Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Pong Saik Ku

Days or Months before this day, the eighth day of the Chinese New Year, the folding of Thee Kong Kim had begun. I remembered that multiple large baskets were lined up all over the bungalow, filled with 'Kim' which were in the shape of 'gold ingots'. Even touching them made  one feel lucky and bountiful of wealth and prosperity.

In Grandpa's bungalow, the Thee Kong altar was on the upstairs hall.  Joss stick, candles and oil lamps,were placed on the altar, while a pair of sugarcanes were tied to the sides. On an  extended specially erected altar ,was that handsome spread of offerings. The food and fruits were specially wrapped around with red paper, even the roast pig with its butts stuck up and the tail  adorned with a red ribbon.  Pineapple “flowers”  a popular offering, lovely mee koo, kuih nng koh and other foods were food offerings for the Gods,    "Gold” paper (kim chua) was hung from the sugarcanes, and later burnt as a thanksgiving offering to the Jade Emperor.

Tonight will be the second time we will get to meet our uncles, aunts and cousins who we have met during the first day of the Chinese New Year.  After tonight, we will only meet again the next Chinese New Year.  That's how close my dad and his siblings were.  There was no communication and the Chinese New Year or the Hokkian New Year were their only time to catch up and then we will be introduced to the new additions to our families. It was then that you will discover that we have duplicates in naming the new addition.  My cousin, Lily Ng, who is in Sydney, Australia, did not realised that her dad named her Lily until she started school, she was and is still Lena to our family.  My brother, Cheong Hock is also a duplicate.  Thank goodness we were the only 2 although there were so many Ngs in my generation
Eleven at night, all the prayers stuffs were carried out and placed on a specially erected table for the grand prayers.  Before the stroke of twelth, my dad, being the eldest of his generation, would light up the whole bundle of joss sticks and would distribute to all us, each one 3 joss sticks.  There was a hierarchy call in this matter,  Granpa, of course, was the first to give his prayer, followed by my dad and so on.  Grandma's turn came after her sons, then was my 'Ah Koh's' turn followed by the wives of dad and his brothers. Next, it was my brother's turn, followed by the male cousins and finally, the females of your's truly's generation.  After the joss sticks ritual, everyone was summoned to the garden for the burning of the baskets of Thee Kong Kim which after piling them looked like a mountain. Grandpa would be the honorable to lit this mountain of 'Kim' and us children would have the duty to stir the 'kim' with long sticks so that the 'kim' burned efficiently.  Hey, remember, the sugarcane, yes, throw the sugarcanes onto the bonfire.It was so delightful to watch the bonfire and seeing the burnt paper shooting up in the air, bringing the offerings and prayers to Thee Kong. 

After this hard chore of stirring and tossing and everything was burnt to cinders, it was time to attack the foods on the altar.  I especially like the yellow flat ku which i remembered that you were not to talk and eat this ku at the same time, the filling was so dry that it may land into someone's face.  For the longest ever, i did not know the name of this ku and finally found it to be known as 'Pong Siak Ku'. 


60 g glutinous rice flour
60 ml water

140 g glutinous rice flour
75 ml coconut cream
50 ml water
1 tbsp sugar
2 tbsp oil
yellow food coloring

150 g skinless mung beans - soaked
2 tbsp sugar
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp white pepper
4 shallots - sliced
3 tbsp oil
Water as needed




A wooden disposable chopstick - split the flat end into four and use 2 tiny chips to separate
Tissue paper
red food coloring


Steam the soaked mung beans the usual way or steamed in the preasure cooker until the mung beans are soft.

Heat oil and saute sliced shallots until pale golden brown, remove and set aside.(do not fry until golden brown, shallots will continue to brown when they are removed from the oil).

Add sugar, salt and water into the oil and cook until sugar and salt are dissolved.  Add in the cooked mung beans together with white pepper.  Continue to stir and fry until filling becomes dry and fluffy.  Return the fried shallots and mix well.  Allow it to cool.

To make the skin:

Mix 60 ml water to 60 g of glutinous rice flour until it comes together and form a dough.  Flatten this dough and cook it in hot boiling water until it floats to the surface.  Remove this cooked dough and place it into the bowl of the stand mixer.  Add in ingredients B  except the oil and beat until combined.  Add in oil and knead until smooth.  Cover with a damp cloth and let it rest for 20 - 30 minutes.

Divide rested dough into 30 grams balls.  Flatten each ball and wrap in some filling.  Flatten the wrapped balls as flat as possible and arrange on greased banana leaf in a steamer.  Rinse kuih over running water and steam for 5 minutes over LOW heat.  Uncover steamer and spray with water onto the kuih,  Steam kuih for another 3 minutes.  Remove steamed kuih.. Drip a few drops of red food coloring onto the tissue paper and using the chopstick stamp, dip onto the red and then stamp onto the center of the kuih while it warm.  Let the red stemp dry before glazing with oil.


Peng said...

Stories of yesteryears, priceless stories for your children and children's children. They are going to inherit a rich heritage, keep the stories alive!

Anonymous said...

Dear Lily,

Keong Hee Huat Chai to you and family!

Thanks for bringing back chinese new year memories of yester years ! Your explanation of the "Theen Kong " festival on the ninth day of the CNY is so thorugh that one cannot but miss celebrating it nowadays. But which young people in this busy generation has the time to celebrate this festival in these days and age ?????!!! Yes, the " Pong Siak Ku " is very typically made by the Hokkien "Eng Choon " emigrants to Malaya. Whereas the people in the north of Malaysia would pray with ang ku , the people in the south, would pray with "pong siak ku".

Lily I understand you were originally from Seremban and I have also lived in Seremban for two years during my trainee days as a school teacher in the mid 60s. Btw., do you still have people in Seremban ? It is a very beautiful place.

Thanks again for sharing your beautiful cooking with us.

Regards from Down Under,

Judy Lim

lilyng said...


my aunt and her children are still residing in seremban. Quite a number of my classmates from convent seremban are still residing there. If you have been teaching in seremban in the 60s you might know them cos most of them were teachers.

Anonymous said...

Hi Aunty Lily,

Happy Chinese New Year! Thank you for your lovely description of the 9th day of CNY celebrations. Being a hokkien, I do miss celebrating it with my family. Studies and working overseas have made me miss a few chinese new years and your stories have made me miss home even more. I miss the sugar canes, fireworks, burning of paper money, roast pork - the rich traditions and of course my family. Thank you for sharing this recipe. May you have a prosperous new year ahead!


lena said...

i understand that the 'theen kong' festival is a very important festival for the hokkiens though i am not one of them. I've seen my neighbours doing that every year, though they do not celebrate that to a massive scale but i think the firecrackers is a must for them. I've not eaten pong siak ku before..i'm wondering if taste like ang koos?

lilyng said...


the skin is thinner than ang koo and the filling is savory and very dry.

Anonymous said...

Hi Aunt Lily,

Do you by any chance know how to make kuih nng koh? My mom used to buy from a family friend every time we pai Thee Kong. It looks like an oversized Huat Kueh. It has intense flavor of eggs. Thank you.


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