Posts Tagged ‘Malay cakes’

Little bundles of taste and colors

Kuih apam is steamed cakes, made in a variety of colors.

Pasar tani means farmer’s market in Malay.

One can always find a big variety of fresh ingredients and food at such an event, which is held throughout Malaysia.

The last pasar tani that I visited was in Larkin, in the state of Johore.

In line with my interest, I was mostly drawn towards the traditional or heritage food.

One was the circular-shaped sweet snack called deram deram. It is made from rice flour and palm sugar which gives it the rich caramel color. There is an art to frying deram deram. The oil has to be at just the right temperature for the rings to be slightly crispy on the outside, while maintaining a soft texture on the inside.

Another favorite is kuih apam, which is steamed cakes. They are usually eaten for breakfast.

I remember my grandmother used to bring home these cakes from her early morning rounds at the Geylang Market. The cakes come in different colors, and as a child, I was attracted to the brighter ones, and would try to grab the pink one for myself.

Kuih apam is often served with grated coconut. As an adult, I realize that much of the enjoyment of this sweet is in the simultaneous play of contrast and complement. The pristine white of the grated coconut contrasts with the bright colors. A pinch of salt is usually added to the coconut, and this little bit of salty tang brings out the sweetness of the cakes.

kuih deram

Deram deram is a popular traditional sweet snack.

Deram deram at pasar tani.

There is an art to frying deram deram.

Peanuts are universally popular snacks.

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simple pleasures


Malay cakes

A splash of color,

Comforting, warm

With my tea.

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Traditional Malay dessert

He has the recipe for the most popular putu piring in Singapore. The cakes are made in this steamer.

When the weather gets hot, thoughts turn to light-colored, soft desserts. I often think of putu piring, a Malay cake that is so fluffy and has a melt in your mouth quality.

Putu piring are round steamed cakes made from rice flour and gula Melaka (palm sugar), and best eaten when they are still warm.

This is one of my favorite foods, and when I am in Singapore, I always make a beeline for the putu piring in the Haig Road area.

Malay cakes

A great combination of fluffy rice flour dough and rich palm sugar.

That is, before the line starts at the putu piring stall in the Banquet Food Court. (I believe the food court now has a new name.) If you arrive after 3pm, be prepared to wait in a long line, with people of all races and age groups. Now there are two locations, this one as well as a stall in the Teh Tarik Café, which is also in the vicinity.

One time when I was passing the food court when it was closed for renovations, a man stopped me and asked where was the putu piring stall. He seemed rather panicky, and explained he came from the other side of the island and had not been in this area for a while. He had a wide grin on his face when I showed him the other location of the putu piring.

An unofficial poll of friends and family points to this putu piring as the best in Singapore, and dare I say, the best in this Southeast Asian region. So I made it a point to talk to the owner/founder of this successful enterprise.

He is a hands-on owner and is often seen helping out his employees. The gentleman prefers to be known as Mr Putu Piring rather than by his first name, and has been making and selling putu piring in the Geylang area for 15 years.

I was very pleased to learn from him some interesting facts behind this dessert. According to him, the word putu is a Sanskrit word for rice. Piring is a Malay word which refers to a saucer, and originally, saucers were used to mold the cakes into the round shapes. Hence, the name.

palm sugar

The secret is in using the best ingredients, including the best palm sugar.

The ingredients are simple: rice flour, gula Melaka (palm sugar), grated coconut and pandan leaves. Basically, a mixture of rice flour with a filling of palm sugar in the center is patted into the molds and then steamed through to form the cakes. The cakes are served with grated coconut containing strips of pandan leaf to add a fragrant note.

When asked about the secret of his success, Mr PP says: “It is crucial to use the best ingredients and to stay true to traditional methods.” He also wants to maintain the quite amazing price of three small cakes for a dollar. And he is happy that his daughter Noraishah, who studied culinary arts and worked in Boston, is now part of his team.

Talking to him, I realize that  the ingredients of his success are those that have stood the test of time: quality, value, and a deep appreciation of one’s heritage and roots.

traditional Malay dessert

Putting the ingredients together.

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