Patriarch’s secret reigns

Traditional delights: Chia (middle) churning out his signature la piah with help from his wife Pua Lee Ngo (left). — K.K. SHAM/The Star

KLANG: Having watched his father bake in the kitchen as a child, Chia Seng Chee knows all too well that there is no short cut in churning out delectable goodness.

After more than four decades, the 52-year-old insists on toasting his signature la piah – the traditional Teochew mooncake – on the stove instead of the oven.

“I have tried baking the la piah using the oven.

“It did speed up the production by twice the time, and the pastry turned out nicely baked on the outside too.

“But I also received feedback that it became hard the next day.

“So I decided to stick to tradition by toasting it the way my dad did,” said Chia when met at his shop in Jalan Goh Hock Huat here.

Chia, who is of Teochew heritage, said not many people know about the various traditional mooncakes that were once popular a long time ago.

“With a flaky crust on the outside, la piah’s fillings are often made of mung bean paste, white lotus paste or red bean paste, candied winter melon, melon seeds and sesame.

“They are quite similar to the traditional Hokkien mooncakes featuring white smooth skins,” he said.

He added that pork lard was used to cook the fillings in the old times for a stronger fragrance.

“Nowadays, we normally use vegetable oil,” he said adding that only a handful of bakeries in the country are still offering traditionally made pastries.

Other than la piah, Chia’s shop also sells the traditional white-round moonlight biscuits and Teochew la ko. These are made of glutinous rice flour and some bread.

“I have regulars who come for my signature la piah, which is available all year round,” he said.

Chia added that their sales surge the highest whenever the Mid-Autumn Festival draws near.

With the help of his daughter and son, he said he has also started to offer his traditional biscuits online through Facebook orders.

Retiree Kong Chen Hwa, 61, from Taman Berkeley, said he has been buying Chia’s traditional biscuits from the time when Chia was operating in Pulau Ketam in the late 1980s.

“These were childhood treats when I was growing up. I’m glad I can still find them now.

“My children and grandchildren also like eating them,” he said.

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