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Behind the scenes view on curry puff making at Moh Teng Phiow, Penang

Malaysians love tea time, and a perennial snack that has become a staple for Malaysians are curry puffs. Zac Teo explores on how these curry puffs, better known as karipap to locals, are made

IMG_4034Curry puffs at Moh Teng Pheow. Photograph: ES Teo/

It's really an eye opener sometimes learning about how common staples in Malaysian cuisine is made, and I was privileged to be able to document the end-to-end process of making curry puffs. Making my way to a legendary Nyonya Kuih stall in the heart of Georgetown, I was greeted by the owner with a friendly smile on his face upon arriving.

Moh Teng Pheow is famous for making authentic and fresh Nyonya kuih for many decades now. For those who may not know, kuih is actually a Malay word for snacks (loosely translated), and it has been ingrained in the vocabulary of Malaysians. Drilling into the specifics, Nyonya kuih would be the range of kuih originating from the Nyonya culture, for example kuih lapis, glutinous rice with kaya, curry puffs and huat kuih.

Stepping inside the kitchen of Moh Teng Pheow, I got a sort of blast-from-the-past experience as everything you see around seems so manual, so real. Workers sitting around using traditional equipment and make these delicacies one by one, sights that I would believe are a sunset trade. More bakeries and biscuit makers and relying on new machinery day by day, and although that would be a more efficient way of making it, the sights of the hand-made process is just priceless.

Moh Teng Pheow emphasizes on taking no short cuts and cutting corners to create its famous line of kuih, and this could mean back-breaking work for the 20 odd plus workers in the kitchen. Only the freshest of ingredients are used daily, and I found myself feeling like I've visited an art gallery when watching these artist in motion - luckily I've managed to document a step by step process on how they make their famed curry puffs.

1. Preparing the potatoes

The process starts with the fillings which is potatoes. Fresh potatoes are boiled, peeled and filtered to ensure only to good ones are used. It is then pushed through a slicer to cut it out into cubes, and subsequently cooked.

Mr Moh supervising on the preparation of potatoes. Photograph: ES Teo/

IMG_3996Potatoes have been sliced, diced and cooked in curry. Photograph: ES Teo/

2. Pastry Preparation

Meanwhile, in another part of the kitchen the pastry is being prepared. It involves the pastry dough being prepared from a machine and then sized up. Subsequently, the pastry is flattened manually with a roller pin to ensure that there in a ring pattern at the center of the puff.

IMG_3814Pastry dough preparation for curry puffs. Photograph: ES Teo/

IMG_3819Dough will require manual rolling with rolling pin. Photograph: ES Teo/

3. Filling the pastry

Combining the pastry and fillings, a group of people sat around the large pile of cooked potatoes and spooned it into the pastry. Quick motions indeed, their movement was really deft.

IMG_3928Filling process is quick and deft in one fast motion. Photograph: ES Teo/

4. Wrapping it up and into the frying pan

A quick and precise twist at the base is all it needs! Quick motions after the filling would be the wrapping to shape the curry puff to the patterns we are familiar with. After this step, the curry puff takes shape and it is ready to be fried.

IMG_4086Curry puffs are molded to shape upon filling. Photograph: ES Teo/
IMG_3935Curry puff ready for the frying process. Photograph: ES Teo/

Moh Teng Pheow kueh shop is open daily except for Mondays, from 10:30am to 5:00pm. They create an array of local kuehs which is certainly very authentic and delicious, in accordance to a quick survey with the masses. Located at 53, Muntri Street, 10200 Penang and contactable at +6012 415 2677
Zac Teo

Zac Teo

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