Many aged hawkers have been struggling during the recent stay home measures, stuck with no lunch crowds during weekdays. One of them is Pan Ji Cooked Food, quite possibly the only surviving stall selling fresh Sachima.
If you have never heard of Sachima (aka Sar Kei Ma, 沙琪瑪), it’s a tasty traditional snack that’s sweet, crunchy and sticky. It’s something many of our parents enjoyed in their childhood.
In fact, Pan Ji Cooked Food is perhaps one of my parents’ favourite stalls at Chinatown Complex Food Centre, because of how rare and delicious their creations are.
The stall is well-known for being the only place, or at least the only well-known one, still making Sachima fresh, by hand.
Nowadays, it’s basically impossible to find Sachima not made from factories, so this is a rare gem.
They were even noticed and featured by international publications like CNN for their unique craft. But business haf slowed down even before the pandemic, and it’s been made even worse by recent events.
Pan Ji Cooked Food’s star is obviously their handmade Sachima (S$2.60/$5/$6), which takes a lot of skill to make.
First, you have to fry up eggy pieces of batter, then coat them in malt sugar. When the batter comes together after the coating, then it is sliced into blocks.
The result is sinfully crackling pieces of batter held together with a fragrant sugary chew. It’s a simple snack but packed with a lot of flavours and textures.
You can find Pan Ji Cooked Food tucked away in a corner at Chinatown Complex Food Centre, out of sight of the general public.
It’s a small stall manned by an elderly man that’s been there for a long time — since 1983! It would be a shame for this piece of heritage to disappear. Even before this, their operating hours have been shortening.
They used to be opened until 5pm when I was younger, but now they close early at 2pm.
With no successor to take over him, the owner’s retirement might mark the end of the freshly-made snack in our hawker scene.
Besides Sachima, Pan Ji Cooked Food also sells a bunch of other traditional snacks including Honey Twists (S$1.80), Sesame Dough Splits (S$4.50) and You Tiao (S$0.80).
If you want to keep our hawker culture alive during these hard times, this endangered species should be one of those at the top of your bucket list.
Pan Ji Cooked Food
📍 335 Smith St, #02-78, Singapore 050335
🗓️ 8am–2pm (Daily)