[Penang, Malaysia] "Huat kueh" from ๐—˜๐—ฎ๐˜๐—ผ๐—ป, Batu Lanchang Road

๐—›๐˜‚๐—ฎ๐˜ ๐—ธ๐˜‚๐—ฒ๐—ต is a traditional Southern Chinese steamed glutinous rice flour cake used for prayer offerings and also as gift to family & friends. โ€œHuatโ€ means โ€œto growโ€ in Hokkien/Fujianese dialect, but it also sounds like โ€œto prosperโ€, hence the auspiciousness attached to ๐—ต๐˜‚๐—ฎ๐˜ ๐—ธ๐˜‚๐—ฒ๐—ต.

The kueh is characterised by its signature โ€œbloomโ€ on top: a higher bloom indicates greater prosperity in the future.

One finds ๐—ต๐˜‚๐—ฎ๐˜ ๐—ธ๐˜‚๐—ฒ๐—ต all over Southern China โ€“ itโ€™s called ๐—ต๐˜‚๐—ฎ๐˜ ๐—ธ๐˜‚๐—ฒ๐—ต in Hokkien and Teochew dialects, but is known as ๐—ณ๐—ฎ๐˜๐˜ ๐—ธ๐—ผ๐˜‚ in Cantonese, and ๐—ฏ๐—ผ ๐—ฏ๐—ฎ๐—ป in Hakka. In Mandarin, it is pronounced ๐—ณ๐—ฎ ๐—ด๐—ฎ๐—ผ.

๐—›๐˜‚๐—ฎ๐˜ ๐—ธ๐˜‚๐—ฒ๐—ต is believed to have originated from Longyou County in Zhejiang Province, about 500 km north of Fuzhou, the capital of Fujian Province (majority of the Chinese populace of Penang and Singapore descended from Fujianese immigrants who came to Southeast Asia in the 19th-century).

Longyou ๐—ณ๐—ฎ ๐—ด๐—ฎ๐—ผ (้พ™ๆธธๅ‘็ณ•) cakes have a recorded history of over 1,000 years, stretching back to the Song Dynasty (960-1279 AD). The ๐—ณ๐—ฎ ๐—ด๐—ฎ๐—ผ were originally made by farmers using leftover rice grains for their own consumption. Subsequently, the ๐—ณ๐—ฎ ๐—ด๐—ฎ๐—ผ were used as prayer offerings to the gods, giving thanks for bountiful harvests.

According to the Longyou County Chronicles, around 600 years ago, Ming Dynasty (1368-1644 AD) people regarded ๐—ณ๐—ฎ ๐—ด๐—ฎ๐—ผ as an auspicious cake, and often used as gifts for relatives and friends, especially during the New Year or holiday periods.

Today, in Malaysia and Singapore, the Hokkiens and also Baba-Nyonyas will use ๐—ต๐˜‚๐—ฎ๐˜ ๐—ธ๐˜‚๐—ฒ๐—ต as prayer offerings during auspicious occasions โ€“ with the pink colour of the ๐—ต๐˜‚๐—ฎ๐˜ ๐—ธ๐˜‚๐—ฒ๐—ต symbolizing joyous celebration.

I bought my ๐—ต๐˜‚๐—ฎ๐˜ ๐—ธ๐˜‚๐—ฒ๐—ต this morning from Eaton, a popular Chinese bakery on Batu Lanchang Road. This was in preparation for the upcoming Eighth Lunar Month on the Chinese calendar, which will fall on 7 Sep (next Tue). Tomorrow, Monday, 6 Sep, will be the last day of the Chinese Hungry Ghosts Month (or Seventh Lunar Month).

Address
Eaton Kuih Centre
139-M, Jalan Tan Sri Teh Ewe Lim (Batu Lanchang Road), 11600 Penang, Malaysia
Tel: +60 4-657 7223
Opening hours: 8am to 4pm Mon, Wed to Sat.
8am to 3pm Sun. Closed on Tuesday.

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My stay-home Sunday morning breakfast were take-outs from Eaton. The bakery-kitchen is famous throughout Penang for these two items:

  1. Nasi kunyit with chicken curry - one of Eatonโ€™s main revenue earner is this savory take-out dish, which is usually distributed by the local Straits-born Chinese to their friends and relatives to celebrate a newborn baby being one-month-old or โ€œmua guekโ€. Eaton produces hundreds of boxes of these nasi kunyit-chicken curry in nearly-packed gift packages to meet its consumer demands each day.

In China, various types of sweetmeats are used for the one-month-old-babyโ€™s celebration. The practice is the same in different parts of China, but the types of foodstuff used will be different, depending on each provinceโ€™s culinary tradition. In Fujian province, glutinous rice flavored with soy sauce, chicken, mushrooms and sausages, is one of the food items served during the babyโ€™s one-month-old celebration.

Here in Penang, the Straits-born Chinese who descended from Fujian, but who have lived here since the 19th-century, have co-opted the traditional Malay/Indonesian ritual/celebration food: nasi kunyit - steamed glutinous rice, tinted yellow with fresh turmeric and flavored with coconut milk as a substitute for the Fujianese brown-hued glutinous rice used in their old homeland.

Nasi kunyit is traditionally accompanied by a Nyonya-style chicken curry, cooked using fresh ingredients like chilis, galangal, ginger, turmeric, lemongrass, and shallots, condiments like fermented shrimp paste (belacan), and dry spices like cumin, coriander, cloves, cinnamon stick, and dried chilis. The curry will be enriched with coconut milk.

I liked to add a hard-boiled egg to my nasi kunyit & chicken curry. For this Sunday morning breakfast, I also had a Eurasian pickled green chili, stuffed with finely-shredded raw papaya.

  1. Ang ku kueh - Eaton is one of the best-known bakeries in Penang for its ang ku kueh (literally, โ€œred tortoise rice-cakeโ€) - an auspicious sweet-meat usually distributed during a one-month-old-babyโ€™s celebration. The โ€œang ku kuehโ€ is a steamed mochi-like sweet with glutinous rice-flour skin, filled with mashed mung beans.

In a nod to its local Nyonya heritage, Eaton also offers a green-colored version of the kueh, called"cheh ku" (green tortoise) in Penang, and โ€œkueh ku hijauโ€ by the Peranakan-Babas & Nyonyas in Malacca and Singapore. These would have โ€œintiโ€ (shredded coconut -palm sugar) filling.

Sunday morning breakfast spread from Eaton

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