Image Credit: Dr.Oetker
Heng ah! Ong ah! HUAT LA!
It is always good to start the new year with some auspicious words! As the Lunar New Year approaches, let us explore a classic new year treat that most of us will have in our homes. Care to venture a guess?
It is Huat Kueh a.k.a. Chinese Steamed Rice Flour Muffin! Commonly known to many as Huat Kueh (from the Hokkien dialect), this tiny treat is a light and fluffy pastry with an amazingly soft and moist texture. When steamed, the kueh splits open from the centre, signifying bursting prosperity.
The Chinese name for the Huat Kueh is 发糕 (fa gao). The word ‘Fa’ in mandarin translates to prosperity. The Chinese cupcakes are frequently shared and consumed between family and friends during Chinese New Year as a part of breakfast or dessert. In the Buddhist and Taoism culture, families offer them to their ancestors or gods.
Origins of the Huat Kueh
The story of this delicious steamed muffin goes way back to the roots of China. Although there are no specific historical findings, a book in the Ming Dynasty tells the story of an incident where the Emperor came across the tasty treat and fell in love with its smell, taste and appearance. Since then, Huat Kueh was served in the palace as a food offering to the Emperor.
Another interesting story tells the tale of a daughter-in-law preparing to steam some rice flour muffins but clumsily overturned a bottle of wine atop of the oven and soaked the rice flour mixture.
As she was afraid of being reprimanded by her in-laws, the daughter-in-law quickly decided to steam the wine-tainted batter.
When the dessert was served to the elders, they were surprised with the end results. From then on, fermentation is a vital process in the making of Huat Kueh.
Even Huat Kueh has Health Benefits?
The fermentation of rice or rice byproducts is beneficial as it is rich in calcium, magnesium, potassium and iron, all of which are significant to the human body. Studies have shown that fermented rice produces vitamin B12, which helps in reducing fatigue.
Taboos and Superstitions of Huat Kueh
As aforementioned, while the split from the centre signifies prosperity and joy, there are certain taboos that the Chinese still believe in the process of making the Huat Kueh.
In the olden days, it is believed that while making the steamed muffin, there should be no quarrelling, blurting inauspicious words in the kitchen, or pepping into the steamers. Some also believe that if your kueh did not rise or crack open beautifully, bad luck follows.
Of course, with that being said, do you actually believe so?
The Importance of the Fermentation Process
Although the story above mentioned wine used for the fermentation process of Huat Kueh, other natural ingredients can be used to replace wine.
Natural yeast and baking soda are common leavenings used for fermentation of the rice flour mixture. The amount and time are also important factors contributing to the full fermentation process in the making of Huat Kueh.
Although some claim that yeast will not make your kueh rise, modern recipes have adapted the use of baking soda. This would make your Huat Kueh ‘Huat’.
Are you ready to Huat Huat Huat?
The recipe for these addictive steamed muffins is rather simple, with common ingredients you can find in your kitchen cabinet.
Although it may take a few tries to get that perfect split in the middle, we should, in turn, learn to savour the yummy traditional steamed rice flour muffins together while passing down the cultural significance that comes along with it.
Check out other popular Chinese New Year treats to share with your family and friends by clicking here!