Kuih: From Apam to Wajik, a Pictorial Guide to Malay Desserts

Kuih: From Apam to Wajik, a Pictorial Guide to Malay Desserts

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Kuih: From Apam to Wajik, a Pictorial Guide to Malay Desserts is a charming illustrative of 120 Malay kuih, aims to encourage a deeper cultural understanding of the diversity of Malay kuih. Kuih is a Malay word used to describe bite-sized snacks such as cakes, biscuits, bread and porridge. Kuih is used generically to mean Malay desserts. Other words describing kuih are penganan and kudapan.

The Malays love their kuih. In most households, there would be pencuci mulut (which literally means ‘to wash the mouth’) or dessert after every meal. The author remembers growing up in Gedung Kuning (Yellow Mansion) in Kampong Gelam, where her grandmother would always ensure that there would be some kuih spread out on the table during teatime. Her grandmother would prepare some desserts or simply buy them from their neighbours in Kampong Gelam who sold kuih. There were also kuih sellers who made their rounds in the village, carrying trays or baskets filled with kuih-muih (meaning ‘a variety or assortment of kuih‘). Some of the peddlers were children who sold kuih to supplement their family’s meagre household incomes. The children would be given some pocket money for their hard work.

Kuih is ubiquitously present in almost all Malay festivities, wedding celebrations, thanksgiving feasts and even in everyday meals like breakfast. During Hari Raya Puasa (Eid-ul Fitr), we would have kuih as kepala meja (literally, head of table), serving it as the main dish at the table. For the longest time, in the author’s household, her grandmother’s famous agar-agar kering (crystallised jellies) was served as their family’s kepala meja.

Many of us have tasted Malay kuih and know how they look like, but do we know the stories behind the names and origins of the kuih we love to eat? Why is a certain kuih of a particular shape or colour? What are the similarities between some kuih from the Malay diaspora?

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