Teowchew hawker Hay Lau Peng is the local inventor of the famous Tau Kwa Pau. In the early years, he came to Singapore and started selling Braised Duck and Prawn Fritters {Ngoh Hiong Guan Qiang} in Joo Chiat. The business in Joo Chiat kampong was bad, and after a day of selling, much food was still leftover. Therefore, he dug out the tofu filings from the Tau Kwa, and inserted the leftover Guang Qiang, prawn fritters, lean pork, shredded eggs, pig ears, cucumber shreds among 10 other ingredients.

Many customers were immediately attracted by the fragrant Tau Kwa Pau with its delicious Teochew braised soya sauce and Nyonya chilli sauce. Many Nyonyas also bought from him as his skills were exceptionally good. Many Nyonya called it "purse" as it resembled one. But the Teochews still called it Tau Kwa Pau.

Soon after, a group of Teowchew Braised Duck stall holders started to sell Tau Kwa Pau instead and even the Teochew porridge stall holders also sold this dish. The porridge holders sold it because they used to deal in trading businesses, and had a lot of dealings with Nyonya customers. Therefore, the Nyonya Tau Kwa Pau became a hot seller during those days. But customers still prefer the "Joo Chiat Tau Kwa Pau", as the Guan Qiang and Prawn Fritters are marinated beforehand, thus adding to their flavours.

In the early days, the Nyonya family had a "male out, female in" tradition where the male goes out to work while the wife stayed home. As these rich Nyonyas were bored at home, they started to gamble, and always made delicious food to eat while gambling.

Not only were the Nyonyas gambling, but even those selling Braised Duck were gambling. Often, their Braised Duck were used as bets for a game of dice.

Mr Qiu Mu De saw that the Nyonyas love to gamble, so he walked from Joo Chiat to Katong to sell his braised duck. But he noticed these Nyonya customers prefer to gamble than to eat his duck, so he changed his bet to Nyonya "purse" which attracted a lot of Nyonyas to gamble with him and also to eat his Tau Kwa Pau. Soon, many Nyonya visited his 生成豆干包.

Qiu Mu De revolutionized the Tau Kwa Pau, as he now used only fresh ingredients and not leftovers. The ingredients were decreased to just 4 or 5. First, he dug out the fillings, and then he deep fried the Tau Kwa before filling them with the ingredients. This not only helped the Nyonya to eat better during their gambling sessions, but also fulfilled the Nyonya's preference for things which are drier and fragrant.

In the 1960s, Mr Qiu opened 2 branches in Joo Chiat and Clifford Pier. The Joo Chiat Tau Kwa Pau closed down in the 1980s, but生成豆干包 became famous after legendary comedians Wang Sa and Ye Feng introduced them on TV food programs.


Tau Kwa Pau recipe

Teochews are a group of Chinese immigrants from the mainland eastern province of Fujian. Their Chinese dialect is Hokkien and they were better known as street food hawkers than home cooks or restaurant chefs when compared to the Nyonya.