Trading the dumbbell for an oven


The family that bakes together: Heng (left) and her elder sister Joanne and Zi Ling holding up a batch of the pineapple tarts that’s ready for the oven.

KOTA KINABALU: Sabah strongwoman Joyce Heng has exchanged treadmills for tarts as she is unable to operate her gym due to the movement control order.

With time on her hands, she started making pineapple tarts based on her family recipe.

In previous years, the 34-year-old would only bake the delectable pastry a week before Chinese New Year to be shared with family and friends.

“That’s because I prefer to have them fresher.

“But since there isn’t much I can do during the MCO, I decided to start baking on the first day of the lockdown (on Wednesday), ” she said.

Heng said she had since whipped up eight batches – already more than what she did last year – and counting.

“When I posted my activities on Facebook, suddenly there were people ordering the tarts.

“So I guess I will be making more as long as people want to buy them, ” she said yesterday.

The bodybuilder-turned-strongwoman competitor said she stocked up the ingredients like fresh pineapples and butter earlier in the week.

Baking the tarts this year is also a poignant thing for Heng; it’s the first time she’s doing it without her mother Jeannie Teh who died from health complications in August last year.

“It is her recipe, something all my elder siblings – my brother and two sisters – learned to do since we were young. I started making the pineapple tarts every year since my mid-20s, ” she said.

As a mark of mourning their mother’s passing, Heng said the family would not be celebrating Chinese New Year for the next three years according to Hokkien customs.

However, it did not stop the family from getting the next generation on board in making their mum’s signature tarts as Heng’s four-year-old niece Ng Zi Ling joined them in the kitchen.

Asked how she will survive if the MCO is extended and her gym closed longer, Heng said she is fortunate to have a generous landlord who waives the rentals.

On her competition plans this year, Heng, who normally travels overseas for strongwoman tournaments besides taking part in local gigs, said she does not expect

to travel until probably later this year.

“Last year, my plans for joining a strongwoman contest in the United States were derailed due to the Covid-19 pandemic, ” she said.

Heng added that the last tournament she entered was a state competition, Penampang Strongest Woman, in January last year.

While Heng said some competitions overseas are resuming, such as those in Hong Kong (in February) and South Africa (May), she is unlikely to participate.

“Even if I compete, it will most likely be at the end of the year, ” she added.

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