MALACCA - Homemaker Lim Gek Tee's steamed cakes are very much sought after as the Jade Emperor or Thnee Kong's birthday draws close.
Lim is 71 and still going strong in her kitchen, making trays of fragrant fa gao (huat kuih or prosperity cake), ang koo (red tortoise cake filled with bean paste) and egg cake throughout the day.
Lim, who has been making and selling a variety of steamed cakes for over 40 years, said the Chinese New Year festive season was the busiest time of the year for her.
"Orders for nian gao (glutinous rice cake) and other cakes usually start coming in a month before the celebration until the 15th day of the (Lunar) New Year," she said at her home in Paya Mengkuang, Alor Gajah, here.
"Demand for fa gao is highest during the period before the celebration of Thnee Kong Seh."
Her children help her when orders surge.
"I hand-knead the dough so the cakes will rise nicely while they cook. But age is catching up, so I only make the steamed cakes based on orders now.
"Customers come and pick up the cakes on their own," she said as she kneaded a big lump of dough before slamming it several times on the table.
The fragrance of freshly steamed fa gao filled the air when Lim raised the aluminium cover from one of her two custom-made concrete stoves.
She said she makes two types of fa gao - one from pure rice flour and another from flavoured flour.
"Some customers request for sweet potato in the dough," she said, adding that her pure flour fa gao was the hottest item because it lasts longer and is better favoured by customers who offer it on the prayer altar.
The small fa gao is priced at RM3 (S$1.14) but the extra large ones can fetch up to RM50 each.
Lim said her customers, mostly regulars, often order cakes for important occasions on the lunar calendar and also for prayers, wedding ceremonies and celebrations.