The art of making the perfect Kuih Kapit (love letters)
Some people claim that oysters are an aphrodisiac. Then there are others who say that the tomato is the food of love (from its name pomme d'amour – French for "love apple").
In Malaysia, there exists a delicacy that, despite its name, is neither an aphrodisiac nor a love potion. Yet those who have tasted it have been known to wax lyrical over the exquisite flavour. The "love letter", more commonly known as Kuih Kapit (a paper-thin crispy biscuit), is an essential feature of Chinese and Malay festivals.
Kuih Bangkit (Tapioca cookies) – a popular Chinese New Year favourite
Kuih Bangkit is one of the classic Chinese New Year cookies beside Kuih Kapit and pineapple tarts which are adored by Penangites. What makes this traditional snow-white Nyonya cookie good is the aromatic smell that welcomes you the moment you bite into the crispy outer later which then melts in your mouth to a powdery softness.
The culinary legacy of the Nyonyas
Historical records suggest that when Chinese migrants arrived in then Malaya, they brought with them several culinary styles, among them Hakka, Hainan, Foochow, Canton and others. One style of cooking which metamorphosed out of these 'prototypes' is known today as Nyonya or Peranakan cuisine, a combination of Chinese and Malay flavours.
Make your own Acar Awak (spicy mixed vegetable pickle)
A crunchy and aromatic dish concocted of mixed vegetables infused in a rich and spicy gravy garnished with crushed groundnuts. This dish acts as an appetiser in any meal. It adds zest to a plain dish of 'economy' fried bee hoon.
Acar Chee Ya Hu (pickled mullet fish)
This is one of my mum's favourite acars. She has been making this for as long as I can remember. It is such an appetising dish when served with a bowl of steaming white rice.
Like other Nyonya acars, this dish is a combination of sweet and mostly tart flavours. However, the other ingredients, like onions and garlic still impart their individual aromas. The deep-fried fish absorbs the gravy and becomes succulent and moist.