This afternoon’s group chat revolved around the Nonya Kueh – a Peranakan (Straits Chinese / indigenous people of Singapore pre immigration era) genre of sweet desserts that most love. I always find it amazing, not at all in my imagination of dessert.
Let us take for example the Nine-Layer Kueh in the photo (i made it!). It is made of glutinous rice flour and sugar, and colouring. I hardly relate dessert with rice or rice flour, but then again the western cakes are wheat flour which isn’t really any different, right? Hah, have a look again at the Kueh Salat – it is glutinous rice (in their grain form!!!) topped with a layer of custard. Worse, imagine that custard being made of durian…? I am sure you have heard of the King of tropical fruits, that pungent strength and oomph beyond any fruit on this planet. We also have Ang Ku Kueh, the ang referring to red and ku referring to tortoise, but has since evolved to purple, green, white, yellow, all sorts of colours. The filling is of ground green bean, sometimes sweet and sometimes salty. There is also a spicy form of kueh – the Pulut Panggang, which is dried shrimp sambal (a type of chilli in this region) wrapped in glutinous rice.
Their common denominator(s)? Coconut, either outside or in, or both. Pandan, an extremely fragrant herb/grass for almost every local dessert. It is also the magic cluster of fresh grass that taxi drivers bundle and place at the dashboard to keep their vehicles smelling fresh, and free from roaches! At times, banana leaves to wrap these kuehs; and also, the fragrant brown palm sugar Gula Melaka.
AND *drum roll* all of these cakes are steamed. Not baked.
These are just a few examples of unimaginable local cakes here. Will post more as I experiment with them. It is the world’s great alternative for going gluten-free! I can eat most of these yummies, and they are usually my biggest cravings when I’m away from home for a tad bit too long. ❤