Love Letter Crepes and Chinese New Year Memories, recollections of all kinds of Malaysian Chinese…
Crispy Kuih Kapit (Love Letter Crepes) are a Lunar New Year, Nyonya specialty in Malaysia. They are molded in molds/irons over braziers.
When I was a kid, Kuih Kapit (Love Letter Crepes) was a must-have for the Lunar New Year. It was everyone’s favorite holiday treat. Making Kuih Kapit was an all-day event, almost like a celebration in itself. The front porch was cleared out to make room for the charcoal brazier on the cement floor. There would be two folding stations, one on each end of the brazier. These were put together from large carton boxes and some kind of wooden platform. Everyone sat on the floor. This setup usually remains for 2 to 3 days.
Way before that, big Milo tins were gathered and saved for the occasion. Each Milo tin can store up to 100 pieces of Kuih Kapit. Dad’s side of the family is big and each aunt and uncle gets to take home one or two filled Milo tins.
Making Kuih Kapit – A Family Affair
My Grandma, Grand Aunt, and aunts will gather to make this Nyonya specialty. Everyone took turns to handle the hot irons. The kids, myself included, were tasked with folding the crepes. The crepes are flattened on the fanned out portion with a tin lid but not the apex for maximum crunch and crispiness. If you flattened it all the way, it will be very flat and without much crunch. We never rolled them like some families do.
It was always Grandma or Grand Aunt who made the batter. There was no written recipe as they seem to have those recipes committed to memory. When asked, they will recite it like a number of eggs, a kati of sugar, a kati of flour, a number of coconuts, etc. Only recently have I finally come to the realization that there is a “formula” to those ingredients. I guess that is why they never needed to write them down.
Like I mentioned above, I was tasked with folding the Love Letters. One year in my early teens, I graduated from that to holding the hot irons. The same way, I graduated from wrapping chang (glutinous rice dumplings) with just plain glutinous rice without filling to wrapping them with filling. I was excited to handle the irons but it was difficult at first because they burnt! The key is to persevere and if you persist, your fingers will get accustomed to the heat. Grandma and Grand Aunt did not even use a butter knife to release the crepe from the irons. They gingerly lifted it with their bare, “hardened” finger tips and threw it across the charcoal brazier to the folding stations. When you are folding, you better be a good catch!
Those were good memories I had making kuih with the extended family. Often times, we were not the only family making Kuih Kapit at the front porch. Neighbors down the street did the same. There were lots of chatter, laughter, and fragrant aroma in the air, a good start to the Lunar New Year celebrations. Unfortunately, somewhere along the way we opted for the more convenient way out by buying these treats from enterprising, seasonal home bakers. You can also read about Paul’s recollections here –> Love Letter Crepes and Chinese New Year Memories and why these crispy treats are a.k.a. Love Letters.
Kuih Kapit Molds/Irons
Now, back to the present day. These precious molds/irons were sent by my eldest brother all the way from Kuala Lumpur via air mail. He said it will take 3 weeks to get to me. I did not think I will receive them in time for the Year of the Rabbit but I did. They arrive in great condition in just 9 days!
Unfortunately, there is currently an egg shortage because of the Avian flu. I had been waiting to buy eggs for weeks but the day the molds arrived, I managed to get two carton of organic eggs. They were expensive but I was thankful to find them this time.
A Break in Winter Weather
Also, there will be a break in the cold weather with a 57⁰F/14⁰C day in mid January in Wyoming…woohoo! It is still very cold by Malaysian standards but I’ll take it. I was super excited to get started and so I did a quick seasoning of the molds/irons on my stove the very next day. With this, I was ready to handle the hot irons again after decades!
Similar Tools Used in Making These Kuih Kapit (Love Letter Crepes)
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Kuih Kapit (Love Letter Crepes)
- 4 Kuih Kapit molds/irons
- Place your grill on a comfortable work surface. Prepare a shallow bowl, a butter knife, and a ladle near the grill.
- Tie a piece of kitchen towel with kitchen twine over a pair of chopsticks. Place vegetable oil in a small deep mug or container.
- Also, prepare a folding station with a tin lid or coaster and a large glass jar or tin to store the folded Kuih Kapit.
- Prepare 4 Kuih Kapit molds/irons and turn on your gas grill or fire up your charcoal brazier. Place molds/irons on the grill to allow them to heat up.
- Combine eggs and sugar in a bowl. Beat with a hand held mixer at low speed until sugar dissolves, about 1 to 2 minutes.
- Add coconut milk and beat for 30 seconds. Add rice flour and all-purpose flour and beat until batter is smooth.
- Strain batter into a deep bowl.
- Make sure all molds/irons are properly heated. Remove a heated mold/iron from the grill and open it. Dip the prepared kitchen towel into the mug/container with vegetable oil and brush it on both inner surfaces of the iron/mold**.
- Ladle the batter over the lower surface of the mold/iron. Allow the excess batter to drip back into the bowl. You should hear a sizzle if the mold/irons are sufficiently heated.
- Close the mold/iron and put the latch at the end of the handle into position. Place the mold/iron on the grill. Repeat with the other 3 molds/irons.
- After 1 to 2 minutes (in warm climate) or 2 to 3 minutes (in cold climate), flip the molds/irons and continue grilling for another 1 minute (in warm climate) or 2 minutes (in cold climate). All times are approximate as it depends on your grill and ambient temperature.
- Remove one of the molds/irons from the grill. Using the back of the butter knife, scrape off excess batter around the mold/iron. Unlatch the mold/iron to check the crepe. If the crepe appears uncooked, close the mold/iron and place it back on the grill for 1 to 2 minutes. Keep an eye on it so that the crepe does not burn.
- If the crepe is cooked and has a nice even golden brown color, carefully remove the crepe from the mold/iron by inserting the butter knife between the crepe and mold/iron to release the crepe at the folding station.
- Fold the crepe into a half circle and then fold again in half into a triangle very quickly or it will harden.
- Use a tin lid or coaster to press on the lower half section of the folded Kuih Kapit until it sets.
- Store folded Kuih Kapit in the prepared air tight glass jar or tin when cooled.
- Repeat until all batter is used up.
Storage and Shelf Life
Make sure to screw the lid onto the glass jar properly or seal the tins with tape so that they are really air tight as these crispy crepes can turn soft very easily and quickly especially in the tropics. If properly stored, you can easily keep them up to two months. Since the Lunar New Year often falls in January or February, the coldest months of the year here in Wyoming, I will probably make Kuih Kapit in late fall before it gets crazy cold. It will be much easier and faster to heat the molds/irons when the ambient temperature is warmer.
Lunar New Year Treat
This is like a blast from the past – Kuih Kapit, kuachi (red melon seeds), and soda. We seldom had soda or soft drinks (as we called it in Malaysia) when we were kids except during the Lunar New Year. My parents would buy crates of Fanta Grape, Sunkist, and Sarsi together with kuachi (red melon seeds) and Mandarin oranges for the celebration. We can’t get Sarsi here and so root beer is a good substitute. Back in the old days, the soda came in bottles and crates. Today, you’ll be hard press to find bottled soda. Canned ones will have to do-lah! 😀