An American friend on a visit to Singapore some time back
stumbled upon colorful and delicious gooey desserts which he had never tasted
or heard before. I said to him those were called Kuih or sometimes spelt as kueh,
and these kuihs originated from the Malays, a race of people from Indonesia,
Malaysia and Singapore.
My friend thought it remarkable that these kuihs were little known to the western world, especially in the USA and Europe, where people love cheesecakes and puddings and fudge, they too would love to not only eat these kuihs, but make them as well. And so of course I packed for him a nice box of kuih as a gift when he left which I am sure he must have eaten them all at the airport.
If you must know, these kuihs were created in the deep Malay villages by resourceful grandmothers who created recipes made from whatever ingredients that were available then like tapioca flour, palm sugar, coconut milk, glutinous rice, green beans, banana leaves, pandan leaves etc. And of course they had plain flour and sugar as well. They did not have ovens back then, so these kuihs were mostly steamed or grilled.
The end results are moist, rich, chewy desserts and for those that have palm sugar in them, would guarantee the equivalent of chocolate melt. And the colors will make any chef pleased and happy.
The kuih recipes had since then traveled from the deep villages of Indonesia and Malaysia when our forefathers migrated to the cities and other countries.
Today Malay kuih recipes have expanded into many versions but essentially using the base ingredients like coconut milk, sugar (white or brown), eggs, flour (several types), just like western desserts must have their butter, sugar, eggs and cake flour.
But that is not all. Variety is indeed the spice of life, no pun intended - these kuihs also come in savory version where spices are sometimes added and eaten as snacks or in between meals. In fact, Asians eat sweet or savor desserts for breakfast, as snacks, at teatime or just in between meals. Or served to guests whenever they drop in.
I especially love Kuih Pulut Panggang where grated coconut cooked with spice is wrapped around steamed glutinous rice and then wrapped in banana leaf and grilled. Imagine the smell and taste contrast of the plain glutinous rice and the spicy coconut, heightened by the smell of banana leaf.
Many people have made a living from making and selling these kuihs, some at the back streets, at the market and little dessert stores. These days hotel chefs have started to serve them at functions and catering businesses have thrived as well.
Another friend recently arrived in Singapore and I got him about 8 different pieces of kuih. He said he couldn't possibly finish them all and would share with his room mates. But he ended eating them all because they all tasted deliciously and interestingly different.
Look out for the next article where I will share more information, tips and recipes of this glorious and exotic dessert called Malay Kuih.
About the Author
To see what these exotic Asian desserts look like, click on the link and get your free Malay kuih recipes too. Noraini Maskuri is an advertising professional who is also trained in bakery, a food enthusiast and likes to share her love for east/west cooking and baking. Visit her blog at http://www.mycookery.com/blog and get yourself a free chicken recipe cookbook as well