Honouring keepers of kuih heritage

Tan (seated) signing copies of his book during the launch.

FOR the past 30 years, Neoh Aun Kean, 54, has been keeping his mother’s secret recipe for thnee kuih (Hokkien for glutinous rice cake or kuih bakul) close to his heart.

“I watched her making it about 50 years ago when I was a kid. When I grew up and decided to become a baker, I never lost her recipe.

“She used to make it for the family during special occasions. I now make it once a year for just a month during Chinese New Year.

“I make it the old-school way with only natural ingredients and with all my heart, ” he said during an event to recognise local traditional kuih makers featured in the book The Way of Kueh in Beach Street, Penang.

“I make more than 10,000 thnee kuih each year for Chinese New Year and sell them to local shops. They are all pre-ordered.

“My kuih is not as sticky compared to others in the market. They are exactly how my mother made them.

“It has a spongy texture with no chemical ingredients and is cooked over wood fire.

“We work round the clock and I only have six people helping me. It is a secret recipe so not too many people know what goes into it.

“I know times are changing but my advantage is that I make it the traditional way which is hard to find in the market, ” he said, adding that he was honoured to be featured in the book.

Authored by Singaporean Christopher Tan, who is also a cooking teacher and food scholar, the book took four years of research and two years of intensive work.

It contains 102 recipes for traditional kuih, including four new ones.

“I created the recipes from the ground up, going back to basic principles. This book is about kuih from all of Singapore’s communities: Malay, Chinese, Chinese Peranakan, Chetti Peranakan, Indian, Eurasian and more, ” he said.

The book also features profiles of over 40 kuih makers in Singapore and Penang.

“None of the recipes is from them but I interviewed more than 40 kuih makers.

“Some of the Penang kuih makers preserve traditional techniques that are difficult to find anywhere else.

“I wanted to honour them and present them with a copy of the book. They contributed their perspectives, insights and opinions in the book, ” he said. — By N. TRISHA

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