Savoury delight: 3rd-generation chai kueh artisan innovates with 9 vegetable varieties

Savoury traditional triangle-shaped chai kueh is available at Lee's kitchen in Siburan town.

KUCHING, Jan 4: Lee Sai Hong, a 60-year-old third-generation chai kueh maker, is drawing crowds from all corners of Sarawak with her delectable traditional steamed vegetable dumplings.

As the proprietor of a Siburan grocery store Everfresh Mini Market, Lee’s chai kueh has gained popularity and positive reviews, prompting her to expand the offerings to include nine or more vegetable varieties.

In addition to the traditional sweet turnip filling, Lai’s innovative approach introduces ingredients like pickled radish, sweet or gooseberry leaf, chives, wild fern, bamboo shoots, papaya, bean curds, and long beans.

Lee standing (centre) with her daughter-in-law Fu to her left, and her staff in a group photo, holding up a variety of chai kueh flavours.

“I learned from my grandmother how to make this healthy traditional steamed vegetable dumplings when I was young.

“So, the recipes and methods I used are all inherited from her. Since I have a license, I decided to do it on a bigger scale to commercialise the chai kueh. With that, I hope to continue her legacy, and now my daughter-in-law is helping me, and I had passed the skills and trade to her,” she shared with DayakDaily.

Over the past decade, Lee, along with her 38-year-old daughter-in-law, Sandy Fu, has been producing about 1,000 chai kueh daily, primarily featuring the sweet turnip flavour.

Fu, considering herself a fourth-generation chai kueh maker, highlighted that their dumplings, priced at RM1 per piece for a packet of five, are crafted with freshly cooked ingredients, devoid of preservatives, and the dumpling skin is made from fresh rice flour supplied daily.

A delectable array of chai kueh with fillings include stir-fried mengkuang (turnip), salted vegetables with yellow bean curd, cangkuk manis, wild fern, bamboo shoots, papaya, bean curds, long beans, and more.

“We use more or less 60 to 80 kilogrammes of rice flour from Monday to Saturday. Everything is freshly cooked ingredients, no preservatives, with just salt and pepper to taste,” Fu explained.

The chai kueh’s popularity is attributed to its suitability to the local palate and being perceived as a healthy snack, especially among the Teo Chiew and Hakka communities.

Fu emphasised that the savoury taste comes from ingredients like shallot, shrimp, or mushrooms.

Lee’s kitchen is located in her grocery store, Everfresh Mini Market Siburan, which sells traditional triangle-shaped chai kueh varieties.

With the distinctive traditional triangle shape of their chai kueh attracting visitors from Sibu, Miri, Kuching, Kuala Lumpur, and even Singapore and South Korea, Fu expressed their desire for the traditional chai kueh to remain a local favourite.

She added, “There are so many types of healthy vegetables that we could use as fillings as long as they are healthy.”

This shop is a must-visit for those seeking delicious Hakka chai kueh. It is located at 17th Mile, right after the Petronas station. For inquiries, call 016-8569207. — DayakDaily