Tuesday, 20 January 2015
Nyonya cakes, peranakan kueh-mueh
It took me a while to hunt down Baba Charlie's nyonya cake shop. Firstly, I couldn't locate it properly on Google Maps. Secondly, when I keyed the co-ordinates into my GPS, it led me round and round and round. It was only after a painstaking search of Tengkera Road on the GPS that I finally managed to see the cake shop as a point of interest.
Baba Charlie's nyonya cake shop is actually housed in a small wooden hut. Inside, Baba Charlie's family and staff were busily making nyonya cakes. All sorts of traditional nyonya cakes. And the cooked cakes were all on display in an adjoining room, waiting for buyers who came in droves when my wife and I were there.
My first impression was that there weren't much difference between the nyonya cakes in Penang from those available in Malacca. There are a great deal of similarities but of course, there are nyonya cakes that are unique to Malacca only. Or made in a slightly different way.
I don't normally find tapai (fermented glutinous rice) sold by the nyonya community in Penang, only by the Malays, and so, I was very happy to see this delicacy available at Baba Charlie's. We bought six packets, brought them back to the hotel, and happily enjoyed them all the way to Kuala Lumpur.
My second impression was that Malacca nyonya cakes tend to use a lot of the clitoria flower. The locals call it bunga telang but its actual scientific name is clitoria ternatea. The clitoria is blue and it is a natural colouring agent for many of the nyonya cakes in Malacca.
And my final impression was the quality control at Baba Charlie's nyonya cake shop. While we were there, all the packets of ondek-ondek were suddenly swept away from the counter. Even the packets that had been bought by their customers were asked back from them. I asked them why, and Baba Charlie's son said that the batch had been rejected. Somehow, there was not enough gula melaka inside the ondek-ondek. It wouldn't be sweet enough, he said, and customers had complained in the past when the nyonya cakes lacked enough sweetness.