Reinventing kuih kapit (love letters)
"Creativity is intelligence having fun." – Albert Einstein.
The "love letter", more commonly known as kuih kapit (a paper-thin crispy, fan-shaped biscuit), is an essential feature during Chinese New Year. However, when a classic item like kuih kapit becomes deeply entrenched in tradition, introducing a daring innovation to reinvent it can evoke mixed reactions – either embraced with enthusiasm for its novelty or met with scepticism and disapproval.
This year, I stumbled upon a unique version of kuih kapit – filled with creams such as Nutella, peanut butter and even durian. Although each bite of the crispy kuih kapit is interesting and complex, I find the taste a tad too sweet for my palate (I have significantly reduced my sugar consumption). The richness is notable and a mere piece or two would prove to be satisfyingly substantial. In stark contrast, I find myself effortlessly gobbling up 20 pieces of the traditional version in a flash. Nevertheless the satisfaction remains elusive.
I am uncertain if these versions were machine-made or crafted by hand. It is only logical that these biscuits are slightly thicker than conventional ones to accommodate the filling. Some are also embellished with chocolate chips. Recently I shared some with friends at a party and the general consensus was positive. They enjoyed the durian version and were willing to buy some for relatives and friends this Chinese New Year season. The question, however, lingers: will these modern twists take flight and soar in popularity, gracing our festivities not only this year but also in the years to come?
Another kuih kapit version available is the rolled-up, cylindrical-shaped option. This features a variety of flavours: plain, matcha, chocolate, or a mixture of two – pandan and plain, or chocolate and plain. The colours of the cookies appeared rather uniformly consistent, suggesting a likely machine-made production.
The shop selling these cookies is nestled in Ayer Itam, just opposite the police station and a stone's throw away from the lively wet market. It must be a haven for cookie lovers. It is intriguing to explore the shop with shelves stocked with various Chinese New Year cookies. I have also came across these variations of kuih kapik selling at the Perak Road morning market. According to the vendor, this cream-filled version made its debut last year.
I doubt that these new varieties will replace the classic kuih kapit. I am however glad that customers now had the option to choose between the timeless kuih kapit they grew up with and the exciting new additions that pushed the boundaries of creativity.
Written and photographed by Adrian Cheah
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4 January 2024