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Getting to know ‘bakpia,’ a Chinese-influenced cake

Stefanus Ajie
Stefanus Ajie

The Jakarta Post

Surakarta, Central Java | Sun, December 24, 2017 | 11:08 am
  • Yogyakarta-style bakpia has thicker and chewier dough. Meanwhile, Surakarta-style bakpia has a flaky texture and is chock-full of filling.

    Yogyakarta-style bakpia has thicker and chewier dough. Meanwhile, Surakarta-style bakpia has a flaky texture and is chock-full of filling. OF JP/Stefanus Ajie

    Yogyakarta-style bakpia has thicker and chewier dough. Meanwhile, Surakarta-style bakpia has a flaky texture and is chock-full of filling.

  • The first thing you will notice is that Yogyakarta-style bakpia appears to be smaller than Surakarta's

    The first thing you will notice is that Yogyakarta-style bakpia appears to be smaller than Surakarta's OF JP/Stefanus Ajie

    The first thing you will notice is that Yogyakarta-style bakpia appears to be smaller than Surakarta's

  • Surakarta-style bakpia. In Surakarta, 'bakpia' is a breakfast staple for buyers and sellers in Pasar Gede.

    Surakarta-style bakpia. In Surakarta, 'bakpia' is a breakfast staple for buyers and sellers in Pasar Gede. OF JP/Stefanus Ajie

    Surakarta-style bakpia. In Surakarta, 'bakpia' is a breakfast staple for buyers and sellers in Pasar Gede.

  • 'Bakpia' is among the icons of Yogyakarta.

    'Bakpia' is among the icons of Yogyakarta. OF JP/Stefanus Ajie

    'Bakpia' is among the icons of Yogyakarta.

OF

Visitors to Yogyakarta may have heard of bakpia, the full moon-shaped pastry with mung bean paste filling.

Although the sweet treat is among the icons of Yogyakarta, bakpia actually has Chinese influences.

First introduced around the beginning of the 20th century, the name is derived from a Hokkien word, which literally means cake with pork filling. In the past, it was not as popular as moon cake or the Chinese New Year staple nian gao (sticky rice cakes).

Bakpia’s popularity increased in 1940s, as producers such as Kwik Sun Kwok, changed bakpia's filling from pork to mung bean paste, allowing the Muslim community to also savor the cake.

Read also: Getting to know 'bir pletok,' Betawi's staple drink

Fast forward to the 1980s, Yogyakarta, particularly the Pathuk and Ngampilan areas, had become a bakpia center, with many houses selling the cake. To differentiate their bakpia from their neighbors', bakpia makers used their house numbers as their brand names.

In addition to Yogyakarta, Surakarta in Central Java is also known for its bakpia.

In Balong, the city’s Chinatown, bakpia is a breakfast staple for sellers and buyers at Pasar Gede. The cake is also commonly found at Chinese altars or given as a festive gift during traditional Chinese festivals. 

After learning a brief history about Yogyakarta and Surakarta style bakpia, here comes the next question: How do we tell them apart?

The first thing you will notice is that Yogyakarta-style bakpia appears to be smaller than Surakarta's. Once food enthusiasts take a closer look, they will also discover that Yogyakarta-style bakpia has thicker and chewier dough. Meanwhile, Surakarta-style bakpia has a flaky texture and is chock-full of filling. (jes/kes)

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