Where food meets culture

By Alvin Katek

 

Tradition. Its roots run deep even when it comes to food. Food is an important part of any culture; it plays a big part in defining a culture and its people. Renowned French author on gastronomy Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin once said, “Tell me what you eat, and I will tell you what you are.”

Chin Hian Chia is a place that is not short of tradition when it comes to food. Located in the bustling area of Padungan among old shop houses, one can’t help but feel a hint of nostalgia when going there. A place known by locals for its variety of traditional Chinese confectioneries, it has served generations of customers since it opened its doors in 1941.

 

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From the moment you walk in, your eyes are feted with a host of traditional Chinese cakes, cookies and other confectioneries. It is like a trip down memory lane, with the smell of freshly baked traditional goods and the promise of good delicious food.

Shelves to your right and to your left are stocked with old favourites like Guek Pia, Phonpia, Lao Ma Kao, Peanut Brittle, Sesame Seed Bread, Roti Tombong, Bahulu, and other old favourites available all year round. They offer goods for all occasions like white peanut brittle that were traditionally given with engagement invitations, and traditional cakes for celebrating birthdays that have well wishes handpainted on them and so much more.

 

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When it is near the 8th month of the Chinese lunar calendar, Chin Hian Chia will also will also have mooncakes, supplying Kuchingites with something indispensable for the celebration of the Mid-Autumn festival and they have been doing this for more than 70 years.

A family business, they still prepare their goods in the traditional way; keeping their old recipes while coming up with newer and more contemporary recipes and flavours. More traditional flavours, like red bean, lotus, and assorted nuts sit alongside contemporary flavours like pandan, coffee, tiramisu, green tea and caramel. Their mooncakes also come with the more common flaky and chewy crust and also the less common snow skin mooncake that comes in a soft gelatinous rice crust. One will definitely be spoilt for choice when looking for mooncakes for their Mid-Autumn celebrations.

 

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It is definitely an interesting experience seeing a lot of these traditional Chinese confectionaries in one place, in an increasingly more modern age a lot of things that are considered old and traditional are constantly being pushed to the wayside.

A lot of the younger generation probably have not had the simple joys of eating Hang Choi Pa or chewing into crunchy yet sweet peanut brittle, preferring westernized food. Those who grew up with these foods remember not only the memories associated with them but also what it represents as a part of their heritage and culture.

Food makes up an important part of our cultural celebrations. Both are, in more ways than one, inseparable. One would be able to associate food with a celebration and a celebration with a culture as easily as one would associate a certain culture with their food. Food can represent an identity.

Places like Chin Hian Chia exist, not just as a place to stock up on traditional delicacies or a place to get a ‘taste’ of nostalgia but in no small way, it plays its role in preserving a part of Chinese culture, heritage and tradition.

For more information about Chin Hian Chia please visit their website at http://www.pagejoint.com/chinhianchia or their Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/chinhianchia

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