Review: Yat Ka Yan’s Tan Quee Lan outlet has quality Chinese desserts with new vibes

By Gary Lim May 31, 2024
Review: Yat Ka Yan’s Tan Quee Lan outlet has quality Chinese desserts with new vibes
Photo: Gary Lim/HungryGoWhere
  • Yat Ka Yan has a new, more spacious second outlet along Tan Quee Lan Street, that’s decked out in trendier fittings
  • Dig into more than 30 types of hot and cold Chinese dessert there, as well as try its unique take on chee cheong fun
  • Don’t miss out on the yammy cendol and avocado sago

If you’re anything like me and find yourself perspiring more than usual these days, you’d probably welcome a nice cold dessert to quench that thirst. 

As much as I enjoy pistachio gelato and dark chocolate cakes every now and then, I usually find myself gravitating towards traditional Chinese dessert shops for a good bowl of tong sui (Chinese sweet soup) and the complex, yet harmonious flavours of coconut milk, red bean, sesame, and all that jazz. 

The mango pomelo sago from the longstanding Ah Chew Desserts is fantastic, as is the ginger milk pudding from Jin Yu Man Tang. 

But then there’s places like Yat Ka Yan, which has somehow become the go-to place for desserts in the Bugis neighbourhood. (This review is about Yat Ka Yan’s new second outlet at Tan Quee Lan Street, just a short walk away from its first at Fortune Centre.)

The backstory

Yat Ka Yan Tan Quee Lan
It’s easy to miss Yat Ka Yan as you walk past with its nondescript exterior. Photo: Gary Lim/HungryGoWhere

Yat Ka Yan is one of those young brands that quickly rose to the same ranks as some of the longer-established, sometimes family-run dessert stalls that tend to dominate the lists of different food sites in Singapore (ours included). 

There’s a reason for that: These guys already had plenty of skin in the game. 

Yat Ka Yan, which opened its first outlet in Fortune Centre in 2020, is operated by the Tang family who used to run the now-closed but highly-popular Ren Ren Desserts from Siglap Centre.

Yat Ka Yan Tan Quee Lan
Yat Ka Yan’s new outlet adopts a minimalist design with metal furnishings. Photo: Gary Lim/HungryGoWhere

Ren Ren Desserts’ closure comes just before the opening of the new Tan Quee Lan outlet. 

Is it transitioning from an old-school stall to a fresher brand geared towards a younger, multicultural crowd? Perhaps, but regardless, the dedication to making great desserts from scratch has built both brands a strong and loyal following, as judged by the small crowd during my afternoon visit. 

Compared to its Fortune Centre outlet, which is more traditional in style, this Bugis outlet is starkly furnished with simple metal tables and chairs and an equally minimalist counter, complemented by the swoony vocals of Jay Chou in the background. 

A hip-hop Hulk figurine holding a tissue box and some framed Hong Kong movie posters (including the likes of A Better Tomorrow and Chungking Express, which we think are incredible films) add the only pops of colour here. 

Well, and the colourful desserts, too.

Our verdict

Yat Ka Yan Tan Quee Lan
There are more than 30 types of desserts, but more popular items might sell out before the end of the day. Photo: Gary Lim/HungryGoWhere

With its dazzling menu of 34 types of cold and hot treats, chances are you’ll have your sweet tooth more than satisfied here. 

Plus, its long opening hours (it closes at 11pm or 12am on most days), relatively large space and very accessible location next to the Bugis MRT station makes Yat Ka Yan an excellent spot for those late-night sweet indulgences.

What stands out to me is that unlike many shops that go heavy on the sugar in their desserts, Yat Ka Yan prefers to let the original flavours of its ingredients shine, so you know there’s definitely quality here.

The prices are refreshingly affordable too — even more so than the fan-favourite Ah Chew Dessert on the adjacent Liang Seah Street.

What it’s good for

Yat Ka Yan Tan Quee Lan
The yammy cendol is far from traditional but so very good. Photo: Gary Lim/HungryGoWhere

First up, the yammy cendol (S$6.50) on Yat Ya Yan’s Tan Quee Lan Street’s menu — whoever first thought about slapping orh nee on top of cendol should win an award, seriously. 

The pile of finely shaved ice with coconut milk, pandan jelly, red beans, pandan jelly, and gula melaka syrup is delicious on its own — in particular, the tender sweet beans and syrup with its deep butterscotch flavour — but is made even better by the creamy mound of yam paste on top. 

Chunky bits of yam within the paste adds to the landscape of textures in the cendol. It’s an indulgent, sweet (though not overly so) and rich dance in my mouth. 

Some other reviewers have touted this as one of the finest cendol in Singapore and it’s hard to argue with that.

Yat Ka Yan Tan Quee Lan
The avocado mousse here is fantastic. Photo: Gary Lim/HungryGoWhere

The avocado sago (S$8) can be best described as “a lot of creamy things in a bowl”, because that’s what it feels like once the medium-sized scoop of vanilla ice cream on top melts. 

But before that happens, you’ll first enjoy the seductive bright green avocado mousse that’s full of nutty, buttery notes, underscored by the bouncy, slightly firm sago pearls. 

There’s also some chewy sweet potato and taro balls to add more dimension to the whole thing. Underneath, you get more shaved ice and pieces of a clear and very light jelly that could be sweeter, but I suppose that’s where the ice cream comes in. 

The cendol still takes the win for me, but this avocado dessert is a close second.

Yat Ka Yan Tan Quee Lan
The creamy chee cheong fun is tasty but can get jelak (cloying) after a few mouthfuls. Photo: Gary Lim/HungryGoWhere

It’s not every day that you find chee cheong fun in a Chinese dessert place, but Yat Ka Yan is proving it’s anything but typical. 

There’s three types here: One with cai po (preserved radish), one with sweet sauce, and then this luscious thing, a creamy chee cheong fun with bak kwa (S$6).

It’s a unique, if not daring combination. For one, the rice rolls are soft and velvety at first, but can quickly soak up the cream to become a bit on the denser side, so you’ll have to eat this relatively fast. 

The light cream tastes a little like a Prego carbonara sauce – creamy and savoury, but with a shallot flavour – and is good at first, but can quickly feel cloying. 

As for the bak kwa, you’re not getting top quality pieces that’s full of smoke and so tender that it falls apart on your tongue, but it is decent. The lightly charred strips are on the sweeter side, kind of like lup cheong (Chinese sausage) and goes well with the rice rolls.

This is generally a tasty and hearty savoury snack, but maybe you would do well to share it with someone else to share the calories and decadence.

What it could improve on

Yat Ka Yan Tan Quee Lan
Mini soup set of three. Photo: Gary Lim/HungryGoWhere

If you want to try a variety of hot desserts, your best bet is the mini soup set of three (S$6.80) that lets you choose from 14 different desserts marked with a star on the menu. 

The purple rice with coconut milk (S$6.50 when purchased a la carte) was delicious, though I found the other two, the walnut sesame paste ($3.50) and tang yuan ginger soup (S$3.50) to be somewhat lacking.

Yat Ka Yan Tan Quee Lan
Photo: Gary Lim/HungryGoWhere

The pulut hitam, or as Yat Ka Yan calls it, the purple rice with coconut milk, is not easy to get right, but when it’s executed perfectly, it’s like a dessert porridge that’s smooth, fragrant, and filling, but not cloyingly sweet. This is exactly that and I’ll come back again for the large bowl. 

Next, the tang yuan ginger soup isn’t actually bad, but not quite intense enough to “warm the soul”, as I personally like it. The tang yuan (the mini bowl only comes with one, so I topped up 70 cents for another) itself has a smooth and chewy outer layer, but the skin is a little on the thick side.

As for the fillings, both the peanut and black sesame paste, while nicely grounded to a grainy consistency, fell a tad short of the rich and nutty flavours expected.

Yat Ka Yan Tan Quee Lan
The black sesame paste outshines the walnut paste. Photo: Gary Lim/HungryGoWhere

I’m not sure how to feel about the walnut sesame paste; while I like the roasty flavour and nuttiness of the black sesame and the overall pleasant smoothness of the dish, I found the walnut paste to be a bit on the milder, lighter side. 

I imagine they might fare better individually, as a walnut paste dessert and a sesame paste dessert respectively.

Our quick takes

Is it conducive to conversation? It gets noisy in the shop when the crowd picks up.

Is a reservation necessary? First-come, first-served, no reservations necessary. 

How to get there? Yat Ka Yan (Tan Quee Lan) is a one-minute walk from Bugis MRT Exit D.

HungryGoWhere paid for its meal at this restaurant for this review.

In the mood for more Chinese treats? Check out our rice dumpling guide for Dragon Boat Festival this year, or explore So Do Fun, the latest Sichuan restaurant in town. 

Yat Ka Yan is on the GrabFood delivery service and offers free delivery (up to S$3 off) with GrabUnlimited.

Do explore the GrabFood Dine-in service for awesome deals. 

You can also book a ride to Yat Ka Yan at Tan Quee Lan Street.

Yat Ka Yan Dessert & Snacks

9 Tan Quee Lan Street, 01-03
Nearest MRT station: Bugis
Open: Wednesday to Monday (12pm to 12am)

9 Tan Quee Lan Street, 01-03
Nearest MRT station: Bugis
Open: Wednesday to Monday (12pm to 12am)

Gary Lim-HungryGoWhere

Gary Lim


Gary eats and knows things, which he attributes to over 30 years of eating and drinking — surely that must count for something, he surmises. He was previously the deputy editor at City Nomads and content lead at Burpple.

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