Kuihs are Southeast Asian snacks especially popular in Singapore and Malaysia. It is an umbrella term, encompassing both sweet desserts and savoury bites. Dessert kuihs come in a thousand different shapes, colours, texture and designs, yet they are share a common set of base ingredients: coconut milk, grated coconut, pandan leaves, gula melaka (coconut palm syrup), rice flour, glutinous rice flour, tapioca and/or mung bean flour. The combination of these ingredients is responsible for the kuih’s delightful chewy texture and wonderful fragrance. They are naturally vegan too!
It’s hard to choose, but my favorite kuih has to be Kuih Ondeh Ondeh. These are essentially the Asian equivalent of a molten lava cake; a heavenly pool of melted gula melaka would squirt out as you bite into the chewy sweet potato skin that is infused with the essence of pandan. If anything, coconut + pandan + gula melaka makes the holy trinity of dessert kuihs!
I found several recipes online and it looked pretty easy to make (see links in recipe below). I could not be more wrong. First, I didn’t expect the difficulty in extracting fresh pandan juice from pandan leaves; 1 cup of pandan leaves only yielded a measly tablespoon of the precious green juice! Then I made another mistake by adding too much water when forming the dough. I had to rectify that by adding more glutinous rice flour, which screwed up the proportions of sweet potato-to-flour ratio (ideally it should be about 1:1). Finally, as I molded the balls, some of the gula melaka started melting and oozed out of the pre-boiled balls. The final outcome was, expectedly, disastrous. No oozing filling (it probably all leaked out into the water) and thick doughy skin that ironically, was limp and seemed to tear apart easily too.
From my disastrous experience, here are some pointers you may wish to keep in mind when making ondeh-ondeh:
- Use pandan essence as a quick solution to pandan juice. Unless you have a lot of time to squeeze the juice from the leaves and are willing clean up the blender.
- Add water to the dough little by little, until it resembles the texture of play-dough. It should not be sticky.
- Grate the gula melaka finely so that it melts easily.
- Use about 10g dough for each ball (I used 15g and it turned out huge as it actually expanded upon boiling.)
- Some recipes call for tapioca flour in the dough. Not sure how that would affect the texture of the dough.
Although the kuih ondeh-ondeh didn’t turned out well, I’ve learnt quite alot from this disaster and now appreciate the skill needed to make those balls of deliciousness. It’s also my first time working with pandan and glutionous rice flour, so it was quite an experience.
Surprisingly, both my Mum and sister actually liked the Ondeh Ondeh despite it lacking the squirty effect. So try the recipe at your own risk.