KUALA LUMPUR, April 9 — Nowadays, hand crafted kuih angku is hard to come by. Usually most stalls prefer to sell commercially made kuih since it is less work. It’s different at Cute Cute Angku, a small nondescript outfit in Taman Cheras that sells handmade flower shaped kuih angku in various shades, thanks to the natural ingredients.
About 15 years ago, Cute Cute Angku started out as a home business. Choo Wai Ling, 43, had ventured into this line of work after her family’s furniture factory closed down. Currently she is assisted by her mother, Choai May Ho, 67. The idea for this kuih business started with her sister-in-law who was incredibly deft with her hands. The self-taught lady had picked up her kuih making skills from cookbooks and by attending lessons which she passed down to Choo. Later, Choo’s sister-in-law left the business as she went back to her hometown, Klang to work.
In the beginning, the home business sold their kuih at a stall located at Restoran Tai Kei, Taman Cheras. When storage became an issue at their apartment, they moved to a small half-lot shop next to the Taman Cheras wet market. A few years ago, they relocated to this ground shop lot at the flats when the owner took back their old premises.
Unlike the typical kuih angku that uses a mould to produce tortoise shelled shapes, these ones are pinched and shaped into pretty flowers. “I like the flower shape and it is beautiful and unusual hence we decided to try it,” said Choo. The other variation is a yellow coloured pumpkin shaped kuih angku that is topped with chopped raisins. Another attraction of their kuih angku are the multiple colours that goes beyond just the typical orange hue. We also like the kuih angku’s soft supple skin paired with their not overly sweet fillings.
In the beginning, it was just three colours — green, orange and yellow. The green colour is from pandan leaves while the yellow colour is contributed by pumpkin. Throughout the years, they slowly increased it to seven colours in total, as they experimented with various ingredients. The additional colours were blue, purple, red and white. All their colours except the orange one uses natural ingredients. For instance, the red colour for the kuih angku was an experiment suggested by Choai to use beetroot. The blue ones are tinged with butterfly pea flowers (bunga telang) they get from a friend who cultivates the flowers. The duo also discovered by accident that even the plain white uncoloured kuih has a clean and pure look that is attractive when it is shaped into a flower. Not all of their experiments were successful though as carrots were found to be unsuitable. Even though it gave the right colour, there was an unpleasant smell and the kuih angku made with that ingredient would often turn bad quickly.
The kuih angku have two types of fillings; the typical mung bean version and a grated coconut flavoured with gula Melaka. Previously, they experimented with a red bean filling but it took too much work. Moreover, it was hard to preserve the filling for long. Here, everything is made from scratch and the mung bean filling is painstakingly steamed, mashed and stir-fried that takes up to two hours.
You can also find a small selection of kuih served here. There is the pulut inti or glutinous rice topped with sweet grated coconut. The inti is grated coconut infused with gula Melaka syrup. Here the glutinous rice has a mottled blue look, thanks to the use of bunga telang, making it pretty as a picture. The texture of the steamed grains is perfect; each one is cooked and not too mushy. The trick is soaking the grains for a longer time and getting the steaming time correct. Choai tells us that she has fond memories of buying this treat long ago from an Indian lady who would carry the kuih in baskets slung over a pole that was heaved upon her shoulders. The Indian hawker would get the kuih from a Nyonya lady and it would be a treat for the day for Choai.
Zoom in on the unique tapioca balls rolled with freshly grated coconut, an old school family dessert introduced by Choo’s sister-in-law. Made from steamed tapioca mixed with coconut milk and sugar, these light fluffy balls are absolutely delicious. You also can pick the onde onde that retains its natural orange hue from the sweet potatoes used. Bite into one and you will be surprised with a spurt of gula Melaka syrup. Other items sold here include banana muffins, mini sponge cakes, kuih koci and tapioca sago kuih. Choai also contributes homemade pau that has a choice of two fillings: yambean or mui choy chee yoke.
Choo prefers to keep her menu small and concentrate on perfecting these items instead. For Chinese New Year, they also sell homemade peanut cookies based on a family recipe. During Mid-Autumn festival, they produce pig shaped mooncakes. Choai also makes bak chang for the Duanwu festival for sale. Previously they sold yam cake and fried noodles but as it takes too much work since they make the sauces from scratch, they have stopped serving the items.
The small scale production means things run out quickly. A lot of effort is also required to make the kuih by batches. If you come from noon onwards, you may even catch part of their production in the small kitchen space. With just a worker, the three of them have set up a production line of sorts. With their helper weighing out the filling, Choai will wrap them with the skin while Choo shapes them into flowers and place them on the banana leaves. Once completed, the kuih angku will be frozen and steamed in small batches for customers. Orders can also be placed ahead for bigger orders with no minimum required amount.
The business is a tedious one. When she has spare time, you will find Choo wiping down and cutting the banana leaves to fit the kuih. She is also incredibly particular about the type of banana leaves used as she prefers the hardier ones from trees that bear the edible bananas. As the kuih angku skin uses natural ingredients like sweet potato, pumpkin and etc., she also prepares these items ahead.
The kuih angku is RM1.10 per piece. For the tapioca balls and onde onde, it is RM1 for three pieces. The pulut inti is RM1 and kuih koci is RM1.10.
Cute Cute Angku
No. 101, Block P/F
Open: 7.30am to 4.30pm (Tuesday to Saturday) 7.30am to 12pm (Sunday). Closed on Monday