The way it used to be…

Maybe it’s because I’m growing old but somehow, Chinese New Year is no longer like the way it used to be. For one thing, these days, we get to eat and drink anything we want anytime of year, so there is no longer very much to look forward to e.g. the bak kua (barbecue meat), the special dishes during the reunion dinner, the cakes and the cookies, the made-in-Sibu Ngo Kian aerated drinks or Green Spot orange from the shop at Blacksmith Road, or even the Red Lion drinks (including ginger ale for the brandy or whisky served to visitors during the open house) and Coca Cola that we used to buy in glass bottles and packed in long rectangular wooden crates from this shop in town – Kim Guan Siang along Cross Road.

We got very excited over the less sophisticated fireworks and firecrackers – the small ones, that is…

CNY mini firecrackers

I remember how we used to tie the pieces together into one long strand to light at midnight on Chinese New Year’s Eve. Much care had to be put into it so that it would not come loose halfway. Later, they came in a roll pre-tied and I guess that took away half the fun. We also had another bigger variety but none like the explosives we have these days that can rival the two world wars put together.

In the weeks leading to the festival, my maternal grandma and the daughters would get together to make the cookies. I would tag along and follow my mother there and lend a hand in clipping the patterns on the kuih bangkit

Kuih bangkit

…using this special instrument with serrated edges…

Kuih pattern clippers

We would also make the pineapple tarts together. For that, somebody would make the pineapple jam way ahead and we would roll it into marble-sized balls. Then, the pastry was made and Sun Valley bottle caps were used to cut out the base for each tart. For the sides, long strips of the pastry were prepared. The jam balls were placed on the base and the strips were used to wrap around them. Then we would use the same instrument to clip the pattern on the sides.

I can recall what pleasure we derived from using the leftover pastry cut into very thin strips to make the designs on the tarts. Everyone would claim ownership by  having their initials on them – so mine would have an “A” on top. The kuih bangkit and jam tarts were baked in a brass traditional oven over a wooden fire with the embers placed on the lid as well…

Brass traditional oven

My last surviving single aunt gave this to me before she passed away and of course, there is no way I will use it to do any baking but instead, it is kept in the display cabinet in my house – a treasured family heirloom to cherish for generations to come!

Some of those instruments that we used to clip the patterns on the cookies had wheels on one end with serrated edges as well and when we rolled the wheel on the pastry, we would get a wavy line. We used those to cut the pieces of kuih kereta

Kuih kereta

My mother said that my grandma used to make it by the tin for the children to eat – 8 of them and they could not afford to buy cookies the way we do these days, expensive imported ones at that too!!! Well, eventually, it became a regular feature among the cookies for Chinese New Year together with this kuih gunting

Kuih gunting

Today, everybody will just buy the cookies and cakes from the shops and bakeries or somebody may know of some very nice homemade ones. But somehow I feel that it takes away to some extent, the joy of the festive season where the family would get together to get the goodies ready for the special occasion…and somehow, no matter how simple or plain they may be, I actually look forward (and my mother too) to eating these everytime Chinese New Year comes around. They’re like part of the family heritage somewhat.

Sadly, I do not know how to make them and I guess not many of us  actually do. There used to be a girl who grew up with my grandma and single aunties and took good care of each of them when they fell ill and subsequently left this world. She is able to do all that (In fact, she was the one who made and gave me the kuih kereta and kuih gunting; she didn’t make any kuih bangkit or kuih tart this year), but she’s married now and has a family of her own. The way things are going, it certainly looks like all these would become vague memories of the way it used to be…until they eventually fade into oblivion.

Author: suituapui

Ancient relic but very young at heart. Enjoys food and cooking...and travelling and being with friends.

39 thoughts on “The way it used to be…”

  1. Thanks for the memories. I have not seen a lot of these kuihs for a long long time.
    We are spoilt rotten by Southern bakery and Ma Baker in Miri. And I do miss all the real Nyonya kuih too. You are lucky to have inherited all those treasures!! And a male too!

    LOL!!! Why “a male”? I think one of these days, I’ll learn to make my own, or get my daughter to learn, so the tradition may be preserved in the family.

  2. You have kueh gunting and kereta! Lindy would be jealous. She tried to make some gunting and kpenyu said good dog biscuits. They ate it anyway then complain of jaw pain.

    Hahahahahaha!!!! Must arrange a time to come to Sibu and get Hiok to conduct an intensive course…. Poor Lindy! And that Kpenyu only good at criticising!!!

  3. I don’t have memories of making cakes and cookies in my childhood days. In fact, we did not even have cakes or cookies! But, we were more than happy with a set of new pjamas and a new dress and some “pop-chui” – the soft drinks.

    Probably my children would have some sweet cheesy chocolately memories of their mum making cakes and cookies during CNY.

    But this is really a very refreshing read! Thanks, STP for always providing the second food for my soul almost everyday! Second because BP has to come first. LOL

    I have lots of memories to cherish…and I guess the younger lot will have their own – different ones. Ya…ever loyal, ever true!!! Leadership by example! LOL!!!

  4. Dont you dare polish the “tang oven”. I think the younger ones would not remember it. I dont think it was used since 163,Queensway days. I remember all the biscuits making sessions. Used to look forward to the broken bits. Good ones reserve for guests. Now I practise “just eat whatever you need to keep”.

    It’s quite black and doesn’t look very attractive. The value is more in the memories attached to it. I don’t think the younger ones have ever seen it even. The baking was done in that shed…going down from the stairs at the back of the house. Two sticks, poked thru’ the ears, had to be used to remove the lid.

  5. Remember the “pulley” or was it “pulling” fierworks. Sold in small boxes and when you pull it goes bang! Those were my favourites. Used to bring to school and “pasang” the door to get the teachers. Yes, our young readers, we brought these to school. Allow what!

    Yes…and sometimes you pulled but there wasn’t any sound!!! Drats! LOL!!!!

  6. According to my grandma, they used to make their own kuih sepit (aka love letter) and acar for CNY.

    I’ve seen a friend’s mother in Kenyalang Park making kuih sepit or kuih kapit as it is called in West Malaysia…over a charcoal fire, and have to roll them when hot! My mother-in-law makes very nice acar. Best when eaten with keropok! Yum! Yum!

  7. i missed kueh gunting n kereta this year. Amy used to make n she will give some to me- not this year.
    I think the Jackfruit V. Jam tart is the best. Nobody can beat that. dont forget to include me in when you get Hiok to conduct a cookery class. TQ

    Ya, Amy learnt a lot of things from Ah Hiok and Ma-Ee… The other day, Ah Chuo also asked Ah Hiok to help her make kuih bangkit…as her daughters coming home from KL for CNY. So fix a date… LOL!!!

  8. This is definitely a refreshing read. I remember my uncle used to drink Green Spot when we were kids. Can’t get them anymore, what a shame. And those old Coca Cola glass bottles were so sexy in shape, doncha think?

    And speaking of kuih gunting, mom knows someone in Melaka who makes and sells this. I think she sells about $13 per packet of 100gms or something. Her hubby’s a friend of my family and he comes down to KL regularly and mom, aunts and grandma has been ordering his wife’s kuih gunting – think we’ve been eating it for the past few months as they just keep coming! As for the kuih kereta, is it the one with sugar coating on it? I’ve eaten something that looks similar to the one in your pic but as usual, I don’t bother to findout what it’s called. To me, as long as it’s nice to eat, I’ll just put it in my mouth and enjoy. I’ll worry about the name later when I need to ask someone where I can find them. Lol.

    Kuih gunting at RM13 for 100 gm? Good Lord! Must contact the girl and go into a joint-venture…we are going to be rich! Hahahahahahaha!!! There are things similar to Kuih Kereta ( or even kuih gunting)…some even with seaweed but nothing like the original that we grew up with! Green Spot now available in tins – rebranded Sundrop as kpenyu said in his comment.

  9. Obviously there was a break in tradition as far as the recipe was concerned..looks the same..taste the same..but not the same…and need ‘karchip’ to break..and I didn’t complain and would not have brought it up here if someone had not started the

    ZEE: “SUNDROP” is the old GreenSpot….this one looks the same taste the same and is the same as greenspot

    Yalor…never complained except said that it would need kachip to break!!! Hahahahahahaha!!!! Ya, Sundrop – non-carbonated orange!

  10. That really dig out the memory 🙂 Old school rocks!!! My mom still doing those though 😛

    Any of the kids know how to make! That’s the trouble. Nobody bothers to learn so eventually it will all fade away. No more…

  11. KPENYU: ‘SUNDROP’??? Well, I clicked to Sarawakiana’s page on STP’s link and saw the picture of the Green Spot bottle and I’m pretty sure that was the stuff I used to consume way back in the 70s.

    Ya, Sarawakiana’s blog features old, old things – things from the past. May stumble upon a whole lot of interesting stuff but mainly centred around our region. No more Green Spot these days.

  12. The baking pans are antique! Keep it well. If you don’t want it, you can always give them to me. I bake and I collect antiques! Lol

    Hahahahaha!!! Smart, eh? It will take more than that to get me to part with it! You collect antiques? Interested in a 56-year old one??? Hahahahahahaha!!!!!

  13. I still enjoy CNY but of course so different from our childhood days. Ya, missed all the tarts,gunting,dahlia,bangkit,etc..I think tarts is like the rolls royce,for I only get fed kereta n gunting before the CNY,unless the tart jam is burnt!N esp the tarts, the aunties counted n recounted,1 tin have to be 50s or 100s,so if a piece missing,they will know! Whenever the bikkies came out from oven,my mind always say,pls some ‘chow-ta’ ones, the ones my mum rejected, stella can eat!LOL!Oh Yes, loved tagging along with me mum to JFV then before cny to bake bikkies,not that i do, mainly more a hindrance, I think our late Aunt.L. not so shook seeing me tagging along, for I always whinged when do I get to eat the bikkies?!Remember when the bikkies are baked n put in milo tins,it got tagged with all the aunties n uncles names. Which reminds me,remember 1st day CNY got the angpow, I always felt the angpow first n if can feel the coins inside,know ‘bo-kang-tau’already, it has to be RM1.20,the big ones then were $5 or $10,what is the going rate now?LOL!Hmmm..but funny though,how come I don’t recalled seeing u in the JFV kitchen during the making of the bikkies?!LOL!

    Wah! Since small, already lui-bin (money face)! Hahahahaha!!! Minimum $1.10 lah! Dunno now – maybe RM2 or RM3. I usually give RM5 to eligible visitors…but more for relatives and closer friends. I think during the time we were doing all that at the Queensway house, you were not born yet. Bet you’ve never seen the brass oven – much less the thing being used!

    Ooo…your mum’s kuih dahlia – I miss those…and those days when we lived next door, I would pop over and sample the first few – fresh from the oven!!! Not exactly butter cookies with a bit of cherry in the middle of the “flower”. It has its own special taste!!! Never tasted anything like it since!

  14. Aiyoh…miss those kuih bangkit and kuih gunting la! I especially like those slightly burnt kuih bangkit which is more ‘harum’. Would always dig for those ones first. At least can still get quite good kuih bangkit in Kuching from Fujisan bakery, although have never seen kuih gunting anywhere. Maybe have to go to Lindy’s house with my ‘karchip’. Hehehe

    Hahahahahaha!!! So kesian Lindy and her kuih gunting! Kena sindir left, right and centre!!! ROTFLMAO!!

  15. I remember the biscuit tins with the labels…wow, real labour of love. Used to take it for granted when I was a kid. I also looked forward to Stella’s mum’s gifts of preserved plums/olives (the 3 in one “ka-na” twisted thingy), in all their colorful wrappers, and STP’s mum always gave a tin of Danish butter cookies.

    Everything’s pre-ordered now, but mum still managed to do some JFV-Dimong jam tarts, and c4stp made cheese sticks.

    Have not had kuih gunting in years! Now that c4stp bringing kachip to Lindy’s house, I’ll bring the mortar and pestle set…teeth not as strong as they used to be!! 😉

    You too! I wonder when the anak will drop by to add fuel to the flame!!! Very tahan this Lindy, reading all this and keeping quiet – no reply! Hahahahahahaha!!!! Cheese sticks not traditional JFV lah! A lot of the cookies came much later!

  16. …but Lindy’s fried mee was really really nice leh

    You remember one CNY many years ago you came to 163 Queensway with a helium gas balloon(vey novel then) to lift the sparkles and the string burnt and all the kids were screaming ‘bye bye a*****..bye bye a*****.’ Only STP could afford a balloon then la.

    …and my mum broke down when I was 1st year in NZ cos there was no one to carry the cola crates…sooo cute.

    Too late liao! Too late liao! Next year you go back for CNY, have to stay in hotel liao! And Lindy won’t let you eat anything she cooks or makes…and I don’t think you can eat MD’s roast-till-3am too khar either! Hahahahahahaha!!!! Don’t remember the balloon – other than the fact that every trade fair or fun fair, we’d get to buy those balloons!!! So kay-see bah! LOL!!!

  17. Re: Gerrie,didn’t even know my mum also gave ‘kana’then,LOL! I think Lindy is really sporting lah!Can deliver babies,baked kereta that needs ‘kachip’ n can make Gene Simmons face!What more can u ask for! If my memory serves me right,she can disco n sings very well too n always made very funny renditions of the songs…..!!Aiyo!STP!Inflation these days u know, yr rate still only $3-$5 kah!Really Alamak lah! No wonder none of yr JFV’s juniors didn’t fly back to Sibu to get angpow from u!LOL!What happen if next time they serve u the bridal teh?How much u gonna give?Hehehe!!

    Pensioner – 50% discount off normal rates!!! Hahahahaha!!! Where got Lindy deliver babies? Long time liao…just sit there count money!!! That’s why shape and size back to normal liao!!! Hahahahahahahaha!!!!

  18. N STP your description of my mum’s dahlia made me drool now! Hey Pollie,u or Amy knows the receipe or not?If so pls email me. thks!But where to get that sort of ‘chuan’now?STP?

    It’s some kind of tube…just push thumb in and the flower comes out. Your mum was very strong…so big flowers!!! I think they have it in plastic nowadays…no more brass or copper like in the past.

  19. Oohh…. yeah kuih dahlia from Aunty 2 was one of my favorites. Love the kuih kereta from JFV too. Although we can get all the imported “bikkies”(as Stella calls them..hehe)from Ta Kiong, it just doesnt quite taste as good as the homemade CNY bikkies.

    Yalor…that’s why I said – not the same anymore. We may have richer, classier stuff…but still we long for those simple things from days gone by! No more kuih dahlia lah…Yet to try Pollie’s or her SIL’s. Dunno same or not.

  20. And I should kick myself for not sampling kuih kereta and kuih gunting at when I was at your place 🙂

    No kuih kereta or kuih gunting at the time. She came to my house a few days later and gave me. Not open yet! I’ve been eating those that she gave my mum! Hahahahahahahaha!!!!!

  21. …and all taste sooo nice cos only used Golden Churn (original) butter and..fresh Lard(correct me if I am wrong) as in the case of the of the Jam tarts.

    Stella:…and your mum will hide a case of ang kam under her bed…all for her own consumption. Pollie may know that

    I dunno about that…but when I was living next door, I found her to be very generous – always taking things out for me to eat – like the mother or for that matter, all the sisters also like that. Very scared people did not have anything to eat… Runs in the family!

  22. ooohh.. yeah, cny doesnt seem to feel the same anymore… i remembered when i was young id owez look forward to all the fireworks, angpows, reunion dinner, tidbits,fish crackers with the accar, soft drinks and going to ppl’s houses giving them handshakes and wishing them happy new year. now its just..meh,just another annual celebration. if it doesnt go well this year theres always another year.

    My time, my friends and I (boys and girls) would go out on our bicycles (all dressed up in our new clothes) the whole day visiting one house after another – no less than 10 per day!!! It was so much fun! And night time, went dancing at SRC…or somebody’s house!

  23. ….no wonder Lindy didn’t give my son ang pow..think she angry

    In my case, if come to Sibu also I don’t wanna give. Give too little, later people complain…and wanna give more, I tak mampu! Hahahahahahaha!!!

  24. Lindy…time to come out to defend yourself…. Eh, you forgot to give Tonton angpow meh. Wont be surprise. The kids (all 5) bully her everyday!!!
    Oh man..Auntie C’s dahlia!!!! Where is Sophia??

    Dunno! Hardly see her around here for some time liao!!!…Ya, the kids take advantage of Lindy and she seems to enjoy it! LOL!!

  25. well, I still make kuih bangkit and the pineapple jam tart all all the training from my late grand aunt. Guess, I am the only one in my generation to do all these biscuits and cookies for new year.

    Ya…and coincidentally, the girl making the kuih for me – her name also Ah Hiok! I remember your grand-aunt….she used to boast about her jam tarts, the best! Using the best ingredients – Planta!!! LOL!!! And selling at 50 cents EACH!!

    We’ve bought some of her biscuits before. I went to the house to collect, she was wearing a sarong wrapped around her chest, and was dripping in sweat – just like me when cooking! Hahahahahahaha!!!!

  26. That smaller type of firecrackers, still around? Didn’t see one for so long! Used to buy few boxes to play everytime CNY.

    Kuih bangkit is one of my favourite, just it tends to stick on the teeth haha! Those kuihs, long time never seen already eh. Everything is so commercialised nowadays, the taste also ‘standard’, ‘default’.

    Kuih kereta and kuih gunting? I never see any of these or tasted any.. Why it is called kuih gunting? HAHA!

    Kuih gunting cos you use gunting to cut lor! Kuih kereta…I guess you use the wheels to cut – like wheels of kereta. LOL!!!….Those firecrackers, I bought many years ago – still got two pieces left!

  27. Lindy so tahan not to comment…hiya she won’t take the bait….of course she gave ang pow la gundot.. Even gave me one too. hahahahah.

    I clearly recalled that Lard was one of the ingredients of the JFV original recipe for jam tart. Can someone confirm???

    You so old, so kaya…what for she gave u ang pow? Better give me…pencen liao! Dunno what went into the pastry – did not have a hand in making that!

  28. You are so diplomatic…LARD bah..hahahahaha

    What?…..Ah Hiok did say she used Planta! We used Golden Churn, of course…but these days, Golden Churn also not so fragrant, not nice anymore. The cans of ghee also – 3 rifles or windmill…not as nice as those green cans ones with arabic writing. Everything today not so nice anymore! Sigh!!!

  29. Ah Pacik! What u say is very true. We belong to the same generation. Altho we didn’t make the biscuits n kuih kuih at home, our neighbours and frens of mum did and we received them as gifts — from the heart. Nowadays we still receive similar gifts but none of them are home-made. Frens buy them or get their staff to buy or order from people who deliver them in hampers. They are gifts from their wallets!

    I’ve lost my taste for most new year cookies, including kuih bangkit and nian kow. (two cakes are still languishing in the fridge! and are likely to be thrown away in a few weeks, suffering the same fate as their predecessors in the past few years.)

    However, I continue to enjoy my loveletters and pineapple tarts binge this time of the year. Guess while many things change, some just don’t!

    That’s what I always tell my missus. Everytime my daughter comes come, she’ll hint that she wants to eat her homemade cakes, pancakes and stuff…but the old lady will just go and buy from the shops. I keep telling her that when we cook ourselves, somehow it is always nicer as it is from the heart and has the special ingredient – love!!!

  30. I LIKE TO play fireworks!!

    Eyew…rain and floods, snow everywhere – flights delayed and cancelled!!! Fireworks=pollution=global warming= extreme weather conditions!!! Anyway, welcome back from Johannesburg and Cape Town, hope the flights were good! Lucky thing you did not fly UK or Europe – snow storm! Btw, you have not posted your roster for the month of February???

  31. victor…where are you from? Kueh bangkit selling year round in Fujisan Bakery here. I think it has gone up to RM11 per tub now.

    He’s from Sibu. Can buy here also lah…even those pasar malam stalls selling CNY biscuits. Whether good or not, that’s another story! RM11 quite reasonable leh? Here, all around that price or more.

  32. All this post of food of yesteryears brings back memories..

    Tried Lindy’s kueh gunting… for the Gerrie and C4STP if you’re going to try it and there’s still any leftover that’s not walloped up by Kpenyu.. I recommend you just suck the flavour out of it like you would do to a lozenges.. hahahaha…

    Her mistake was she forgot to add the pinch of Kapur to make it brittle…

    Behold! The Master speaks! Hahahahahahaha!!! Ummm…perhaps they’re not good at sucking? ROTFLMAO!!!!

  33. Is that anything new? hahahaha

    the only question.. can he takes as much as he dishes lol

    Can! Can! Sticks and stones may break my bones, words never will…as long as they are not fabricated lies or fairy tales! Oops! Did I just say “fairy”? Hahahahahahahaha!!!!

  34. Now i know what the clipper like thingy is for.I saw it in the kitchen drawer but don’t know what’s its use. I miss kuih gunting….

    Hehehehehe!!! What did you think it was for? Cabut too khar hair kah? ROTFLMAO!!! When you come back, I can ask Auntie Ah Hiok to make for you!

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