Monday, January 5, 2009

home-made enormous ti kueh

12-cm factory made sticky cake

these days, with greater commercialisation, everything seems to be available all the year round. you do not have to wait till the dragon-boat festival to enjoy meat dumplings (bak chang) ; you can get 'huat kueh' and 'egg kueh' from your neighbourhood confectionery any day; 'tang yuan' - the glutinous rice balls - are available from the supermarket any time; and you can have 'ti kueh' throughout the year, if you know where to look for it.

back in those kampong days, my mother would take more than a day to tediously make 'ti kueh' which was more than 50cm in diameter compared to the 12cm ones that are made in food factories nowadays.

first, the glutinous rice had to be soaked in a big pail overnight. using a stone grinder, my mother would grind and sieve the rice, adding spoonfuls of water occasionally as she ground the rice grains. once done, the bag had to be tied and weighed down with a heavy object -like the base of the grinder - to squeeze out as much of the water as possible.

when the dough was dry, she would add in the brown sugar and white sugar until the mixture became runny. the brown sugar was for the colouring and the white sugar was to further sweeten the ti kueh.

she had this large, circular, shallow (not that shallow either, it was about 10cm deep) bamboo basket laid with a piece of special canvas-like cloth that covered entirely the inside of the basket. the runny mixture was then poured into this basket.

then she had this big kwali, filled with water up the level just below a bamboo tray. it would be covered with a tower-like cover - the one the chwee kueh maker uses - while it was being steamed. continuous stirring was required and water had to be added now and then. to keep track of the time when she had to stir or add water, she had a joss-stick burning. each time, the joss-stick burned to its end, she would stir the sticky stuff or add more water to the kwali. in those days, firewood was used to keep the fire going.

much unlike the small ones that they sell today, the huge not so soft 'ti kueh' could keep for days and weeks. although the ti kueh could be eaten in a number of ways, our preferred way was to have it fried in a batter and sandwiched between a slice of sweet potato and a slice of yam. today, even this style of ti kueh is available at some food centres. last year when i lunched with my ex-colleague, she bought me some from a stall at old kallang airport food centre.

the enormous 'ti kueh' was offered to the 'tii kong' (sky god), not the 'kitchen god' as is the case with the smaller and softer 'ti kueh'. because it was so big, after the prayer, my mother would cut it up into smaller pieces and distribute them to relatives and some of the neighbours.

my mother had a different name for it. she called it 'tium kueh'. the proper chinese name for it is 'nian gao'.


Ivy said...

I want to eat that when I go back!!! Deep fried with a piece of sweet potato! YUMMMMM!!!!

nah said...

There are two significance of using “Nian Gao or Ti Kueh” during festive occasions.
It is considered good luck to eat “Nian Gao” during Chinese New Year because "nian gao" is a homonym for " to rise with every year". Because it sounds good, it is a must-have item for the Chinese during every joyous occasion.

The Chinese used “Ti Kueh or Tium Kueh” to pray to the Kitchen God one week before Chinese New Year. According to legend, the Kitchen God returns to heaven to report on a family's behaviour. A negative report by the Kitchen God means a family will suffer from bad luck during the year to come. Using "Ti Kueh" is to ensure that the Kitchen God’s mouth is “Ti Ti” so that he will say sweet things. Also, because the cake is sticky, it will also keep his mouth shut to prevent him from making an unfavourable report.

Victor said...

I thought there is more - 吃年糕, 快高長大 and 步步高升 i.e. eating nian gao will somehow make little children grow up more quickly and also help people advance in their careers, studies, etc.

yg said...

victor, i think you use chinese characters, on my screen i see the as .??? when chun see uses chinese characters, the same thing happens.
is it because i don't have the software for it?

Victor said...

Yg, you can try some of the solutions given in this link. It is probably due to the settings of your "regional language options" (e.g. you may need to install "East Asian Languages").

Then you may also want to input Chinese characters. For this, you install IME v3.0 (input method editor version 3.0) - it allows you to input Chinese characters using Hanyu Pinyin. (The keys for toggling between English and Chinese input modes is ALT-SHIFT, i.e. keep ALT-key pressed and then hit SHIFT-key

All the above features are normally included in your Microsoft Windows Operating System, i.e. they come as standard - no need to pay extra, only need to install if you need to use them.

yg said...

victor, thks for the info and help. i cannot install because my cd is missing.

Victor said...

Yg, have you tried? Sometimes, the Windows CD is not actually required.

yg said...

victor, i did. it prompted me to insert the cd. it's okay, lah. anyway, even if there are chinese characters, they will be greek to me. my chinese (manadain) is 'half past six'.