(From left) Tan, Qiao Hua, Yi Hua and Cham arranging freshly made traditional Chinese New Year cookies at their family home in Queen Street, Penang.
GEORGE TOWN: With steady hands, octogenarian Cham Ah Moi carefully presses dough into a wooden mould of animal and plant motifs as she makes the kuih bangkit.
Her grandaughter Cheah Qiao Hua, 18, waits with a natural red dye to dot the “eyes” of the animals, which take on the shapes of tortoises, fish and roosters. She makes sure there are no smears.
Earlier, Cham’s daughter-in-law Tan Ean Ean, 47, prepared the dough, mixing flour with egg yolk, pandan essence and coconut cream before kneading it.
“Preparing the kuih bangkit is not difficult. In fact, it is easy. You just need a lot of patience and passion to ensure that it’s fragrant and delicious,” said the bubbly Cham, 83, who has been making traditional cookies for the Chinese New Year celebrations since she was 12.
Cham lamented that in this modern age, many “adopted short cuts” when baking the delicacy.
“Doing this will compromise its quality,” she said.
The doting grandmother, who learnt the art of baking traditional cookies from her mother while growing up in Ipoh, Perak, is proud to stick to the old methods.
“I bake them over hot charcoal,” she said. “It keeps the cookies fragrant even after they are stored for some period.”
Cham, who passed on her baking skills to Tan some 21 years ago, said the most important step in making the kuih bangkit was the kneading process.
“I love this cookie as it has a
sweet, melt-in-your-mouth sensation, although it crunches when you bite it,” she said at her family home in Queen Street here.
Tan, who sells economy rice when she is not rushing cookies during the festive season, said making the cookies had always been “a family affair” as three generations would come together to bake them.
“My daughter Qiao Hua seems very interested in it, so I am teaching her.”
The mother of four said the family also made other traditional Chinese New Year cookies like kuih kapit (love letters), peanut cookies, butter cookies, oat and nestum cookies.
The cookies have been huge favourites among her family members, friends, neighbours and the people over the years.
“Some come from outstation to get them,” said Tan, adding that the family made about 4,000 cookies daily.
The cookies are priced between RM17 and RM25 per container, depending on the size and type of cookies. Tan can be contacted at 016-4737208.