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Nyonya Kuih Maker – Mook Hian Beng

Kuih-muih are popular bite-sized desserts, similar to cakes or puddings. They are usually made from rice flour, mung bean flour, tapioca flour or glutinous rice. Nyonya kuih are a mix of Malay and Chinese cooking, and come in a wide variety of shapes, colours, textures, and of course flavours. Traditionally, kuih were made by the women of the house. Like most traditional dishes, there is no single authentic recipe, and each family will have its own variation on a classic kuih.

Mook is a second generation Nyonya kuih maker who has spent over forty years in this family trade. The recipes he uses were handed down to him by his father. After his elder brother passed away in 1969, Mook began learning to make kuih from his father. He was just 14 years of age at the time. According to Mook, there are only three Nyonya kuih makers left in Penang.

Making kuih is incredibly time consuming and labour intensive. The income is unreliable as the sale is based on demand. For this reason, the younger generation is less interested in taking up this trade, and Mook has trouble finding workers. Despite the popularity of these local delicacies, the old kuih kitchens are closing down one by one.

Mook makes 10 types of kuih, catering to hotels and functions such as weddings: bengka (rice and ‘ubi’ varieties), kuih lapis, seri muka, kuih talam, pulut tai tai (also known as pulut kaya), chai tao kuih, huat kuih, kuih banting, and rempah udang (also known as pulut panggang).