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 they 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 glutinous rice flour, so it was quite an experience. Surprisingly both my mum and and sister actually liked the Ondeh Ondeh despite it lacking the squirty effect. So try the recipe at your own risk.
- 6 pandan leaves, chopped into small pieces; and 2 additional pandan leaves
- 2 tablespoons + 2 teaspoons water
- 120 grams sweet potato, skins removed (use different coloured sweet potatoes if preferred; I used 60 g each of Australian orange sweet potato and Vietnamese yellow sweet potato, and then divided the rest of the ingredients into two batches)
- 4 tablespoons coconut milk
- 120 grams glutinous rice flour
- 50 grams gula melaka, finely grated
- Dessicated coconut, as needed
- Cut 6 panadan leaves into small pieces and blend it with the water. Squeeze to get about 2 tablespoons of dark green pandan juice. Divide into two portions if using two different colored sweet potatoes.
- Steam sweet potato in a saucepan with a little water. Let cool down, then mash.
- Mix mashed sweet potato with pandan juice and coconut milk.
- Add in glutinous rice flour and incorporate until the dough comes together.
- Portion dough out into 10 - 15 gram pieces and flatten into circles. Place about half teaspoon of grated gula melaka into the center of the circle, roll into a ball and seal. Place the ball in a shallow plate of glutinous rice flour to prevent them from sticking together.
- Place the remaining 2 pandan leaves into a pot of water and bring to boil a pot of water. Drop the balls into the boiling water. Cook until the Ondeh Ondeh floats to the surface of the boiling water.
- Remove the Ondeh Ondeh with a slotted spoon and leave it to cool for 2 minutes.
- Roll the Ondeh Ondeh in grated coconut and serve.
Grate the gula melaka finely so that it melts easily.
Don't be too generous with the dough. About 10 grams for each ball should be sufficient as it will expand upon boiling.