What does “real” mean?
Of the myriad definitions, “real” is “authentic”, “no artificial sweetener”, “does what it says on the tin”.
Galicier Confectionery on Tiong Bahru Road is real. The husband-and-wife team of Tan Yong Siang and Jenny Soh started the Tiong Bahru outlet more than a decade ago. Mr Tan has been plying his trade for the last 49 years; “since I was 11 years old,” he says.
I didn’t know Galicier until only about four years ago, but it did then what it continues to do now – serve freshly made kueh-mueh (Peranakan-style cakes and pastries), scrumptious pineapple tarts and probably the best pandan kaya cake this side of the South China Sea.
There is nothing fancy about the joint. There is nothing fancy about the names it gives to its baked goods – ondeh ondeh, coconut tart, kueh lapis; all commonly known names similar to prawn mee or sausage roll. And there is nothing fancy about the prices – from $0.70 to $15 (for a tub of tarts).
But there is everything fancy and delicious about the way the Tans make me feel happy about spending $0.70 on a slice of bingka ubi heaven. Few places like this remain in Singapore; where they aren’t fixated on making their customers pretend they’re hip. People like the Tans are more concerned about the quality of their kueh. They even readily smile at you because they mean it. And give you an approving “thumbs up” when you buy a loaf of roti perancis because they know you’re going to be dipping that thing into some serious curry.
I see a valuable lesson to be learned from the Tans: Provide a good quality product with customer service that is unfeigned, and your customers will come back. Again and again and again and again.
Yes, Mr Tan’s been at it for a while and I’m glad that his confectionery is called Galicier. Any other name would sound – how shall I put this – fake.