Kueh is a bite-sized snack or dessert originating from Southeast Asia. There are many different kinds of kueh which come in all sorts of colour, shape and size. Usually made from rice or glutinous rice, these kuehs are often steamed rather than baked, resulting in delectable treats that have unique textures, flavours and appearances from the ordinary Western pastry.
What really pushed me to find out more about these snacks is the amazing variety out there! It’s incredible how many kinds there are. Often, I would get confused with the names (ang ku kueh? kueh lapis?) and the origins (Chinese, Peranakan, Malay or Indonesian?), and pester my mum to explain the differences over and over again. With kueh being so ubiquitous in cosmopolitan Singapore, I felt that I really should find out more about these treats myself.
Read on to explore more about the second series of kueh – Malaysian/Singaporean!
1. Kuih Jelurut/ Selurut/ Celerut
This is quite similar to the Kue Clorot in the previous post! A traditional snack of Brunei and Sabah in East Malaysia, this kueh is made of rice flour and gula apong (nipah palm sugar – different from gula melaka, which is made from coconut palm!). It is then rolled with palm leaves into cones and steam cooked. Often, some flavour is added, such as pandan (like in the picture above, which gives the cake a green colour) or durian (normally yellow).
2. Kuih Kapit/Sapit/Sepi/Belanda aka Love Letters
Oh our favourite Chinese New Year snack! These crispy folded wafer biscuits can be found everywhere during the festive season, and no wonder – it’s incredibly addictive and tasty. However, before you go on a binge-eating session with this lovely snack, here’s a reminder of how sinful eating these snacks can be:
(Source: Khoo Teck Puat Hospital)
This infographic went viral earlier this year during CNY, leaving many of us a bit more uncomfortable as we feasted.
There are many versions of love letters around, not just from commercial shops but also from precious family recipes. My friend makes a mean love letter and every year when I visit, I am both impressed and fascinated by how she makes them! Well, so I went to search up this mysterious process (not so anymore!). Basically, after making the coconut-flavoured egg batter, the batter is poured into an iron mold, which is traditionally heated up on a charcoal stove. When the batter is baked, it is removed and folded before the biscuit hardens. The beautiful thing about these snacks are that they are etched with decorative and auspicious animal motifs (such as fish, roosters and snails) thanks to the molds. I already can’t wait for the next CNY – these snacks are gold.
3. Kuih Keria
I’ve finally found a kueh that uses sweet potato! These fried doughnuts are made with a sweet potato batter and rolled in caster sugar for a sweet finish. Surprisingly, even though these kuehs look like doughnuts (and are just as fluffy), no baking powder or yeast is used! I would look out for those calories though – I could imagine eating a handful and busting my limit already.
4. Kuih Kochi
This glutinous rice dumpling, popular in Singapore, Malaysia and Brunei, is usually filled with a sweet paste like grated coconut with gula melaka. It is shaped in a pyramid and wrapped with banana leaves. This reminds me of the previous kuehs! I kind of recall other kuehs having a similar concept – a filling wrapped in some rice flour. Also, I find the name rather cute! It makes me think of the Japanese mochi (oh, the cravings are coming).
5. Kuih Lapis
Another popular kueh which everyone thinks of when they hear ‘kueh’! There are two versions (baked and steamed), but people use this term for both kinds. The baked version, aka Kek Lapis (layered cake) is happily featured in our enlightening infographic above, since it is a common Chinese New Year snack. People often do not realise how dense this addictive cake really is!
The other kind, the nonya kueh lapis, is made from rice flour, coconut milk and sugar. This is quite unlike the cake one, which uses the ordinary baking ingredients like butter, wheat flours, eggs and sugar! Another difference is that this one is steamed. I really love the fun of eating this rainbow kueh – you could either eat several layers at once, or peel each layer apart! You can only imagine how my eyes used to light up when my grandma brought these colourful kuehs back home for an afternoon treat.
Anyhow, either cake is incredibly tedious to make – every layer is individually baked or steamed! You really need quite a bit of patience to see this process through. Something else worth noting is that food colouring is used to differentiate between the different layers.
6. Kuih Lidah/Tiram
Kuih lidah (lidah means ‘tongue’) hails from the Bruneian Malay community of Papar in Sabah, Malaysia. This is a pretty simple cake – it only needs rice flour and eggs. However, the result is an adorable oyster-shaped cake! I’ve never tried this before, so I’m really curious what the texture is like.
7. Kueh Pie Tee
I absolutely love this! Another Chinese New Year favourite (though that’s the only time when I get to enjoy this delicious treat), kueh pie tee is essentially a thin, crispy pastry shell filled with all sorts of ingredients. The main filling is shredded Chinese turnips (or jicama) and carrots; but that’s only half of it! For the rest of the shell, I like to fill mine with chopped up eggs, tiny prawns, peanuts, sweet dark sauce, chilli sauce. After that, I’d top this Nyonya specialty off with a bit of parsley or coriander! It may seem like a lot of effort for such a tiny thing (most locals don’t mind meticulously assembling this shell by themselves). But trust me, when you put that entire shell in your mouth and feel that burst of flavours on your tongue… nothing can beat that feeling of just plain, good food.
8. Kuih Pinjaram
This saucer-shaped deep-fried fritter looks as good as it gets. With crispy edges and a dense, chewy texture in the centre, kuih pinjaram is known by many names, including kuih UFO! It also bears an uncanny resemblance to another kueh (kueh cucur). However, unlike kueh cucur, this kuih doesn’t use coconut sugar. Instead, this kuih is made simply from rice flour, corn flour, milk and oil and is commonly sold in street markets in East Malaysia. Pandan leaves are sometimes added, enriching the fragrance of this sweet snack.
Look forward to next week’s post! Maybe I’ll do one on Indonesian kue again~