KUALA LUMPUR, June 13 — Raya open houses are incomplete without trays of kuih to serve guests. Besides the usual favourites like semprit and pineapple tarts, one can expect more and more new variations of kuih Raya on offer every year.
While it’s great to embrace creativity — rendang flavoured cookies, anyone? — it’s also unfortunate that many traditional kuih are fast going out of fashion, with some, in fact, facing extinction.
Finding the right ingredients, the time needed to make them and the lack of knowledge transfer between generations of kuih makers have led these kuih declining in popularity and availability.
It’s not surprising that heritage kuih such as the Bunga Pudak and Kacau Keledek are almost unheard of nowadays, especially by youngsters. These delicious treats from the West Coast have become increasingly rare, and can only be found in certain speciality shops in their origin states nowadays.
In a quest to preserve and conserve these forgotten traditional kuih recipes, local foodies portal FriedChillies and Yayasan Hasanah, an impact-based foundation by Khazanah Nasional Bhd, visited kampung kitchens all over the West Coast of the peninsula.
By observing and speaking with kuih artisans in nine states, the team photographed and catalogued recipes of 80 traditional and endangered Malay kuih — all of which can be found in the newly-released Projek KWIH Cookbook, Around West Coast Malaysia in 80 Kuih.
According to Yayasan Hasanah, the first edition of this project is a “labour of love in celebration of our artisanal food heritage and enduring love for food”.
“Through this project, we discovered that some of these traditional kuih date back to as early as the 16th and 17th centuries; from the time when the Straits of Malacca was the epicentre of spice trade in the region,” said Aniza Ahmad Azizuddin, co-founder of FriedChillies.
“Halwa Maskad, for instance, is believed to have originated from Muscat, Oman and was possibly introduced here by Arab traders during that period.”
To purchase Projek KWIH Cookbook, Around West Coast Malaysia in 80 Kuih, contact Yayasan Hasanah via its Facebook page.
Here are five rare and tasty kuih from the book that you probably won’t find during Raya, but should:
1. Bunga Pudak
Originating from Kedah, this crisp kuih with a sweet coconut filling is named after the “Pudak” tree and requires a skilled hand. Best eaten straight out of the oven!
2. Serak Jagung
A kuih fit for royalty, grated corn is mixed with coconut, sugar and salt before being rolled in corn husks. Fun fact: This kuih used to be exclusively made and served only in the Perak royal palaces.
3. Tepung Kulit
This chewy kuih has a signature swirl pattern formed by combining together two different batter mixes. It’s usually made with leaves from the Nipah tree to ensure that it doesn’t get damaged during the making process.
4. Kacau Keledek
This Johor delicacy is usually reserved for special occasions as a hantaran or for royal functions. The name comes from the fact that the mixture has to be continuously stirred for two hours until it thickens.
5. Halwa Maskad
A Penang classic, this sweet treat can be considered our version of Turkish Delight! The process is time-consuming as the mixture needs to be kept overnight before being stirred over low heat for five hours.