Selangor Journal
Housewife Lee Li Yong (second from left), 51, is assisted by her daughter (left) and relatives to make kuih bakul the traditional way in Balik Pulau, Penang, on February 3, 2021. Lee has been making kuih bakul for the past 30 years. — Picture by BERNAMA

Traditional making of kuih bakul in Penang passed down through three generations

BALIK PULAU, Feb 4 — The traditional way of making ‘nian gao’ or kuih bakul, which carries the symbol of luck and prosperity for Chinese New Year, has continued to be passed down to a family in Balik Pulau through three generations.

Living by the mountain side off Jalan Tun Sardon, housewife Lee Li Yong, 51, and her relatives dressed in red, gathered the needed stuff right off their backyard to make kuih bakul.

Some of them were chopping firewood and softening banana leaves over the fire, while others were making the batter formed with glutinous rice starch, water and sugar and filling them in cylindrical cans before steaming the mixture in batches.

Lee said the traditional method of making kuih bakul was inherited from her grandmother.

She said making kuih bakul started off as a spark of interest to learn from her grandmother, which eventually became an annual tradition for the family when the Chinese New Year celebration was approaching.

“I have been making kuih bakul for over 30 years now, but we only began selling them around five to six years ago,” she told reporters, here.

She explained that one of the main reasons they did not sell their kuih bakul before was the process of making the glutinous rice flour.

She said her family had been manually using a stone grinder to extract the starch from the glutinous rice, which was the most laborious part in making kuih bakul.

“Hence, I decided to purchase a machine that could make the process easier to produce more kuih bakul, so that we could sell some,” she said, adding that they could produce more than 400 kuih bakul of various sizes in a day.

Lee said apart from the machine, most of the kuih bakul-making process still stick to the tradition, such as using firewood as fuel for slow cooking and steaming, as well as using homegrown banana leaves for wrapping the kuih bakul.

According to her, the steaming process would take around 12 to 14 hours, followed by another two days to let a batch of kuih bakul to cool off and coagulate before ready to be served.

“It is a long and slow process, but we want to keep the traditional flavour in our kuih bakul so that everyone can enjoy them the way it was prepared for the last three generations,” she added.

Meanwhile, she said her kuih bakul sales had not been affected much by the movement control order (MCO) as she had only been dealing with her regulars and closest friends.

“We do not expect to make more sales from kuih bakul. It is just that those who recognise us and want to try our kuih bakul would want to come and support us,” she added.


— Bernama

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