Food crazes that rocked Singapore

From Jenny Bakery to llao llao, we look at some food crazes that have swept our nation. How many have you queued for? 

How many of these food crazes have you queued for?
How many of these food crazes have you queued for?
03 Jul 2015

How many of these food crazes have you queued for?

Singapore is known for many things – food being one of the top few. In a country where we can talk about the day’s dinner or even future food trips over lunch, it has become an art of sorts to sniff out good food and when we do, nothing stops us – not even snaking queues.

From Japan’s Miki Ojisan No Mise to cookies from Hong Kong's Jenny Bakery (read on if you are scratching your head at this point), we have shown our aptitude to queue has not waned over the years. After all, if we can queue for Hello Kitty and Minion toys at McDonald’s, how can we resist?

Singapore is known for many things – food being one of the top few. In a country where we can talk about the day’s dinner or even future food trips over lunch, it has become an art of sorts to sniff out good food and when we do, nothing stops us – not even snaking queues.

From Japan’s Miki Ojisan No Mise to cookies from Hong Kong's Jenny Bakery (read on if you are scratching your head at this point), we have shown our aptitude to queue has not waned over the years. After all, if we can queue for Hello Kitty and Minion toys at McDonald’s, how can we resist?

Jenny Bakery
Jenny Bakery
27 Oct 2015

Jenny Bakery

What made it work: Mention butter cookies in Hong Kong, and Jenny Bakery comes to mind. The famous bakery is a cookie haven for tourists and locals alike, and long lines are often seen at its two outlets. And it is no exception in Singapore. In September, their pop-up booth at a Mid-Autumn Festival roadshow in Junction 8 drew snaking queues and the cookies were sold out even before the sale began at 7pm. 

The long wait: Despite the haze, fans began queuing two hours before the opening of its new store in Ang Mo Kio last Friday (Oct 23). Though the cookies are more expensive here - a large tin of 4 Mix Butter Cookies consisting of butter, coffee, shortbread and raisin oat cookies, costs S$45 compared to just HK$130 (S$23.35) in Hong Kong, two tonnes of cookies which were brought in for the store opening were sold out in just two days. The bakery says new shipment will only arrive on Thursday (Oct 29) and sale will start at 5pm.

Where it stands today: It is still too early to tell as the store has only been opened for less than a week but going by the response on the bakery’s Facebook page, loyal fans are unfazed by the queue and cookie shortage. After all, good things come to those who wait.

Where to get your fix: With no plans to open new outlets in Singapore, fans have no choice but to head to Block 422 Ang Mo Kio Avenue 3 to get their tins of buttery cookies. The good news is, lines  soon be a thing of the past (hopefully) as the bakery intends to implement a booking system by the end of November to minimise queuing.

Photo: Jenny Bakery

Miki Ojisan No Mise Cheesecake
Miki Ojisan No Mise Cheesecake
03 Jul 2015

Miki Ojisan No Mise Cheesecake

What made it work: Back in 1995, this cheesecake was all the rage. Back then, the words “healthy” and “cheesecake” did not quite gel together, but this cheesecake changed all of that. Hailing from a small town in Japan, Miki Ojisan’s Cheesecake opened its first outlet on Orchard Road – and they hit jackpot. With its light and fluffy texture, traditionally heavier cheesecake took a backseat and one could wolf down a few slices of this cheesecake before calling it a day.

The long wait: While there are no official estimates of how long the wait was, the long, snaking queues seen at Paragon and other locations were a good indication of how popular this cheesecake was. Back then, it was no surprise to be greeted by a ‘Sold Out’ sign after waiting in line for what seemed like forever.

Where it stands today: Back then, there was no competition for Miki Ojisan’s Cheesecake, but similar versions sprang up like daisies shortly after demand hit fever-pitch. Unfortunately, this brand has not withstood the test of time and has faded into the background.

Where to get your fix: Head to Jason’s Market Place in Raffles City to get your hands on this childhood favourite or opt for the Fiesta Japanese Cheesecake that are available at Ichiban Boshi and Ichiban Sushi outlets.

llao llao
llao llao
03 Jul 2015

llao llao

What made it work: Just when we thought the frozen yogurt craze had died down, Spanish froyo brand llao llao (pronounced yao yao) came and revived it. Made from skimmed milk, the yogurt is smooth and creamy and can be paired with a multitude of toppings and sauces, perfect for those who like variety.

The long wait: With froyo made at the moment of serving, customers could expect to wait up to an hour in line to get their cups of yogurt. It doesn’t help that indecisive folks, overwhelmed by the range of toppings, sometimes hold up the queue.

Where it stands today: Despite its quick expansion - 15 outlets (and counting) have sprung up in two years - the hype around this froyo brand is still going strong with crowds at popular outlets like 313@Somerset and Wisma Atria.

Where to get your fix: Their outlets are spread out from Capitol Piazza to Causeway Point, but if you are looking for their main store, head to Marina Square.

Photos: llao llao Facebook

Krispy Kreme
Krispy Kreme
03 Jul 2015

Krispy Kreme

What made it work: Even before it made its local debut in 2013, Krispy Kreme, which is best known for their original glazed doughnuts, had a cult following in Singapore. Fans have been known to haul boxes of its sweet treats from overseas, so imagine the frenzy when it was announced that the American doughnut chain was opening not just a store but a sit-in café right in the heart of Orchard Road.

The long wait: Die-hard fans started queuing a day ahead of the opening of its first store at Tangs Orchard and when doors finally opened, around 200 rushed in to get their hands on the doughnuts.

Where it stands today: Though the hype has died down and queues waned, that isn’t stopping the company from expanding its footprints and opening 15 outlets by 2018.

Where to get your fix: Apart from its flagship store at Tangs Orchard, Krispy Kreme fans can get their fix at six other outlets including Suntec City Mall and Resorts World Sentosa.
 

Bubble Tea
Bubble Tea
03 Jul 2015

Bubble Tea

What made it work: The craze came in two waves – the first wave started in the early 2000s but waned in a few short years. Back then, the craze was over the affordably-priced, decently-tasting drink. In recent years, it made a comeback, this time significantly pricier but equally more worth the money. Franchises such as KOI and Gong Cha have led the second wave of bubble tea invasion with their unique flavours and concoctions.

The long wait: With every drink being made only after the order was placed, queues for bubble tea could stretch up to over an hour – with popular chains such as KOI seeing queues of up to two-and-a-half hours at their peak.

Where it stands today: The stark difference between the two types of bubble tea still exists – the ‘neighbourhood’ bubble tea stores that sell their drinks as low as a dollar a cup and the ‘high-end’ chains such as KOI costing over five times that. One thing joins them: they are thriving in Singapore and although they will probably not reach fever-pitch levels again, they look to be here to stay.

Where to get your fix: Regardless of which type of bubble tea you are looking to get your hands on, there is bound to be one – or even more – in any neighbourhood that you happen to be in.

Photos: KOI and Gong Cha Facebook

Jollibee
Jollibee
03 Jul 2015

Jollibee

What made it work: Fried chicken done well – that is arguably Jollibee’s main draw. In the case of Jollibee, their dish, Chickenjoy, has drawn in the crowds. Originating from the Philippines, it is said to be the only chain to have eclipsed McDonald’s in the former’s home country – no small feat.

The long wait: When it first opened in 2013, queues stretching from the sixth floor of Lucky Plaza snaked down to other levels and some waited up to four hours to get their hands on the prized chicken.

Where it stands today: The chain is still crazy packed and doing exceedingly well – it is apparently the brand’s top performing outlet worldwide. It’s no wonder Philippines President Benigno Aquino dropped by for a meal when he was in town last year.

Where to get your fix: For now, there is only one place to get your local fix – the sixth floor of Lucky Plaza. Just look out for the queues and scent of fried chicken.

Beard Papa’s Cream Puffs
Beard Papa’s Cream Puffs
03 Jul 2015

Beard Papa’s Cream Puffs

What made it work: The popular franchise from Japan first opened here in 2002 to wild queues. Their motto of ‘Pipin' Hot Cream Puffs’ drew the crowds like bees to nectar. The cream puffs that were still warm from the oven, coupled with the rich vanilla cream custard filling was an instant hit with crowds.

The long wait: With every puff being filled only upon order, customers could expect to wait up to an hour in line to get their prized cream puffs.

Where it stands today: The hype has long died down but they have a loyal fan base which has ensured that the brand still survives locally. They have also expanded to offer other products such as Mochi Ice Cream.

Where to get your fix: Various outlets island-wide, including those at Nex and Bugis Junction.

Tim Ho Wan
Tim Ho Wan
03 Jul 2015

Tim Ho Wan

What made it work: Tipped as the best dim sum in Singapore, this authentic store hails from Hong Kong. The Michelin-starred chef, Mak Kwai Pui, decided to bring his restaurant overseas for the first time and the hype started once it was announced that it would be none other than our little red dot that would be hosting this restaurant. Their signature Baked Bun with BBQ Pork has left customers wanting for more and was strictly limited to one order per person.

The long wait: On opening day, queues started even before the mall was open and customers in line were said to have waited for over four hours to get a seat in the cozy restaurant.

Where it stands today: After two years, the dim sum fever is still going strong with queues outside its Plaza Singapura and Toa Payoh outlets during peak periods. For those who are unwilling to wait, try your luck at the takeout counter or during the wee hours of the morning at their 24-hour outlet at Aperia Kallang.

Where to get your fix: The dim sum chain has expanded to five outlets including Westgate and Bedok Mall.

Photos: Tim Ho Wan Facebook

Ritz Apple Strudel
Ritz Apple Strudel
03 Jul 2015

Ritz Apple Strudel

What made it work: The layered pastry with alternating layers of cream, apples and crunchy pastry was an instant hit with locals when Ritz Apple Strudel first opened its doors along Sixth Avenue in 2000. Long queues formed outside the store to acquire the freshly baked strudels, which were often sold out before official closing time.

The long wait: As the apple strudels were prepared at the store itself, only a limited number of strudels was available for sale. At the peak of the craze, queues formed even before opening time, with some waiting over an hour for their prized pastries.

Where it stands today: Though the craze has died down considerably, Ritz Apple Strudel is still surviving in Singapore, with eight locations around the island. It also offers a wider range of items, including cakes and gelatos.

Where to get your fix: Apart from the main store located on Sixth Avenue, their locations include one at Bugis Junction and AMK Hub.

Rotiboy
Rotiboy
03 Jul 2015

Rotiboy

What made it work: A fluffy, soft and warm bun filled with melted butter and topped with caramelized coffee cream – what is there not to like about this sweet and salty creation? Even the non-caffeine addicts were licking their lips at Rotiboy’s coffee buns. If you had to find a store selling this, you could always follow your nose – the aroma of baking buns travelled far and wide, capturing the hearts and stomachs of many.

The long wait: In comparison to some of the queues in this piece, the 20-minute wait for Rotiboy’s prized buns seems modest. That, however, does not undermine its popularity. It was not uncommon to see customers carting away up to 30 of Rotiboy’s piping hot buns after waiting patiently in line.

Where it stands today: Rotiboy has pulled out of Singapore entirely and has instead focused on outlets overseas, such as in its origin, Malaysia.

Where to get your fix: Though the original is no longer available, many neighbourhood confectioneries have picked up how to bake this aromatic bun. However, not many places have it the way it was meant to be enjoyed – piping hot and fresh from the oven.

Ippudo Ramen
Ippudo Ramen
03 Jul 2015

Ippudo Ramen

What made it work: The founder of Ippudo Ramen, Shigemi Kawahara, is known as the Ramen King after coming out tops thrice in a row in a national ramen-making competition. That alone was enough to drive the hype for the store’s opening. Nestled in a corner of Mandarin Gallery, the classy restaurant kept true to its roots by offering a simple menu with dishes done well. From the ramen to the broth to the chashu, all parts of the ramen were done well and word soon spread that it was arguably the best ramen in town.

The long wait: Depending on the time and day, the queue could be over an hour – especially if you are not open to sharing a table with others. With the small restaurant size, customers were kept waiting in line way past mealtimes, but some emerged satisfied and not remembering anything about the queue at all after the satisfying meal.

Where it stands today: Ippudo has expanded to UE Square and while their queues are not as fanatical as in the past, the store still has a steady stream of customers that flock to it for their ramen.

Where to get your fix: Ippudo is still at its original location in Mandarin Gallery whereas Ippudo Tao has opened its doors at UE Square. There are also express outlets at Asia Square and Changi Airport.

Photos: Ippodu Ramen website

Lao Ban Soya Beancurd
Lao Ban Soya Beancurd
03 Jul 2015

Lao Ban Soya Beancurd

What made it work: Beancurd has been a part of Singapore’s dessert scene for as far back as we can remember but a brand new hype over this new spin on beancurd started in 2011. Instead of sheets of beancurd, Lao Ban reinvented the dessert and served it exclusively chilled and in a form reminiscent of pudding. What differentiated it is its texture, which was significantly smoother than traditional beancurd. Additionally, instead of having the sheets of beancurd float in sugar syrup, the sugar is cooked into the bean curd, giving it a more consistent taste.

The long wait: When it first opened at Old Airport Road food centre, the queues snaked to up to two hours. Even after their branches and copycats sprung up over the island, diehard fans flock to the main store to get the real deal.

Where it stands today: The brand is flourishing amidst fierce competition between copycats and traditional beancurd stores. While the initial hype has died down, this different spin on a traditional treat looks like it is here to stay.

Where to get your fix: The main stall is at Old Airport Road and other branches around the island include those at Maxwell Food Centre and 1 Raffles Place.

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