Monday, January 30, 2012

Red Tortoise Cake

In conjunction with the celebration of the Jade Emperor's birthday on the 9th day of the Lunar New Year, the Hokkien clan in the Chinese community are busy with the preparations for the thanksgiving prayers and worship of the deity in heaven.
(Jade Emperor is the ruler of all the deities in heaven and is highly regarded as the figure of authority in the Taoism belief).

The Hokkien clan in the Chinese community places priority on this celebration as they are thankful to the Jade Emperor for his act of kindness in their times of distress.
The story goes that there was an ongoing war between the Hokkien and Teochew clan in the past, and the Hokkiens were on the losing end and they had to run and seek refuge from the pursuing Teochews. With no place to hide, the Hokkiens ended up hiding in a sugarcane plantation.
As we very well know (or have probably seen), a sugarcane plantation is barely any good hiding place with the wide gap between each of the sugarcane plants. However, the miracle is that the Hokkiens managed to hide there for the entire Chinese New Year and finally came out of their hiding place on the 9th day of the Lunar New Year, which coincided with the birthday of the Jade Emperor.
Grateful for their safety, the Hokkiens vowed to thank the Jade Emperor for protecting them from the Teochews and have since observed the 9th day of the Lunar New Year as a day of celebration in remembrance of their gratitude to the deity.
Therefore, it is not a surprise to see a rather extravagant mood lingering in the air towards the 8th day of Lunar New year as the Hokkiens prepare for the celebration.
To the Hokkiens, the 9th day also marks the beginning of the Chinese New Year as they have finally come out of the hiding.
(This is a version of the story told to me by my grandmother and parents)

To commemorate the Jade Emperor's birthday celebration, the Hokkiens go to great lengths to make the preparations for the midnight celebration and that included worship items such as joss sticks, paper gold offerings, dragon joss sticks, and food items such as glutinous/sticky rice cakes, fluffy rice cakes, fruits, poultry, pork, tea, and not forgetting the most important of all; sugarcane.

The feature of this post is one of the type of kueh, or rice cakes commonly seen in the local stalls and often used for the prayers and worship.
The Red Tortoise is a direct translation from its Chinese name; 'Ang Koo Kueh' or also steamed sticky glutinous rice cake.
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Looking at the picture, I am sure it is not hard to comprehend how this cake derived its name from.
The kueh is shaped like a tortoise shell; and is pretty much made of sticky glutinous rice and colored with red.
(Red is always an auspicious color for the Chinese, and even more so during important celebrations such as birthdays and weddings. Yes, this kueh is also found in Chinese weddings)

The kueh contains a mung bean paste inside, and then stuck on a piece of banana leaf.
Of course, despite being popularly/originally known as the Red Tortoise kueh due to its shape, this kueh can also be found in many different shapes and colors.
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There is also another popular version of the kueh which is in green; and is known as, you guess right, the Green Tortoise kueh. However, this is not as common as the red one, but still equally as favored by most kueh lovers.
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Almost everyone around me is a fan of this kueh and will just squeal in delight at the sight of these.
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Anyway, just to be clear, no tortoise was colored or harmed in the production of this kueh everywhere :)

34 comments:

  1. I would love to try this if it is just made with rice flour and no other wheat product.

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  2. This is really beautiful! I particularly like the tortoise shell moulds....beautifully done!

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  3. Balvinder, that I am not too sure, but I don't think there is any other wheat stuffs in its ingredients :)

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  4. Ann, yeah, it is really beautifully done and you can easily find them here ;)

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  5. Hi Christy, thank you for stopping my blog. I really like your informative blog. I must say that living in the States puts a barrier to learn all the traditional Chinese New Year celebrations and festivities. The rice cakes on your blog look so amazing and delicious!

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  6. Yi, awww, thanks for dropping by in return too!:) I try to share stories, from what I hear and what I read and I just couldn't stop writing once I start!:P It's just me, and I am glad you enjoyed it!
    I am sure you have a totally different and unique experience celebrating CNY in the States, and I would love to hear more about it ;)

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  7. Oh no, I like this kuih..

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  8. Hi Christy,
    Thanks for your comment on my blog.
    Ang Ku Kueh is one of my favourite kuehs; I used to buy this in one of the shop selling desserts though I would love to make this one day but I know I won't make it nice....

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  9. Jobless girl, hahaha, sorry if I am stirring up a craving in the middle of the night :p

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  10. mel, you are welcome and thanks for dropping by in return too!:)
    I am sure you are just being modest, you will definitely be able to perfect it;)
    Practice makes perfect :D

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  11. I'm Squealing!!!! And laughing at the same time at the last sentence!! I love these things, green or red or even brown these days with some gula melaka flavorings, oh and blue ... now that one looks pretty weird. I only like the traditional filling of mung bean paste tho, not the new fangled coconut, peanut and whatnots. Technically, it's still CNY, so here's wishing you Gong Xi Fa Cai! :D

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  12. ping, Hahaha, now your turn, what are we doing, laughing at each other's posts..LOL!:P The others must think we are out of our minds..hehe:D
    GONG XI GONG XI to you and your family too;) (there's still another week to go before CNY ends :)

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  13. Oh wow these look so tasty and so ornate!

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  14. LOL .. I like to eat the Ang Koo Kueh.... yummy..
    so far d best that i tasted is @ O&S restaurant PJ.. u got any recomenation?
    Thanks for dropping by my blog..
    I had add you in my blog list...

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  15. These are beautiful - I love the tortoise shell ones - just enchanting.

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  16. This is my favorite..YUMMY

    Aarthi
    http://yummytummy-aarthi.blogspot.com/

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  17. What an interesting dish - I've never tried kueh. I'll have to keep my eye out for it on menus in our travels.

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  18. Very pretty! Miss the Hokkien kueh.

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  19. Wow, those are gorgeous--I've never seen anything like them!

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  20. This really sounds interesting and it is certainly worth a try.I love to do new and different. Not to worry about the applesauce cake. It is all that I said it was. Have a great day. Blessings...Mary

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  21. Joanne, oh yeah, they are!:) Very Oriental-themed, now that you mentioned it :p

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  22. Simple Person, Oooh, I am not sure about the best places for these, nor am I aware that O&S has them!:p
    That's what blogging network is all about, we meet others and learn from each other :D

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  23. Claudia, indeed they are!:D

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  24. Aarthi, I am guessing you know how to make them too?;)

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  25. Christy, you must you must!:) Places to try kueh in Asia are: Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, Indonesia :D

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  26. Angie, you must be a kueh lover yourself!:D

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  27. Cucina49, really? You must check out Malaysian local delights more often then, we have them almost everywhere on the streets!:D

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  28. Mary, yeah it is!:) You will love it after that bite:D
    Thanks for sharing on the applesauce too!;)

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  29. Happy belated Chinese New Year to you.
    The kueh sounds tasty. I've never seen them served on banana leaves (banana leaves are a little hard to find here in California I guess)...but they look really cute.

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  30. Indie.tea, there's still a week to go before CNY ends, so technically it's still CNY!:) (not belated yet;)
    Oooh, I didn't know that banana leaves are scarce in California..here, we have them everywhere, LOL, that's why they appear in a lot of our local delights ;)

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  31. Oh yes, I love these angku too and made some for prayer as well, I still have some leftover that I intend to pan fry for breakfast this weekend:) Gong Xi Fa Cai to you and your family too!:)

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  32. Jeannie, wow, you can make them? Hehe, then I should redirect people to your site for the recipe, eh? Pan fry ang koo kueh, hmmm, sounds interesting too;)
    Gong Xi Gong Xi!:D

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  33. Wow, they're so pretty - I love when food has a "shape"... makes it really fun :)

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  34. My family loves ang koo! Hope you had a great new year!

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