all guo kuis should be eaten fresh out of the oven for the best taste and texture. However, recommendations are carefully printed on the packaging to teach customers how to consume it takeaway-style. Despite your preferences, the possibilities are endless with this versatile Chinese snack that is suitable for people of all ages.