Kuih Momo, a tasty bite down memory lane

Friday, 14 October 2011
Kuih Momo as we Sarawakians call it, is also known as Kuih Makmur in West Malaysia, It is a traditional biscuit eaten during either Chinese New Year or Raya (Malay new year). My Malay is pretty rusty these days since I have little chance to speak the language but the translation my online dictionary spewed out was "Prosperity biscuit". This delicate biscuit literally melts in your mouth just as the rich buttery flavor hits your tastebuds. What's amazing is you only need 3 ingredients - plain flour, butter and icing sugar for dusting. Now, it is rather fiddly to make. You may need dainty fingers and a steady hand. I can only attest to owning the former but I lack the finesse and precision. My Kuih Momos are all rather uneven and some looked like discs. Nevertheless, Lil L has announced that this is the best biscuit I've ever made. Fine praise indeed from a 5 year old who generally prefers savories to desserts.

Savoring these little delights was something I'd always looked forward to during Chinese New Year. The weeks leading up to the festivities were always hectic. The house had to be cleaned top to bottom to sweep away all traces of bad luck from the previous year. This was followed by the dreaded shopping trips to get new clothes. Dad would always insist that we wore a red outfit on the first day of New Year which of course led to a major uproar particularly when I was in my teens. After all, I knew more about fashion than my dad. Those were the days when I thought that the fringe teased to resemble a bird's nest and then sprayed until it was rock hard was JUST faaaabulous. You see, according to the Chinese legend about how the Spring festival was first celebrated, the color red and firecrackers (which of course was wrapped in red paper) were used to scare off the mythological monster called Nian.

Mom would frantically order hundreds of satays, pots of rendang, ketupat (rice stuffed into a woven palm leaf pouch and eaten with satay and peanut sauce), biscuits and cakes. I used to beg her to order more of these Kuih Momo but they were such expensive treats. In those days, there was only one person in Kuching who made these to order. They were perfectly molded into tiny doughnut shape and then lightly dusted with icing sugar. A few days before the Chinese New Year, two Nestle Nestum tins containing these heavenly biscuits were hand delivered to our home.

The excitement grew when we saw crates upon crates of soft drinks piled outside the kitchen. You see, mom was a nurse and a very strict dietician. We were only allowed soft drinks on special occasions. Sweets were a big no-no. Angpows (red packets) were prepared in advance and stacked according to the dollar value in them. I got pretty good at stuffing money into the red packets. On the first and second day of the New Year, dad's staff would arrive in droves. Mom had to hire someone to literally fry chicken wings all day and another to help with the washing up while the 4 kids were relegated to waiting duties, dishing out food, replacing the dirty dishes with clean ones, offering drinks, carrying steaming hot traditional Malaysian to the table in time for the next batch of hungry visitors.

The minute there was a lull before the next onslaught of guests, I'd sneak a few Kuih Momo biscuits into a plate and disappear upstairs to my parents' bedroom, turn on the air-conditioning and munch on these while watching special movie features on TV. I never knew what they were called but I spent years desperately scouring for these biscuits in bakeries whenever I made the odd trip back to Kuching. After nearly 2 decades of searching, I found the recipe for them on Greg & Nee's blog. To say that I was thrilled was an understatement. It was a stroke of serendipity when I also discovered that I used to train with Greg's younger brother and their best friend was an old childhood friend of mine. What a small world indeed.

I haven't celebrated Chinese New Year in years but biting into a piece of Kuih Momo brings back wonderful memories of my life in Borneo.



momo1



momo2



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15 comments:

  1. looks yummy! and i love the hermes scarf on your prev post. anyway I enjoy reading your blog a lot. will sure pop by another time! let's keep in touch okay. following you now.

    silvia
    www.poisepolish.com

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  2. Okay, your description of all your chinese new year goodies has left my stomach rumbling right now. Thanks for sharing your memories with us, I'm just picturing how excited you were as a kid getting to each those treats :)

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  3. Looks so yummy! My husband and I went to Malaysia for our honeymoon and absolutely loved all the food we had there!
    http://www.saysskippy.blogspot.com/

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  4. When I get my new oven I'm gonna try baking some of these!

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  5. Those look so good - and I love them displayed in that jar. Too cute!

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  6. Looks so good! This post made me hungry... just in time for lunch!

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  7. You're correct. Makmur = Prosperity. This is one of the biscuits I would make for Hari Raya because this was the only biccies that my late mom would make herself. I like it this way, ie without filling. Most Biskut Makmur in Semenanjung has filling in it, made from ground peanuts and also they never fried the flour before mixing with other ingredient. Your recipes is exactly like my mom except she used Ghee instead of butter.
    (http://www.organicsaustraliaonline.com.au/prod4663.htm)My heart skips a beat when I saw this post. Childhood memories start to flood back. Happy memories of Hari Raya back home...

    mrsallan, perth

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  8. Ah...you brought back my memories of the childhood Lunar New Year :)

    It's coming soon again in 3 months time! ;p

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  9. I love reading your blog and this post just brings back memories of Chinese New Year back in Singapore. Great post, thanks!
    Ping

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  10. silviasiantar, I'm so glad you've enjoyed reading my blog. Thank you! Will certainly keep in touch.

    Sharon, CNY was such an exciting time when I was young. I have such lovely memories of the celebration.

    skippysays, wow! Which part of Malaysia did you visit? It has been 20 years since I've lived in Malaysia but I miss the food so much.

    Stef, I think you'll love these. My friends who are French gobbled them down so quickly I'll have to bake another batch.

    Lindsay, thank you!

    Lauraloo, LOL. I couldn't find an airtight container except for this Ikea thing!

    The Blonde, too bad you don't live here or else I would've sent over a jar of Kuih Momo biscuits.

    Flower, for those of us who have lived overseas for such a long time, it's wonderful to re-visit food that we used to eat. I had no idea that there's another version with ground peanuts filling. For such a delicate biscuit, I think plain is good enough.

    chicology, thank you for the reminder. I forget every single year! An English colleague of mine used to remind me a few weeks before but without him, I have to rely on my parents.

    La Professionnelle, thank you!

    Ping, thank you for dropping by! Celebrating CNY outside of Asia is just not the same.

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  11. I've never had these types of biscuits before - now am very curious! Do you think they are easily found in the US?

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  12. Katherine, these biscuits are really hard to find. The recipe is quite easy but time consuming because you have to be pretty careful when you roll them up. Give them a go.

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