Tuesday, January 17, 2012

'It is not CNY without Mak Nab'

 Wee Lee Bee (left), helping  Zainab Ismail, or Mak Nab, make nian gao.
Wee Lee Bee (left), helping Zainab Ismail, or Mak Nab, make nian gao. Generations of Malay women in Kampung Fikri, Terengganu have been making the dessert every Chinese New Year.

WITH just a few days to go to Chinese New Year, 68-year-old Zainab Ismail is busy making nian gao, the glutinuous rice cake, which is synonymous with new year celebrations, for her Chinese neighbours.

And she is not the only Malay housewife in Kampung Fikri here   busy preparing the sweet delicacy.

When met at the house of retired teacher Wee Beng Hai, 58, here yesterday, Zainab, or Mak Nab as she is affectionately known, said the tradition dated   back to the 1950s.

"The   Chinese businessmen and families wanted to offer halal ning gao to their Muslim friends and customers, so they asked their Malay neighbours to make it for them.

"I inherited the tradition from my mother and I am not the only one as several of the Malay women here also get orders for nian gao.

"My customers usually send the ingredients to my house but I am used to coming to Wee's house since her mother's time to make it here," she said  as she kneaded the  rice flour and sugar.

The dough will then be cut and moulded into cakes and steamed for two hours.

Zainah is paid RM8 for every kilogramme of rice flour she turns into nian gao.

A kilo of flour can produce between five and six cakes.

Wee's youngest daughter Wee Lee Bee, 24, who also helped prepare the mixture, said she remembered seeing Mak Nab making the sweet delicacy since she was a toddler.

"Without her making the rice cake, our new year doesn't feel complete. 

"My mother said Mak Nab has been making nian gao for her since she was young and Mak Nab's mother made them for my grandmother.

"I hope the tradition will continue as it is part of our harmonious  life in this village," said Wee, who works as a pharmacist at   Sultanah Nur Zahirah hospital in Kuala Terengganu. - NST

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