Tuesday, February 10, 2009

OUR CNY CULINARY HERITAGE



Time flies when you're having fun and the recent Chinese New Year celebrations were no different! It's that time of the year when one gets to relish traditional festive delights like kuih kapit, kuih bangkit, kuih bakul and pineapple tarts in addition to a whole gamut of new fangled cookies and tidbits.

One of the most sought-after delicacies in our family is these dainty, delicately-shaped cookies which are painstakingly hand-pressed into oblong wooden blocks bearing intricate, recessed carvings (shown above) and baked until light and crisp.



Essentially these kuih bangkit cookies are made from a mixture of sugar, cornflour and tapioca flour, coconut milk and eggs. According to this aunt of mine who really excels at producing the delightful nibbles, it takes years of practice to get the process right.

My aunt even took out the three really old wooden moulds to show us which she inherited from a late Nyonya grandaunt whom we all recalled was a pretty mean cook.



I have yet to come across anyone who could produce such beautiful cookies. Recently my aunt told me that she managed to find some newer moulds in Taiping to be added to her collection. Obviously you can tell these are the newer ones from the wood colour alone but the carved motifs are no less intricate.





I have been wanting to learn how to make them but I know it won't be easy. My aunt has graciously shared with me the recipe - typically the measurements are based on the old school method of agak-agak so I thought I'd note them down just as how she has always found them workable.

KUIH BANGKIT

6 taels sugar
1 coconut (to extract its thick santan)
3 eggs (only 3 yolks + 2 egg whites are needed)
1 kati cornflour (use ABC brand; alternatively mix half with tapioca flour)
extra cornflour for sprinkling

Methods

Dry-fry cornflour over low heat. Stir frequently to prevent it from burning and until the specks of flour start 'jumping' around in the wok. Set this aside. Beat sugar with santan until sugar dissolves. Then add in eggs. Stir in cornflour and mix to form dough. Knead dough until you get a pliable dough. (I guess this is where experience and mastery come in that determine how good the resultant cookie texture will be.) Hand-press a small amount of dough into the wooden mould recesses and bake in oven (unfortunately I didn't get the temperature for this) until the cookies are done.

It's not a perfect recipe but I wasn't keen on pursuing the finer details as I don't want to come across as impolite. She also had other visitors to entertain but later if I ever want to attempt making this, I'd call my aunt to get the other necessary information. For now I'm contented to just eat her handiwork!