Okay Kuih Recontextualises Nyonya Kuih For The Instagram Generation
At the risk of infuriating traditionalists, we didn’t think it possible to improve on Ang Ku Kuih until now. If like us, you find the glutinous rice dessert a bit stodgy at times, you'll be grateful to find a better version in Okay Kuih's modern menu. Miniature squirt sauce bottles lend some moisture to the kuih's starchy filling while hints of kaffir lime, lemon and Gula Melaka make the chewy treat doubly delightful.
But there's more. While savoury santan and truffle oil seem like strange bedfellows, the pair makes for obscenely delicious Kuih Talam. Furthermore, who knew that Pulut Panggang could reach new heights when dipped in Yuzu Shoyu Mayo?
After successfully turning us on to contemporary kuih, Angeline Lo, Joey Lee and Chan Wai May of Okay Kuih indulged us with an interview:
Prior to setting up Okay Kuih, did you put out feelers to see if the community would take to contemporary kuih?
Lo: We didn’t, actually. The idea came out of the blue and we decided to jump straight into action! I shared my thoughts with Joey and she said, "Okay, let’s do it."
After recruiting pastry chef Wai May to join us as an operational partner, we begin to feel quite confident about our assorted kuih.
We think the vast majority of Malaysians ascribe kuih to their childhood memories, and most everyone has an appetite for it.
While it’s hard to choose, what was your all-time favourite kuih as child?
Lo: Pulut Tai Tai
Lee: Seri Muka
Chan: Bingka Ubi
Which of Okay Kuih’s creations are you partial towards now?
Lo: Truffle Talam and Ubi Brûlée
Lee: Nut Nana
Chan: Pistacia & Co
Although Angeline and Wai May were enrolled at a pastry academy in 2016, something tells me that kuih wasn’t on the syllabus. Where did you hone your kuih repertoire then?
Lo: Yes, kuih wasn’t on pastry syllabus, but we have incorporated pastry techniques and pinched parts of pastry recipes, especially where flavours and sauces are concerned. Take, for example, our Nutella ganache, pistachio paste, sweet potato pastry cream, and the Ku Siblings sauces. All food handling and production is handled by Wai May.
Chan: We combine the traditional elements of kuih with the most innovative parts of contemporary pastry culture. For example, black truffle's earthy and pungent aroma can help enhance the flavour of Kuih Talam. Also, our Peelin' Pink and Pistacia & Co kuih see cream-based stuffings and toppers. We are taking a different approach towards the art of serving and eating kuih.
Okay Kuih’s Instagram account is #goals, which make sense, given that Angeline and Joey founded the Tinker Society, a social media agency. Tell us about fabricating your almost maddeningly perfect visuals.
Lo: Formulating social media content is a day-to-day task for many brands. Our focus is to tell a brand's story through visually appealing content, both visual and copy. We always try different things and are open to fresh ideas.
Lee: As we are a social media agency, we are normally restricted by a brand’s 'voice'. However, Angeline gave me free rein to 'do whatever you want' just before I began on a brand direction for Okay Kuih. It's been very fun, having no limitations while working on our own brand. I decided to abide by the keyword 'Modern Vintage', as our emphasis is on traditional yet modern flavours. Besides this, I constantly remind myself and our creative team to keep the following questions in mind: "What’s Instagramable? How do we stand out from the others?" Bright colours and patterns inspired by traditional tiling and grandma's kitchenware inform Okay Kuih's visuals.
Okay Kuih has cleverly positioned itself to work with KOLs such as @baydoucet. How important is celebrity partnerships to building brand popularity?
Lo: Bay was the first personality whom we wanted to collaborate with, as she has a very strong sense of style that is also uniquely Malaysian. Our plan is to feature one to two Malaysians per month, although it can be anyone and not necessarily someone famous.
We have plans to collaborate with a few KOLs to produce limited edition journals, which their followers will receive as free gifts with every purchase of Okay Kuih's products. Stay tuned for our next story with @chanwon92!
Partnerships are a must in today’s online strategies, as they accelerate awareness to reach online audiences. Without it, brands may have a hard time seeing performance growth. However, SMEs can always work with personalities with smaller followings, so long as they're authentic, instead of chasing celebrities.
Okay Kuih’s menu doesn’t just excite admiration but has also earned our confidence after a taste test. Describe a scene in your early stages of recipe testing.
Lo: Wai May is our main recipe producer while I act as advisor and consultant. Joey and the Tinker Society team are involved during the taste tests and provide feedback until a recipe is finalised. Our culinary process can best be described as chill.
On the contrary, our creative team has more on their shoulders with regards to branding, packaging, sourcing materials and creating content within fixed timelines.
Since launching Okay Kuih, we now have a clearer direction. We may convert the brand to just "Okay" so as not to limit ourselves. Some other plans in the pipeline include:
- Developing an exclusive Chinese New Year gift box with AirAsia
- Launching our website to sell more creative merchandise
- Introducing new flavours every few months
- Inventing new food products that are not kuih.
- PhotographyOkay Kuih