A private collection that brings shape to bite-sized Southeast Asian cakes and cookies.
Kuih (or kueh) are bite-sized delicacies eaten as snacks or desserts and common in Southeast Asia, though their presence extends to China and Taiwan. Taking the form of “cakes, cookies, dumplings, pudding, biscuits, or pastries” (Wikipedia), kuih can be sweet or savoury, flaky or glutinous, reflecting the caramel patina of common baked goods, or delivered in gorgeous technicolour. The textures are as varied as their ingredients, presenting something new for the taste buds at what is usually an incredibly affordable price.
Certain types of kuih are created using moulds that give them unique shapes and insignias. You often find these beautifully shaped items during celebrations and festivals, and at religious altars as food offerings to the gods. The imprints on the surface of these kuih are both decorative and narrative. They tell of flora and fauna, families and tradespeople, religious superstitions and folklore.
The moulds used to make these kuih are traditionally made out of wood, copper, or iron, and were familiar items in many a grandmother’s kitchen. My own “poh poh” (grandmother) kept hers in the numerous cupboards that lined the wall of her open-air workspace. There were heavy iron casts for kuih kapit (love letters) and wooden cookie moulds for kuih bangkit (melt-in-your-mouth cookies).
Authentic moulds are getting harder to find as an ageing generation throw them out. If they do come available, savvy collectors snap up these hand-crafted items and elevate their value as pieces of art.
The incredible collection of kuih moulds highlighted in the photo gallery above belong to Jasmine Tan, a NOSH Host who curates an educational talk about the history and use of kuih moulds and combines it with a viewing of her collection and a delicious afternoon tea.