For the Chinese community,kuih bakul(niangao) is compulsory serving during Chinese New Year celebrations.

It is a favoured delicacy, no doubt. More so, when the making of the traditional cake is steeped in the rich traditions of the Chinese community.

A traditionally-madekuih bakul, using home-ground glutinous rice flour, is wrapped in banana leaf, while plastic wrapping is used for those sold at supermarkets.

Kuih bakulseller Ngan Chee Kong, 65, said it was now easy to get the cake because it was stocked by most supermarkets for the festive season.

“But traditionally-madekuih bakulpacked in banana leaf is favoured over those in plastic wrapping sold in supermarkets. The taste is not the same.”

He said although the community was modern, it still favoured the preparation ofkuih bakulthe traditional way.

Ngan and wife, Chan Sweu Chew, 50, make about 2,000kuih bakulduring the Chinese New Year celebrations.

“Thekuih bakulmade by my family is bought by regular customers who send them abroad, including Singapore.

“Every year, we need at least 300kg of glutinious rice, which is turned into flour and mixed with white sugar. The mixture is then placed in a mould with banana leaves lining the bottom to bring out the appetising aroma.

Ngan said to get a shiny and reddish kuih bakul, the mixture needed to be steamed for 20 hours using wood fire.

“The Chinese community prefers theirkuih bakulto be golden in colour. It is one of the most important traditional cakes and must be prepared for family and guests for the New Year.”

Thekuih bakulproduced by Ngan’s family is sold at RM17 per kilogramme and can be stored for several months.

Ngan said that certain dos and don’ts must be observed when makingkuih bakul, such as exercising care and observing cleanliness.

Otherwise, the cake will not undergo the baking process, despite being steamed for a long time.

“To avoid any untoward incident, such as thekuih bakulstaying uncooked, an old practice is to tie shreds of orange peels and a knife together in a bunch and hang it over the cover of thekuih bakulsteamer.”

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