Moh Teng Pheow is *the* place to go for very well-made Nyonya "kuehs", that colourful selection of traditional steamed and baked Straits-Chinese desserts, with Portuguese, Thai, Chinese and Indonesian origins.
Moh Teng Pheow has been around for more than 80 years. Its reputation reached a zenith in the 1960s-70s when "Tua Bak", the nickname given to the grandfather of the current owners, held sway over the Nyonya dessert market in Penang. Operating from New Lane, off MacAlister Road, at the time, "Tua Bak" provided his selection of delicate, immaculately-made Nyonya kuehs to wedding and birthday parties, besides selling those kuehs to discerning Penang Baba-Nyonyas and Chinese clientele.
Recently, Moh Teng Pheow has thrown open its cavernous kitchens to curious visitors who'd like to see the labourious processes involved in preparing the various types of Nyonyas kuehs: from the multi-layered "Kueh Lapis", with its alternate pink-and-white layers; to the tapioca-flavoured "Kueh Bengka Ubikayu", which is 99% similar to "pone" found in Trinidad & Tobago.
You can also find "Kueh Talam", its lower half a delicious, sweet pandan-flavoured pudding, whilst its upper half is a saltish, rich coconut crème custard. Taken together, juxtaposing the sweet versus the salty flavours, you know why salty-caramel works beautifully.
Then, you have the "Kueh Lapis Beras Ungu", its striking violet shade came from the use of "bunga telang", a purple bloom often used in Nyonya cooking.
The "bunga telang" is also used to colour the blocks of "Pulot Tay Tay" glutinous rice blue. These are served topped with Nyonya "kaya" egg custard. And Moh Teng Pheow's "kaya" is the best I'd tasted anywhere in Malaysia or Singapore.
These are the best-tasting Nyonya Kuehs I'd found in Penang - very traditional flavours such as those we used to have in Singapore back in the 1970s, but not anymore now.
The smallish entrance belies the fact that it leads to a huge kitchen, and with a cafeteria attached.
The cafeteria serves a variety of hot and cold beverages, freshly-made Nyonya kuehs, plus a selection of Nyonya savoury dishes like Penang assam laksa, kueh pie tie and chicken curries with rice.
Moh Teng Pheow Nyonya Kueh
53, Muntri Street (off Chulia Street)
Tel: +6012-415 2677