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Malay kuih from the old days

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Boarding school tea cakes
This kuih may not be the prettiest thing you've seen but I love it for the taste and because it reminds me so much of my childhood, especially the seven years I spent in fully residential school (boarding school).

It's called Tepung Gomak. The filling is made of mung beans (the greenish tinge is the result of the green skin of the bean), grated coconut and sugar. It is encased in a dough made simply from glutinous rice flour and water. The patty is cooked by poaching and then rolled in mung bean flour.

When I saw this recipe in Norzailina Nordin's cookbook Bite Size: A Collection of Traditional Malay Treats (2009, Marshall-Cavendish, RM39.90), I got quite excited. It's not a Malay tea cake that I have seen since my girlhood in Perlis (the northernmost state in Peninsular Malaysia). Actually, there are quite a number of kuih in the book that I only remember having when I was young and which I can no longer find nowadays.

One of my classmates used to sell Sagon, a simple mixture of toasted grated coconut, rice flour and sugar. After the weekends she spent at home in her kampung, she would bring back Sagon ­­– think of it as Asian trail mix ­­– in little cone packets made from newspaper that she sold for 20 sen each. While we easily get rice flour nowadays, at the time, her mother would pound husked rice in a lesung tangan, one of those huge wooden mortars that sits on the ground and comes with an equally huge pestle ­­– pounding was usually a two-person job and they would do it in rhythm; one pestle would go in and as it was lifted out, the other one would go in, and so on. Very efficient. (For pictures, go to this website.)

I featured Pulut Serunding for this month's Don't Call Me Chef (see tab above; the link to the published document will be up soon is now up ­­– click here) since the theme was a celebration of Hari Raya Aidil Fitri. I like anything with glutinous rice and coconut and this kuih combines the two so I had a good time making and eating it. There was a little of the pulut and serunding left over and the next day, I didn't bother with the banana leaf cones.

What are your favourite kuih from the old days? Can you still find them easily nowadays?

TEPUNG GOMAK(Green Bean Flour-Coated Patties)
Adapted from Bite Size
Makes 10

2 shredded and knotted screwpine (pandan) leaves
200g green (mung) bean flour

100g mung beans
60g soft dark brown sugar
30g caster sugar
80g grated coconut

240g glutinous rice flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
200-250ml water
  • Prepare filling. Boil green beans until tender and broken up. Strain off water. Return beans to pan.
  • Add the other filling ingredients and stir over medium heat until quite dry but still moist. Remove from heat and leave to cool.
  • Prepare dough. Combine glutinous flour and salt. Add water, a little at a time, and mix into a soft, pliable dough.
  • Divide dough into 10 portions. Flatten one portion with your hands and spoon filling into the middle. Enclose to make a 4cm ball. Flatten into a 1cm-thick patty.
  • In a large pan, bring some water and the screwpine leaves to the boil. Drop patties in batches into the boiling water. When they start to float, remove with a slotted spoon and drain well.
  • Roll patties in green bean flour before serving.
Sweet Coconut Floss
Serves 6

195g grated skinned coconut
250g rice flour
110-120g caster (superfine) sugar
  • In a large pan, stir grated coconut over very low heat until very pale cream in colour.
  • Add rice flour and continue to stir for 15-20 minutes more. When the mixture is very dry, fragrant and crisp, remove from heat. tip into a bowl and set aside to cool before mixing in the sugar to taste.

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