Of all the Chinese New Year goodies, my favourite is still kueh kapit or love letters. Light, crispy, sweet, eggy with coconut aroma, it brings back the most happy childhood memories of Chinese New Year. It's easy to lose count of the number of delicious love letters we munched away during the festivities.
Kueh Kapit which means "pressed biscuit" in Malay is unique to Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore and Brunei. It is also known as "love letters" and Kueh Belanda or Dutch biscuit because of it's Dutch waffle origins. Kueh Kapit is also enjoyed during Hari Raya.
As a child, I love to watch my neighbours make kueh kapit at home for Chinese New Year. It used to be a common communal CNY tradition but these are rarely made at home nowadays. Family and neighbours join in, each playing a role in the process.
I was mesmerised when I stumbled upon this lady making kueh kapit in Sekinchan - it's always a joy to watch people making kueh kapit the old way. Her practised hand made it look deceptively simple but it requires lots of skill. This lady is amazing as she is juggling at least 50 moulds at the same time 😄
(I chanced upon this lady making kueh kapit during our tour of Sekinchan hosted by Tourism Selangor under the Discover Selangor, Heart of Malaysia programme. It inspired me to keep a record of this slowly vanishing traditional craft.)
The key to kueh kapit is the batter made by whisking rice flour, glutinous rice flour, coconut milk, eggs, salt and sugar together till creamy smooth. Other recipes use rice flour and tapioca starch. For a less crispy result with more chew (some prefer it this way), wheat flour is used instead of rice flour.
The signature equipment for making kueh kapit is the mould - it's like steel callipers with long handles and a clam with two flat plates. The "clam" is splashed with a ladle scoop of batter to make a thin film on one of the sides.
The clams are toasted over a trough of red hot charcoal.
There are electric versions but it is just not the same.
The kueh kapit maker has to visually check the kueh and take them off the charcoal trough at the right moment when it is golden brown and crisp.
It's all about experience and expertise. Too soon, the kueh will be pale and soft. Too late, it will be charred. I like the nice, rhythmic clicking and clapping sounds she makes as she went about her task. hmmm.... maybe she can make a performance of it by making kueh kapit music 😄
The golden kueh kapit is carefully peeled off the mould. Here, it is folded while hot and malleable into a triangle like a little yellow napkin. This is the more common version nowadays. In the past, it was more common to roll it into a little scroll with a wooden rolling pin, hence the name, love letters or 雞蛋捲 (egg rolls) in Chinese.
Kueh Kapit is a must for me during Chinese New Year 😋
May I take this opportunity to wish you Happy Chinese New Year 新年快樂.
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