Yup, one and a half minutes is all kueh bengka ubi takes, or I'll eat my hat. Baking time is not included, btw, so please don't say it takes you an hour, and then tell me to eat my hat with sambal. Neither is shopping time or washing up. And I reserve the right to change this agreement any time I like, in whatever way I like. I assume your arms and legs are fully functional and . . . .
Hey, I almost forgot I don't have any hats!
The same place that sells freshly squeezed coconut milk and grated coconut would also sell freshly grated tapioca. Just grab a pack, along with the coconut milk. Remember to buy the exact amount for the recipe, so you don't have to waste precious seconds measuring after you get home.
When you're ready to bake, pour the coconut milk and grated tapioca into a mixing bowl, crack the eggs, measure the sugar and water, then mix everything up. How long would that take? 45 seconds? You now have 45 seconds left to line a cake tin, pour the batter, scrape the bowl, smooth the top, put the tin in the oven, and shut the door – bang! Job done in 90 seconds like I told ya!
If you have a few more minutes, you may want to squash a few pandan leaves in the batter to give it a nice fragrance. (Cakes, like cars and computers, have 'optional accessories'.) Mind you, the cake smells and tastes wonderful even without pandan, because of the coconut milk.
If you don't have freshly squeezed coconut milk, you could use the 'undead' variety that comes in a can or box. (Long-life coconut milk is dead coconut milk brought back from the nether world, isn't it?) What about pasteurized milk, the type that's sold refrigerated? Sorry, that's absolutely nothing like the fresh, unadulterated form. It is, however, better than the canned or boxed zombies (generally speaking).
If you don't have fresh and ready-grated tapioca, frozen may be available, like in the US. Or you may have fresh or frozen tapioca but it's not grated, in which case get your grater out and put the stopwatch away.
Kueh bengka ubi is one of the easiest Nyonya kueh-kueh. Want to give it a go, and you need a good recipe? No problem, I've done the leg work for you. I've compared four recipes, two from Lilywaisekhong, and one each from Mrs Leong Yee Soo (The Best of Singapore Cooking) and Mrs Wee Kim Wee (Cooking for the President):
I've rejected Lily's original recipe because it has a crazy amount of butter, sugar, eggs and coconut milk. Maybe it's an Americanized version since she lives in Denver? I don't know, but I do know even her skinny recipe is decidedly plus-size. And steamed mung beans (!) in kueh bengka ubi? That's news to me! Verdict: out.
Mrs Leong and Mrs Wee use similar ingredients, but Mrs Leong's method is less straightforward. Her recipe has grated tapioca mixed with water, squeezed dry, and then the water is left to settle. After the starch sinks to the bottom, it's drained and mixed with the grated tapioca. Next, the other ingredients for the cake – eggs, sugar, coconut milk, etc – are cooked on the stove, then added to the tapioca mixture. Finally, the cake is baked till golden brown. Mrs Wee's recipe is much easier since the ingredients are just stirred together, more or less, then into the oven they go.
The recipe I've tried is Mrs Wee's. I'm munching a piece of tapioca cake as I write this post, and it's very, very fragrant, especially the caramelized top. It's a bit on the sweet side, but still within my acceptable range. The chewiness is just right, not too soft nor too hard (which Mrs Leong's may be, I think, because it has less liquid).
What's my rating for Mrs Wee's kueh ubi? Uber good! It's another great recipe from Cooking for the President that I'd thoroughly recommend (unless you don't eat ubi).
Now, if you'll excuse me, I have to go steam some fish, then pick out all the bones. "Ikan will be ready in a few minutes, Your Feline Highness."
7 June 2012 Update
Click here for tips on making kueh bengka ubi.
|KUEH BENGKA UBI (BAKED TAPIOCA CAKE)|
Source: Adapted from Cooking for the President
(Recipe for one 23 cm cake)
banana leaf or parchment paper
if using banana leaf, wash, wipe dry and lightly oil shiny side2 eggs
300 g sugar
⅙ tsp salt
1 kg grated tapioca, at room temperature
4 pandan leaves, rinse and drain
375 ml freshly squeezed coconut milk, at room temperature, undiluted
125 ml water
Line 23 x 5 cm square cake tin with banana leaf or parchment paper. Preheat oven to 170°C.
Stir eggs, sugar, salt and tapioca till evenly mixed. Knead and wring pandan leaves in mixture till completely crushed. Add coconut milk and water. Mix thoroughly. Discard pandan leaves.
Pour batter into cake tin, moving stream of batter around tin as you pour. Smooth the top, stirring liquid that may accumulate around edges so that batter is evenly mixed. Bake till top is golden brown, edges are crusty and slightly caramelized, and inserted skewer comes out almost clean. This should take about 1¼ hours. Cover edges with foil during last 30 minutes if top doesn't brown evenly. Do not over-bake or cake would be dry.
Remove cake from oven. Leave on wire rack till slightly firm, 30-45 minutes. Unmould and leave cake on wire rack till cold, another hour or so. Cut into 4 x 2.5 cm pieces with an oiled knife. Serve at room temperature with Chinese tea as a snack, dessert or during tea. Chilled icewine or late-harvest Riesling would be good too. Leftovers should be wrapped and refrigerated. Cut and rebake till thoroughly heated and soft, then serve hot or at room temperature.
Kueh bengka ubi is:
"semi-soft and moist with some elasticity and bite, and has an inviting fragrance from the pandan, eggs and coconut milk. Slightly brown and burnt edges give it a special sensuous dimension."