Kuih (alternatively Kueh or Kue) is the term
given to various manners of bite-sized food item in the Malaysian
peninsula, much like
They are usually - but not always - sweet and intricate creations,
including cakes, cookies and puddings. It can also be described as
Pastry, however it is to be noted that the Asian concept of
"cakes" and "pastries" is different from that of the Western one.
plural kueh-mueh or kuih-muih) are more often steamed
than baked, and thus very different in texture, flavour and
appearance from Western cakes or puff pastries.
Malaysia states, usually the Northern states of Perlis, Kedah, Perak and
Kelantan, kuihs are sweet; but in the Southeast Peninsular states of Negeri
Sembilan, Melaka and Selangor, savory kuihs can be found. This is largely due to
the large population of ethnic
Indians which held much cultural influence in these states.
Kuihs are not confined to a certain meal but are eaten throughout the day.
They are an integral part of Malaysian and Singaporean festivities such as
Hari Raya and
Chinese New Year(Tahun Baru Cina in
In almost all kuihs, the most common flavouring ingredients are coconut
cream (thick or thin), grated coconut (plain or flavoured), pandan
leaves and gula melaka or palm sugar (fresh or aged).
While those make the flavour of kuihs, their base and texture are built on a
group of starches – rice flour, glutinous rice flour, glutinous
rice and tapioca. Two other common ingredients are tapioca flour
and green bean (mung bean) flour (sometimes called "green pea flour"
in certain recipes). They play a most important part in giving kuihs their
distinctive soft, almost pudding-like, yet firm texture. Wheat flour is rarely
used in Southeast Asian cakes and pastries.
For most kuihs there is no single "original" or "authentic" recipe.
Traditionally, making kuih was the domain of elderly grandmothers, aunts and
other women-folk, for whom the only (and best) method for cooking was by "agak
agak" (approximation). They would instinctively take handfuls of ingredients and
mix them without any measurements or any need of weighing scales. All is judged
by its look and feel, the consistency of the batter and how it feels to the
touch. Each family holds its own traditional recipe as well as each region and
Nyonya and Malay Kuehs
The above refers to both Nyonya (Peranakan) and Malay kuihs. The are little
(if any) differences between them; the line that distingushing the two are vague
Both Nonya and Malay kuihs come from the same family. The Peranakans,
especially those in Malacca and Singapore, took heavy influences from Malaysia
and its Malay culinary and cultural heritage. This means that, when it comes to
kuih, there are many that are identical to both cultures, with maybe only a
change of name.
With the passage of time, the lines of distinction between the two groups of
kuihs have been fudged even more. Few Malaysians and Singaporeans will be able
to tell you precisely which kuihs are exclusively Nonya and which are
exclusively Malay or Indonesian. The term “Nonya kuih” is probably more commonly
used in Singapore, and “Malay kuih” perhaps more common in Malaysia.
Types of kuih
Kuihs come in different shapes, colours, texture and designs. Some examples
are filled, coated, wrapped, sliced and layered kuihs. Also, as mentioned
earlier, most kuihs are steamed, with some being boiled or baked. They can also
be deep-fried, and sometimes even grilled.
Some of the more well known types of kuih include the following:
- Bengka ubi is a baked kuih of tapioca mixed in sweet pandan-flavoured
custard. The kuih is yellow in colour but has a dark brown crust at the top
caused by the baking process.
- Kuih dadar is a cylindrical shaped kuih with caramelised grated
coconut flesh inside and a green pancake skin wrapping it. This is done first by
rolling the pancakes around the coconut filling, then folding the sides and
finally rolling it again to form cylindrical parcels.
- Kuih keria are sweet potato doughnuts. They resemble just like the
regular ones except that they are made with sweet potato. Each doughnut is
rolled in caster sugar.
- Kuih kosui are rice cakes made with palm sugar. The ingredients are
mixed into a batter and poured into small cups (traditionally, it is done with
Chinese tea cups). When served, the cup is removed and the rice cake is topped
with grated coconut flesh.
- Kuih koci is a pyramid of glutinuous rice flour filled with a sweet
- Kuih lapis (layer cake) is a rich kuih consisting of thin alternating
layers made of butter, eggs and sugar, piled on topi of each other. Each layer
is laid down and baked separately, making the creation of a kueh lapis an
extremely laborious and time-consuming process.
- Kuih talam (tray cake) is a kueh consisting of two layers. The top
white layer is made from rice flour and coconut milk, while the bottom green
layer is made from green pea flour and extract of pandan leaf.
- Kuih serimuka is a two-layered dessert with steamed glutinous rice
forming the bottom half and a green custard layer made with
(hence the green colour). Coconut milk is a key ingredient in making this kuih.
It is used as a substitute for water when cooking the glutinous rice and making
the custard layer.
- Pulut inti is glutinous rice topped with caramelised grated coconut
flesh and wrapped in a cut banana leaf to resemble a square pyramid.
- Pulut tekan is just a plain glutinous rice cake. It is served with
pandan leaves) coconut jam. The glutinous rice cakes are coloured with
Half-cooked glutinous rice is divided into two portions. Both are them added
with coconut milk but one of them is added with the bunga telang juice.
This gives the rice cake a very bright blueish-indigo colour which is appealing
to children. The half-cooked glutinous rice is then scooped in alternating
fashion into the original tray to give it a marble effect of blue and white. The
rice is then cooked some more and when it is cooked and cooled, it is cut into