by Nyonya Food on October 7, 2009 · 33 comments

in Culture, Nyonyaware

Masak-Masak Utensils
Masak-Masak Utensils pictures (5 of 7)
Click the image to see next picture

When I was growing up, there was no computer, Nitendo DS, Wii, or Playstation.  There wasn”t even color TV in my house. My childhood was all about playing good old traditional games that were tons of fun: ah chi lok (hide-and-seek), kah li toay (outdoor running game), chit liap buah/batu (a game about tossing and catching seven stones/small parcels filled with rice), skipping (with rubber band rope), and masak-masak.

I was the mischievous, naughty, loud, and devilish child who was always active and out-and-about playing all sorts of traditional childhood games in my neighborhood. My mother would chase me through the back alley of our house with her whipping cane while I was running breathless and frolicking in front of her. The enjoyment was more than Wii, DS, Playstation, and whatever toys combined. Fun was merely an understatement…

When I was all alone with no mates, I would play masak-masak—a child”s play of cooking using miniature pots, pans, kettle, knives, including a stove for cooking. Through masak-masak, I would imitate the cooking methods of my grandmother, mother, and aunt. Every afternoon, mother would always take a nap, and that was my prime time of playing masak-masak because 1) I would not be caught doing nasty things, for example: burning up the area where I played the game, 2) I could “steal” ingredients—oil, vegetables, meat, matches, etc.— from the kitchen for my cooking. Reminiscing those wild childhood days brings a bright smile to my face.

I had a complete set up: two bricks in between a couple of candles, a wok on top of the bricks and a wooden stick for stirring and cooking. We had a lot of fresh casino online herbs and grass in the garden, and they served as my ingredients. I would always make a plate of stir-fried grass, or soup with grass, and sometimes with meat stolen from the kitchen. It was mad fun.

These masak-masak utensils were shot in Raymond Kwok”s house in Penang. Raymond is a friend of my eldest sister and a Nyonya/Peranakan historian. Raymond has the most valuable and comprehensive collections of Nyonya antiques and artifacts I have ever come across. He is also the author of a few Nyonya/Peranakan books, including “Malay Echoes from the Past: Penang Hokkien Baba Language.” Reading through his book brings back floods of bygone and fading memories about my Nyonya childhood…happy, sad, but mostly nostalgic. If you are in Penang and wish to see his collections, contact me and I could arrange it for you.

Click on the gallery above to view all pictures. Through the images, I hope I could share my childhood joy with you.


david October 7, 2009 at 6:44 pm

This is why you became such a good cook!!!

Nyonya Food October 15, 2009 at 8:31 pm

LOL, you are so funny.

Bromography October 7, 2009 at 6:46 pm

The utensils are lovely. I played a similar game on the other side of the world in the Caribbean. Thank you for sharing.

Nyonya Food October 15, 2009 at 8:31 pm

That’s for sharing the information that the Caribbean has a similar game. :)

Eleanor Hoh (Wokstar) October 7, 2009 at 9:09 pm

Yes, yes, I had a miniature cooking set too, it was aluminium. My dad used to help me clean them to make them sparkle. My sister and I used to spend hours making “whisky” from tea, the EXACT same shade, we matched it to the whisky bottle. Also used mud to make “sauce”. You’re so right, so much more imaginative and resourceful plus made us go outdoors to have fresh air and interact with others. Another game was a feather on top of a flat round base which you tap with the sole of your foot to keep it up in the air. Also Jax, little metal objects, cannot remember how to play that. IChing, pick up sticks with colored tips. Dressing up paper dolls, friends and I could spend HOURS with them. Gosh, amazing how much I remember now you mention it. I now have a lovely wood miniature set, I’ll take photos. Thanks for bringing back these wonderful childhood memories.

Nyonya Food October 15, 2009 at 8:30 pm

Eleanor – thanks for sharing your “toys” with me. :)

Dominique (de vous à moi...) October 8, 2009 at 1:21 am

This is so lovely! I had a mini cooking set too: it was white (plastic) with roses. I was cooking for my dolls and teddy bear! inviting my mother for “cup of tea”… Thank you for sharing!

Nyonya Food October 15, 2009 at 8:30 pm

Dom – that’s great, everyone had a cooking set. We all had fun!

Young Werther October 8, 2009 at 3:18 pm

No masak x 2 for the guys! We were either pretending to be Ultraman or playing picture cards… cup a card in your palm and ‘clap’ it against your opponents. The one that lands picture side up wins !!

Nyonya Food October 15, 2009 at 8:25 pm

For guys, they always pay those plastic links with the shape of S. I remember that.

Stephanie Mente October 9, 2009 at 12:26 am

Hi Bee,

You may be interested to take a look at some of my sister’s paintings which have a “nyonya theme”. Just google her name, Sylvia Lee Goh, and go into her website then click on the various galleries to view.

Best Regards,

Nyonya Food October 15, 2009 at 8:25 pm

Stephanie – thanks for telling me. I checked them out, they are awesome. :)

Chris October 9, 2009 at 9:43 am

Thank you so much for this website! I have been missing all the wonderful food from Southeast Asia, having come from Singapore and am now living in Canada. As a child, I also played some of the games you mentioned like chit liap buah (but we had a variation where you could play with five “stones” as well as seven). Also, in school my friends and I used to play “zero-point” or the rubber band rope skipping game, with really intricate steps and acrobatic moves. We would also do this tag game where we would have two teams, and the “it” person would be hopping on one foot trying to tag the people from another team, all in a circle boundary. Forgot the name of the game though!
Ah the good ole days! Thanks for such an incredible website!

Nyonya Food October 15, 2009 at 8:21 pm

We have a similar game to zero-point but I can’t remember the name of it anymore.

food-4tots October 10, 2009 at 9:26 am

This is the 1st time I come across such a beautiful set of masak-masak utensil. What a priceless collection! Possible to view his collections when I’m back to Penang this Nov/Dec?

5oclockteaspoon October 10, 2009 at 4:27 pm

How nice that you can visit such beautiful Peranakan antiques (and your childhood memories). I love the pictures and would love to see more food-related Peranakan objects.

Nyonya Food October 15, 2009 at 8:19 pm

Hi, I will share more of these precious Peranakan objects here. Please come back and check it out.

pixen October 10, 2009 at 6:13 pm

Oh my goshhh! My mom used to get me all those masak-masak from Padang Besar when I was little. I also used the bowls to make kuih-kuih with mud ( well, strangely when little I don’t think mud is disgusting). Your sister knew Raymond Kwok? He’s my relative :-P John Ong did a coverage on him before.

Nyonya Food October 15, 2009 at 8:17 pm

Padang Besar, yes my mother and aunt loved going there, always brought back tons of foods and a lot of utensils. OMG, such a small world that you are Raymond’s relative. :P

Danny October 11, 2009 at 2:58 pm

Just want to thank you for the website and the pains you go through to make all the pictures on the site look amazing. The presentation always looks BEAUTIFUL!!! I am a Singaporean that has been away for 15 years. Right now, I live in Taiwan. I miss the food home SOOOOO much I am now writing a business plan to open a Singaporean restaurant here. Hope you don’t mind that I steal some of your family recipes as I plan my menu and bring Nyonya food to this corner of the world. Wish me luck!!

Nyonya Food October 15, 2009 at 8:16 pm

Danny – you can pick up a Nyonya cookbook so you don’t really need to steal my family recipes.

Fuji Mama October 11, 2009 at 9:07 pm

I love this post! I love that the act of “playing cook” actually has a name. I loved cooking with my toy pots and pans when I was little. When I was a bit older my parents bought me an “Easy Bake Oven” so I could actual make miniature versions of things like cakes and cookies. It is so sad that kids don’t seem to play like this anymore. So much is lost!

Nyonya Food October 15, 2009 at 8:15 pm

Yeah, sad that nowadays kids only play computer games.

Mei Oh October 12, 2009 at 3:42 pm

Thank you for stirring up the memories lost in my foggy 58 yr old brain. I too had a similar set, slightly bigger, with mini granite motar and pestle. The charcoal stove too, was mini but useable. I also had 2 beautiful tiny sets of crockery; one of Snow White and the 7 dwarfs as cups, milk jug and sugar pot. The tea pot was the cottage. The other set was of the “Willow Pattern.” My friends and I spent hours cooking leaves, flowers, dead bugs and even lizards eggs we found. Suffice to say we did not eat them, but it was good pretending to be like mom. I grew up to be a good cook. Kids nowadays do not play at “masak-masak” and end up hating cooking.

Nyonya Food October 15, 2009 at 8:14 pm

Mei Oh – you are welcome. Sometimes, we need something to bring back bygone memories. It’s so great to share with my readers my memories and then help them to remember theirs.

Yudith October 13, 2009 at 11:50 am

Aah… I remember these! BUT, I am pretty sure that my version (in Indonesia) did not have the pretty colors like pink/green–I think they were not even painted! I also didn’t use real kitchen ingredients, but I had fun with grasses, flowers, chives, mud… ;-) Thanks for taking me down the memory lane!

Nyonya Food October 15, 2009 at 8:14 pm

Yudith, I am glad it brings back memories for you.

Caroline October 14, 2009 at 7:09 pm

I used to play masak-masak too! I used ‘play doh’ to make my food and used to hold parties for my barbie dolls. It was really fun. =)

Nyonya Food October 15, 2009 at 8:13 pm

Sounds fun.

Meli Soen October 19, 2009 at 7:43 pm

That was exactly what I did when I was a child, I can see you in me. Is that why I am a chef now? Thanks.

eatsiptrip December 7, 2009 at 4:42 pm

that sure brought back memories! My ‘uncle’ Wataru gave me a mini iron work that sat on a concrete stand where you could put coals. I never did get to light it because we lived in a flat but i sure was excited to receive such a gift.

Also was part of the run-from-the-rotan(cane) club, ha!

Nyonya Food December 8, 2009 at 5:05 pm

It would have been so much fun had you had the chance to play with it.

carr December 31, 2009 at 10:11 am

Oh my God, so much memory. We live in kampung, we played masak-mask with mud and candle & real fire wood (We did got into serious trouble). Made our own toys with twig and elastic, rubber nut – you first hollow out the nut, drill holes and pull string, the nut will spin and it gets very burning hot, use it on the unfortunate soul like me who did not run as fast. Catch fighting fish in the rubber plantation. Catch all kinds of fish in the river. The boys catch fighting “kapu” in a match box; and other games mentioned above. I did become a chef for a while when I grew up.

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