'Tortoise buns' running for generations

GEORGE TOWN, Penang - The art of making mee koo (pink tortoise-shaped buns) at Chuan Peng Heang Sdn Bhd has been passed down from one generation to another since 1945.

Brothers Lee Kean Ewe, 44, and Lee Chu Seng, 43, the third generation in the family, are now running the 70-year-old business in Jelutong.

"Our grandfather picked up the skills in the 1920s when mee koo was much sought after by family members and the community," said Kean Ewe.

"Back then, both the young and old in our family would help to make the mee koo," he recalled.

"When the shop was opened, we helped our father with the moulding and watched the fire during the steaming process," Kean Ewe said at their shop yesterday.

He said the making of mee koo was easier now with the use of a steamer.

"We can monitor the temperature and the length of time accurately.

"One of the selling points of our mee koo is its texture.

"The process of mixing the sugar, flour, yeast, oil and water before going through the rollers and cutters can be quite tedious," he added.

"The buns are then moulded into shape and steamed.

"On special occasions, such as the Nine Emperor Gods Festival, customers will order yellow mee koo, which is believed to bring ong (luck) to the devotees.

"A popular variety is also the pat poh koo (shaped in a big tortoise with eight smaller tortoises laid on its shell) believed to symbolise fertility and happiness," said Kean Ewe.

Chu Seng said the skills to make the buns would be handed over to the next generation to keep the tradition alive.

"We should preserve the art as it's an essential item in most Chinese festivals."

The mee koo at Chuan Peng Heang are priced at RM1.30 (S$0.51, small) while the pat poh koo is sold for RM70 each.

To order, call 04-2813522.