Friday, September 14, 2007
Have you noticed that all kuehs (a Malay word that probably came from the Hokkien word kuay for chinese steamed cakes and desserts) have become so commercialised that they taste just what they are made of: flour, sugar and boxed santan? There's hardly any jencaixheliao , real ingredients, in them. I don't eat kuehs unless they're home-made.
Taro kueh has that old Hakka (or is it Hokkien?) nostalgia to it. It reminds me of younger days before people had cheesecakes or pizzas or burgers. My mom used to make taro kuehs that tasted better than any you could buy. But that was before she became hypertensive. After that, her healthy taro kueh with low salt, seasoning and oil was so bland we totally boycotted her kueh and she never made it again. When Sharon, Wey's BM tuition teacher a couple of houses away, gave us some of her mom's taro kueh I was immediately reminded of how taro kueh should taste--savory sweet with a mixture of flavors from the yam, fried dried prawns and fried onions.
Typically, kuehs are made by 'feel' and experience so the quantity of some of the ingredients were not available. I have tested the recipe and this is the best I can go. You can make your own adjustments to the taste and texture of the kueh by adjusting the seasoning and amount of water and flour. Traditionally this kueh should be a nice shade of purple, if you can get hold of a really purple taro. Most commercial yam kuehs are artificially colored, so beware. Sharon's mom has generously agreed to share her delicious kueh recipe with us:
2.3 litres water
500g (after peeling) taro, diced into 3/4 cm cubes
3/4 cup (or more, up to you) dried prawns, washed & chopped coarsely
500g rice flour
3 t salt (more or less)
1/4 t pepper (more or less)
1/8 to 1/4 t 5 spice powder (to your liking)
2 t chicken stock granules & 1/8 t msg
shallots, sliced finely n fried in oil till crisp
finely cut spring onions
finely chopped red chilies
1. Put 6 to 7 T veg oil into hot wok and add the dried prawns and fry till golden brown and crisp at low heat. If dried prawns aren't fried long enough, the kueh will lack flavor--I learnt this in my first try.
2. Add the taro and fry till light brown. Season fried ingredients with salt, pepper, msg, 5 spice powder and add the water (which seems a lot but will dry up) and rice flour, mixing well. Taste the batter and adjust seasoning to your liking. Continue frying at low heat ( mixture burns easily), stirring well for about 12 to 15 minutes until mixture is thick, stiff and 'springy'.
3. Grease a 12"/30 cm round tin and scoop the fried mixture in, pressing lightly to level and fill out the tin.
4. Steam at high heat for 50 min. Let kueh cool completely and slice it into small servings. Scatter the garnishing over the top. Any leftover can be kept in the fridge and later reheated by pan-frying with a little oil till light-golden.
5. Serve with a sweet chili sauce like Lingham's, and a mug of kopi-O.
Update 27/4/08: I've realised that 'taro' is the correct word for what we call 'yam' here, because 'yam' anywhere else refers to sweet potato.