𝗛𝘂𝗮𝘁 𝗸𝘂𝗲𝗵 is a traditional Southern Chinese steamed glutinous rice flour cake used for prayer offerings and also as gift to family & friends. “Huat” means “to grow” in Hokkien/Fujianese dialect, but it also sounds like “to prosper”, hence the auspiciousness attached to 𝗵𝘂𝗮𝘁 𝗸𝘂𝗲𝗵.
The kueh is characterised by its signature “bloom” on top: a higher bloom indicates greater prosperity in the future.
One finds 𝗵𝘂𝗮𝘁 𝗸𝘂𝗲𝗵 all over Southern China – it’s called 𝗵𝘂𝗮𝘁 𝗸𝘂𝗲𝗵 in Hokkien and Teochew dialects, but is known as 𝗳𝗮𝘁𝘁 𝗸𝗼𝘂 in Cantonese, and 𝗯𝗼 𝗯𝗮𝗻 in Hakka. In Mandarin, it is pronounced 𝗳𝗮 𝗴𝗮𝗼.
𝗛𝘂𝗮𝘁 𝗸𝘂𝗲𝗵 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 𝗳𝗮 𝗴𝗮𝗼 (龙游发糕) cakes have a recorded history of over 1,000 years, stretching back to the Song Dynasty (960-1279 AD). The 𝗳𝗮 𝗴𝗮𝗼 were originally made by farmers using leftover rice grains for their own consumption. Subsequently, the 𝗳𝗮 𝗴𝗮𝗼 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 𝗳𝗮 𝗴𝗮𝗼 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 𝗵𝘂𝗮𝘁 𝗸𝘂𝗲𝗵 as prayer offerings during auspicious occasions – with the pink colour of the 𝗵𝘂𝗮𝘁 𝗸𝘂𝗲𝗵 symbolizing joyous celebration.
I bought my 𝗵𝘂𝗮𝘁 𝗸𝘂𝗲𝗵 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).
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.