Beyond the kueh makers cooking up a storm in kitchens, others have chosen to share their knowledge of kuehs through another age-old method: writing.
Author Christopher Tan wrote The Way of Kueh in hopes of inspiring people to start making kueh at home.
In his book, he explores Singapore’s kueh culture and its connection to local traditions and heritage. “With the advent of commercially sold kueh, the practice of making kueh from scratch at home has declined,” shares Christopher, who is also a culinary instructor.
“As it declines, all the foodways associated with it also fades away – not just how it’s made, but how and when it’s served, and the symbolism it bears.
Similarly, writer Hidayah Amin recently published Kuih: From Apam to Wajik, a Pictorial Guide to Malay Desserts back in February. Like its title suggests, the book explores various Malay kuehs – some 120 of them, including those unheard of by the younger generation, and even some that are forgotten by the older generation.
Most people, according to Hidayah, couldn’t even identify the name of kuehs – and Malay variants in particular. “Not everything is Peranakan,” she says with a laugh.
So rather than writing a recipe book, Hidayah chose instead to focus on the etymology and stories surrounding Malay kuehs. “I wanted to show that you don’t need to be a culinary expert to embark on a journey of discovery,” shares Hidayah. For instance, the word ‘badak’ in badak berendam translates to hippopotamus in the Malay language – a reference to how the snack of rice balls in coconut milk resembles that of the animal soaking in a river.
Through her book, Hidayah hopes to document and preserve the colourful variety of Malay kuehs for the future. She adds: “The next time people eat kueh, I hope that they will be able to identify what they are eating, and understand the culture and stories behind it.”