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Monday, October 31, 2011

Malaysian Monday #8: Ang Koo Kueh (红龟粿)

The bad thing about blog surfing, at any time of the day, is the food porn that greets you each time you visit a blog. I'm an extremely visual person, and am definitely susceptible to good food photos, so I try to blog surf after meals, so that I don't get too tempted. Alas, I still do and I sure do salivate when I see my fellow bloggers' posts - and when I mean I salivate, I literally DO salivate - the salivary glands under my tongue get activated and saliva pools in the lower cavern of my mouth - no joke!

Now, I've been craving for ang koo kueh ever since I saw Lena's post with purple sweet potatoes, but it became progressively worse because I was met with a deluge of ang koo kueh posts, no thanks to this month's Aspiring Bakers #12 - Traditional Kueh. For some mouthwatering versions, check out Edith's yellow sweet potato version and Ah Tze's red ang koo kuehs using beetroot.

I told my mom about making some for ourselves, to which she told me to just go and buy some. And so I did. I bought them because I don't own any ang koo kueh moulds, and because I didn't have glutinous rice flour and was too lazy to steam my own sweet potato. BAD bad decision. In a bid to satisfy my craving, I bought 5 ang koo kuehs from 5 different sellers (with different fillings) at the pasar pagi (morning market) when I accompanied my mom to the wet market, and with the exception of one, all the others disappointed me to no end - they were too oily, not tasty enough, the filling was too grainy, the gripes just go on...

Then I saw Sharon's post on MacGyver ang koo kuehs and I thought, hey, if she can make it with her silicone muffin cups over in Sydney, shouldn't I in Singapore do better, especially since these ingredients are so easily available? So I got myself some sweet potato, glutinous rice flour and decided that I shall save money and use my moon cake mould. It's the same one I used to make my mini snow skin moon cakes. I didn't have enough chopped peanuts at home, and I was far too lazy to go out and get some, so I substituted part of it with peanut butter. Worked like a dream I'd say! 

For those of you readers outside of Southeast Asia, this might look and sound a little foreign. Basically, kuih muih (plural for kuih or kueh) are traditional delicacies of Nyonya origins (Nyonya or Peranakan refers to the Straits Chinese in Singapore and Malaysia - the interracial marriages between the local indigenous people and the mainland Chinese - this marriage also brought about a marriage of chinese and malay and other local pastries, giving us the assortment of kuih muih we have today.) Ang Koo Kuehs (or Ang Koo Kuih) literal means 'red turtle cake' in hokkien, in my case, I guess I should probably name them Ung Ge Niu Kueh (Hokkien for yellow moon cake) since they're not red and not made using the special ang koo kueh mould that is usually used for making them. Anyway, ang koo kuehs traditionally are round or oval, and have soft sticky skin made of glutinous rice flour or rice flour or a combination of both - sometimes, mashed sweet potato (like what I've done here) is used too. Another feature of the ang koo kueh is its filling - traditional fillings include mung bean paste, sesame and peanut. This kueh is then steamed on a square piece of banana leaf. The most important feature must of course be its bright red color and tortoise shape/imprint on the kuih. Why tortoise and why red you might ask? Well, it's no secret that we Chinese are a very taboo bunch - so the color red is meant to welcome the good fortune and luck during an auspicious occasion; and because tortoises are known for the longevity, and we Chinese want to emulate that, so we print a tortoise on the red kuih to make it decoratively more pretty. 

Ang koo kuehs are definitely a popular item during ritual offerings and a baby's first month shower. Again, Chinese have this tradition of celebrating a baby's first month (or full moon, 满月) by giving out a set of goodies including dyed red eggs, ang koo kuehs, glutinous rice, and more recently, cakes. And just an interesting tidbit - ang koo kuehs were used to tell recipients of the baby's gender - if you got domed shaped ang koo kueh, the baby is a boy, and if you get flat ones, the baby is a girl. I'm not sure if this tradition still prevails but it's definitely something interesting to know :]

Cracked mooncake shaped ang koo kuehs! :]

Sweet Potato Ang Koo Kueh Recipe 
Adapted from Florence
Makes 10 moon cake sized kueh

For the skin
100g   sweet potatoes, steamed and mashed.
150g   glutinous rice flour
15g     oil
80g     water

For the peanut filling 
140g   roasted peanuts
50g     peanut butter
60g     granulated sugar
20g     water

10 pieces of baking paper or oiled banana leaves.

  1. Steam the sweet potatoes until soft. In a bowl, mash the sweet potatoes with a fork or potato masher. Add in the glutinous rice flour, oil and water and mix well. Knead until you obtain a smooth dough. Cover with a damp cloth and leave aside to rest while you prepare the peanut filling.
  2. After roasting the peanuts, allow them to cool before putting them in the processor. Add the water and granulated sugar before processing it for a few seconds. Then, add in the peanut butter and process until you get your desired consistency. The filling should come together because of the peanut butter. 
  3. Brush the mould with some oil for ease of removal of the kueh from the mould. A good thing to do first is to take a portion of dough, roll it into a ball and press it into the mould. Add or subtract from the ball until the entire ball is smooth and flattened into the mould. Weigh that piece of dough - that should be the total weight of your kueh. Depending on how much filling you prefer, subtract from the weight accordingly. I used a 25g skin: 15g filling proportion, which is a little on the 'less filling side'. Ideally it should be a 2:1 skin to filling proportion. 
  4. Measure all the sweet potato doughs and roll them into balls. Do the same with the peanut filling. Take the measured portion of sweet potato dough and using your palm, flatten it into a round shape, making sure that the sides are thinner then the centre. Place a ball of peanut filling in the centre of the dough and pinch all the sides of the dough together. Then, roll it into a ball with both your palms. The seam should smoothen and almost disappear. 
  5. Then, press the ball into the mould firmly, with the seam side facing outwards, so that the smooth side will get the imprint of the mould. Then, tap the mould gently on all sides to remove it from the mould. Place the 'released' kuih on square pieces of oiled banana leaves (or baking paper). 
  6. After all the kuihs have been shaped, arrange them in the steamer and steam them in a wok over high heat for about 10 minutes. Remove from the wok and allow them to cool before consuming, about 15 minutes at least. 

In pictures:

Just prior to steaming - my ang koo kuehs have cracks in them, mainly cos I'm not too good at making them :p

They flatten out quite a bit after steaming, and become a more vibrant yellow. It appears oily but I didn't brush any extra oil on them.  

Check out how thin the skin can be! And look at that peanut filling!! :o)
YUM - I used some red coloring on this ang koo kueh to indicate that less peanuts was used heh.

I'll be submitting this post to SSB for this month's Aspiring Bakers #12 - Traditional Kueh as well as Muhibbah Malaysia Monday hosted by Shaz of Test With Skewer and Suresh of 3 Hungry Tummies :] 

Oh, and Happy Halloween, for those of you who 'celebrate' it ;p Guess you could try having this yellow/orange kuih on this day as well, in the spirit of all things orange and Halloween :]


sotong said...

your mcgyver ang koos are so pretty! innovative way of using those mooncake moulds!

Quay Po Cooks said...

That's a clever twist to the traditional ang ku kuih and I remember the story of the dome shape for boys and flat for girls my mum told me:D Most Chinese food got a story behind it and it is very interesting to read about it. You moon cake yellow ku kuih looks fabulous. So you said you salivate looking at fellow bloggers post of visually appealing foods and that is what is happening to me now. So you definitely know how torturing this post is to me. Can see cannot eat and worst of all, I have no skill in making kuih kuih!

3 hungry tummies said...

Thanks for the entry! Very creative using mooncake mould for ur ang koo kueh.

ann low said...

Very creative to use mooncake mould. Love the colour and the peanut filling the most :)

Janine said...

@sotong and suresh: thanks :D

@quay po: this kuih doesn't need any skill at all! it's my first time making it and it's quite no-fail ;p should try it!

@ann: thanks! what's best is that the coloring all natural - from the yellow sweet potato!

Jeannie said...

I made ang koo kueh too but used yellow sweet potatoes, yum! You are so creaive!

lena said...

i've seen sharon's angkoo kuih last week, she is genius and so are you. I do think using mooncake moulds actually yield beautiful angkoos. I havent actually come across angkoos with peanut fillings here but i can imagine they are very nice. Hey, that's a funny believe regarding the boys and girls gender, never knew that!

lena said...

oh, thanks for the mention too!

Viv said...

im a very visual person too and reading your post at 11:30pm is actually making my tummy do the cartwheels...sooo hungry! esp looking at the one with the filling and super thin skin!!!

kitchen flavours said...

I have been thinking of angkoo kuih too after drooling at others! But I am lazy to make any at the moment, hopefully soon! Using the mooncake mould is very creative indeed. Unfortunately my mooncake mould was not returned back to me after I loan it to someone, problem is I can't remember whom! Feel like eating one right now! I'll just buy some from the market tomorrow morning! :)

shaz said...

Ha ha ha *high five!* Yes, we can eh? When you want something hard enough, anything will do. Your ang koo turned out so much prettier than mine. The peanut filling sounds awesome.

Must blame the cravings on Lena for starting all this ;)

Janine said...

@lena: this craving is all because of you hehe

@Jeannie: I used the same yellow potties as you!

@Viv: do try them - it's surprisingly easy and takes less than an hour!

@kitchen flavours: yeah i hate that too, when I forget who I lent my stuff to and they don't return them to me :/

@shaz: haha all thanks to you that I got up the courage really, I was giving myself excuses not to try but after your post I was like, heck it!

Christine knapkins_com said...

Hey Foodies, Janine's Ang Koo Kueh recipe has been selected by Knapkins to be featured in a Recipe Guessing Game. Invite fans to play:

Anonymous said...

These look incredibly yummy-- better than store bought! Got to make these soon after my 'A' levels!!

Chef Mireille said...

these look so good..wish I had some now!

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