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Monday September 9, 2013 MYT 12:00:00 AM
Monday September 9, 2013 MYT 9:14:44 AM
by story andphotos by foong pek yee
Pong Eng Pen, 62, teaching Eng Kok Seong, 20, how to make the mooncake skin at the Yan Woh coffeeshop in Lawan Kuda New Village, Gopeng.
THE four red Chinese characters zhong qiu yue bing, or mooncakes, at the entrance to Yan Woh Coffeeshop in Lawan Kuda New Village is more than a sales banner.
It not only lends an air of festivity to the already bustling village, but also is a testament to its owners’ love for tradition.
Chong Wai Wan, 39, said the Yee family has been using the same banner for the last 64 years.
The coffeeshop was started by her late grandfather-in-law, Yee Chee, in 1949.
Her father-in-law Yee Kok Keong, 77, who started working in the shop at the age of 13 had only just retired.
Her husband, Yee Kar Soon, 43 is running the coffeeshop now, and Chong is helping out at the counter.
Yan Woh is famous for its traditional handmade mooncakes for over six decades.
The shop’s mooncake sifu Pong Eng Pen, 62, said the way of making mooncakes has remained the same in order to preserve its taste and texture.
Pong who started to make mooncakes under the guidance of Yee Chee at the age of 14, said the recipe was from China.
Referring to Yee Chee as his sifu, he said he migrated from China to Malaya and started to sell traditional Chinese biscuits using a push cart in Gopeng.
“There was no such thing as preservatives those days.
“We continued to use his preservative-free recipes as it is healthier,“ he said, adding that the mooncakes would stay fresh for two to three weeks without refrigeration.
He said the recipe also stressed on using good quality ingredients
Pong said they kept cost low by using simple packaging.
“For instance, our kam tui mooncake is priced at RM12 a piece and weighs 190gm,” he said of the mooncake which is made from 16 types of ingredients, including almonds, walnuts, sesame seeds and bacon.
According to him, the kam tui mooncake sold by a popular dim sum restaurant in Ipoh was 10% smaller in weight and priced at RM18 a piece.
Pong who heads a team of five workers have been working daily since Aug 1 to meet the demand for the delicacy.
Being the sifu, Pong is in charge of cooking the fillings, preparing the dough for the mooncake skin and wrapping the fillings with the skin.
Meanwhile, 45-year-old Eng Kee Keong who has three decades of experience making mooncake is in charge of glazing the cakes with egg yolk and baking them to perfection.
His son, Eng Kok Seong, 20, who joined the shop three months ago is learning the ropes from Pong and his father.
He was seen weighing the fillings using a traditional scale with enthusiasm when The Star visited the shop last week.
Choy Yoke Wai, 27, who is famous for making the shop’s char siew pau, is also involved in making the mooncakes.
He joined the shop 10 years ago.
Yan Woh’s skilled and experienced workers perhaps played an important role in maintaining the quality of their delicacies over the decades.
Pong said Yan Woh was very famous for its hup toh soh (traditional walnut biscuits), adding that it also produced other traditional delicacies like sak ke ma, siew pau, kai tan koh, lo por peng and kaya puffs.
Perseverance and hardwork, an integral part of Chinese culture, is also evident in Yan Woh.
Kee Keong starts work at about 3am daily to prepare the dim sum, in time for customers who arrive as early as 4.30am to have their breakfast.
He usually finishes making dim sum by 11am daily and has two off days a month.
This has been his routine for the last 30 years.
Yan Woh’s fine tradition is also seen in its customer base.
In its third generation now, the shop continues to have customers who started patronising the place 50 to 60 years ago.
Chong said every effort was being taken to ensure the freshness of the food or any delicacy they sold.
While Yan Woh only does retail business, she said there were customers, including those from Penang and Kuala Lumpur who came to buy in bulk, as many as 100 pieces of char siew pau for their family and friends.
For bulk purchase, they would have to place orders earlier, she added.
Besides Gopeng folks, Chong said the customers also came from other places like Cameron Highlands, Kampar and Batu Gajah.
She said Gopeng was strategically located and travellers using the North South Expressway would use the Gopeng exit to visit Yan Woh before continuing their journey.
Chong said the Gopeng folks were their regulars.
“Many are long time customers whereby the workers know their choice of drinks by-heart.
“The worker taking orders will just shout the name of the customer and the one making the drinks will know what drink to serve,” she said, visibly proud of Yan Woh’s fine tradition and the support from their customers.
Some of them who have been patronising the restaurant for decades even have their own favourite seat, she added.
The customers who came at dawn were mostly rubber tappers and fishbreeders who start work very early in the morning.
Some retired tappers also continued to have early breakfast because they were so used to it, she added.
Other customers include schoolchildren, workers, market-goers and retirees.
The lunch crowd would start coming in as early as 11am, and Yan Woh is known for its economy rice, which is followed by tea time until 3pm.
Chong said there must be a good balance between timing and cooking to make sure the food is fresh.
The kitchen is a hive of activity by 2.30am to start preparing the food, she said.
The cooking would continue to meet the demand and this also would ensure that the food was freshly prepared and there was no wastage.
The passion and pride in serving good food at an affordable price is unmistakably a tradition of Yan Woh.
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Northern Region, mooncake perak
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