Orh Kueh/Steamed Yam Cake (I)

Sunday, 1 April 2012

Making good orh kueh starts with choosing yam that's light for its size. Lighter ones have less water, and less watery ones are nicer because they're more fluffy, powdery and fragrant.

Next, be generous when trimming the yam. The outer parts are usually waxy and tasteless, especially when the yam is a dud. I usually cut 2-3 cm off the top and bottom, and 1-2 cm off the sides.

To enhance its fragrance, the yam should be fried and then seasoned lightly with salt and five-spice powder. Don't let the yam brown or it'd be leathery.

Orh kueh would be too monotonous if it tastes of only yam. Dried prawns, dried mushrooms and deep-fried shallots add a variety of flavours, textures and aromas. They are the indispensable supporting cast, without which yam would be a rather dull one-man show.

To make outstanding orh kueh, forget about water. That's what orh kueh that sells for $1 uses. The homemade type wouldn't taste homemade without pork or chicken stock. A good quality stock is the foundation of great orh kueh (. . . as well as, I kid you not, family ties and nationhood).

Readymade deep-fried shallots can't possibly compare to the one made at home. Likewise, a good stock doesn't come out of a can or bottle, or fall out of the sky. And there's a whole lot of mushrooms and dried prawns that have to be soaked, sliced and chopped. If making good orh kueh sounds like a lot of work and a lot of ingredients, that's because it is.

On the other hand, if you want some rice flour mixed with water and then steamed, that's real quick, easy and cheap. That's the type of orh kueh that sells for $1, which is actually quite expensive considering it's just rice flour and water. If you want to find yam in the $1 orh kueh, you'd have to send it for lab tests or at least use a microscope. Of course, the tasteless kueh comes with the obligatory chilli sauce because it wouldn't be edible otherwise.

Once, the chilli sauce on the orhless orh kueh I bought tasted of mould because it was made with mouldy dried prawns. I ate one mouthful and stopped. Since I wasn't the first and last person to buy the kueh, I guess there were lots of people who didn't mind the mouldy dried prawns. Amazing, isn't it?

Truth be told, I'm quite happy eating steamed yam seasoned with a bit of sea salt. But homemade orh kueh is nice once in a while when I feel up to it. "It" being the making, of course; the eating part is never a problem.

29 May 2012 Update
Here's how I make orh kueh:



STEAMED YAM CAKE (ORH KUEH; 芋粿/芋头糕)
Source: Majorly adapted from Cooking for the President
(Recipe for 24 pieces)

40 g dried prawns
rinse and soak in 60 ml water till soft, about 15 minutes;
squeeze dry, reserving the water; chop roughly
30 g Chinese dried mushrooms
rinse and soak in 180 ml water till soft, about 30 minutes;
squeeze dry, reserving the water; slice thinly, then cut 1 cm long
500-600 g yam (aka taro)*
peel and trim to yield about 300 g; rinse; cut corn kernel-sized

100 g shallots
peel, rinse and slice thinly
80 ml vegetable oil
½ tsp salt
¼ tsp five-spice powder
1½ tbsp light soya sauce
½ tsp ground white pepper

200 g rice flour
240 ml water
top up water drained from dried prawns and mushrooms to make 240 ml
600 ml pork or chicken stock, boiling
Garnish
2 tbsp spring onions, roughly chopped
2 tbsp coriander, roughly chopped
½ red chilli, julienned; or 1 tsp toasted white sesame seeds

Image* How much you trim from the yam depends on how good it is. You should discard the white part, under the peel, that doesn't have much red veins. Click here for more tips on making orh kueh.

Prepare dried prawns, dried mushrooms, yam and shallots as detailed above.

In a wok, stir-fry shallots in hot vegetable oil over medium heat till lightly golden. Turn off heat. Continue stirring till nicely golden brown. Remove shallots with a skimmer and set aside. You should have about ⅓ cup.

Reheat wok and oil till warm. Over medium heat, fry yam till just soft (but not brown), 2-3 minutes. Turn off heat. Remove yam to a big bowl. Immediately sprinkle with ½ tsp salt and ¼ tsp five-spice powder. Toss till evenly mixed. Set aside.

Remove all but 2 tbsp oil from the wok. Reheat till very hot. Over medium-high heat, stir-fry dried prawns till lightly golden. Add mushrooms and stir-fry till fragrant and lightly golden. Add light soya sauce and ground white pepper. Stir till evenly mixed. Turn off heat. Add mixture to yam along with all of fried shallots except 2 tbsp. Stir till evenly mixed.

Line bottom of 20 x 20 x 5 cm cake pan with parchment paper, leaving some overhang.

Top up water from soaking dried prawns and mushrooms to make 240 ml (1 cup). Pour liquid into wok and stir to deglaze. Add rice flour. Stir till smooth. Add boiling chicken or pork stock. Stir till evenly mixed. Turn on heat to low. Stir continuously, scraping sides and bottom of wok. Reduce heat to very low as batter gets hot. If lumps appear, turn off heat immediately, stir vigorously till smooth, then turn on heat again. When batter starts to thicken, add fried ingredients (except the 2 tbsp shallots set aside). Stir till batter is thick enough to coat a spoon/spatula thinly. Go for a thinner consistency if you like your orh kueh softer, and vice versa. Turn off heat.

Transfer batter into pan. Smooth and level batter. Steam over rapidly boiling water till inserted skewer comes out clean or almost clean, depending on consistency of batter before steaming. This should take about 40 minutes.

Remove kueh to a wire rack to cool down, an hour or so. Unmould by running skewer around edge of pan, then lifting kueh onto a plate. Discard parchment paper. Cut into 24 pieces. Serve garnished with spring onions, coriander, red chilli or sesame seeds, and remaining shallots.

37 comments:

Shuhan said...

wah your orh kueh is definitely good stuff what with homemade stock added and fried shallots and dried shrimps and mushrooms. the versions I've seen hardly call for all that together. 

KT said...

'the versions I've seen hardly call for all that together.'

That's because orh kueh has never been gentrified and served in restaurants. It has remained at the same level as hawker style chai tow kueh. Restaurant style lor bak gow, which is chai tow kueh with good ingredients such as dried scallops, is very similar to the luxurious version of orh kueh.

guest said...

wow, it is out already, thank you so much!

nic said...

Thank you for your detailed video in YouTube. I followed step by step cooking and instructions. It turn out really nice. My first attempt for Orr kueh received thumbs up from my family:) Yummy!

Peng88 Sal said...

I love this yam cake recipe. It's awesome! Thank you very much.

KT said...

 You're welcome. Thanks for the feedback.

Tay Ling Ling said...

Hi KT,

Many thanks for sharing your recipe plus video on your blog. I tried it out yesterday (spent the better part of the afternoon slaving in the kitchen!) and it turned out fabulous! :) The more I eat, the better the taste gets. Made some sweet sauce to accompany this dish too as hubby and daughter like to drizzle sweet sauce over yam cake.

MY MIL shared with me just today that her recipe for orh kueh included Chinese sausage, mashed yam and tapioca flour - on top of the ingredients for your recipe. Oh ya, hers doesn't have the chicken broth. Hmm, she got me curious about the effect of tapioca flour in the final product.

Posted a photo taken of the orh kueh I made yesterday here. Thank you!

Tay Ling Ling said...

Hi KT,

Many thanks for sharing your recipe plus video on your blog. I tried it out yesterday (spent the
better part of the afternoon slaving in the kitchen!) and it turned out fabulous! :) The more I eat,
the better the taste gets. Made some sweet sauce to accompany this dish too as hubby and
daughter like to drizzle sweet sauce over yam cake.

MY MIL shared with me just today that her recipe for orh kueh included Chinese sausage,
mashed yam and tapioca flour - on top of the ingredients for your recipe. Oh ya, hers doesn't
have the chicken broth. Hmm, she got me curious about the effect of tapioca flour in the final
product.

Posted a photo taken of the orh kueh I made yesterday here. Thank you!

KT said...

Hi Ling Ling

Sorry your comment took ages to be published. I can see it in the Blogger interface but Disqus can't capture it even after several days. So I copied and pasted your comment. Your photo, however, is MIA because I can't find it.

Anyways . . . . tapioca starch or wheat starch is added to rice flour for chwee kueh and chai tau kueh to make it less 'floury'/gummy and more . . . gelatinous. I did wonder if orh kueh should also have a bit of starch but after making it, I think it tastes good using just rice flour. Maybe it's because cooked yam is a bit floury, so using 100% rice flour is ok.

Thanks for your feedback.

Tay Ling Ling said...

Thanks for sharing function of tapioca flour, KT. :) Now I know. And no worries about the delayed response. :)

Anonymous said...

I don't know why but mine turned out mushy almost gooey. It was also a light orangey hue like pumpkin cake, not white. Very disappointed after slaving away.

Veron

Anonymous said...

Hi KT,

I tried it out yesterday and it turned out to be perfect. My hubby loves it so much.

Norimah

Anonymous said...

Hi KT,

I tried it out yesterday and it turned out to be perfect. My hubby loves it so much.

Norimah

Kevin Goh said...

I work from home...and in between work I "chiak chuar" a bit and made this wonderful Or Kueh...now that's my lunch...It taste so goog I don't even need chilli dip or tao cheo...because I added cut green chillies inside it and on top of it...

kevin goh said...

My first time was the same, but this time I told myself to be patient and let it cool for 1 hr before removing from tin...oh, by the way, I use the non-stick bread making tin instead of putting the paper and then into the aluminium tin, quite troublesome. See the my picture posting above...I'm a guy, if I can do it you can too..

kt said...

You can steam kueh made with rice flour in any pan, without greasing or parchment paper. It doesn't have to be non-stick. The kueh is sticky only when it's hot, not when it's cool. I like to line the pan because I can lift the kueh out of the pan whilst it's still soft and sticky, to let it cool down faster.

Vivienne said...

I just made this and it tastes seriously good! Thanks for the recipe, tips and the video! Love your blog! I didn't have chicken bones to cook the stock so I used half a chicken cube instead. :p.

Viv.

Vian said...

Hi can I confirm whether rice flour and glutinous rice flour is the same? I have a packet of thai glutinous rice flour. If it is different, where can I buy the rice flour? Thanks!

kt said...

You should use rice flour, not glutinous rice flour. You buy it at the same place where you bought glutinous rice flour.

Vian said...

Oh kt, ok let me check it out at cold storage. Tks!!

Vian said...

Hi kt, I made this last week n it was well received by my colleagues and friends. Thanks for the great recipe and demo.

Ang Size Wei said...

Hi KT,
Is it possible to use pumpkin instead of yam? It is winter in Perth now and pumpkin is abundant and cheaper than yam. I remember when I was a little girl my grandma would make both orh kueh and Kim kway kueh (pumpkin kueh). However as time goes by only orh kueh is widely available......
Thanks.

kt said...

Yes. Suggest you leave out the five-spice powder but that's really down to personal preference.

Philip said...

Thank you so much for the recipe. Never thought of making it even though I grew up eating orh kueh until I happened onto your blog. Attached is my first attempt at making it. It was delicious albeit, a little too soft for my liking. Next time I would add less liquid.

Lizzie Slothouber said...

I agree with KT ... I'm located in Perth too ... try it .. just go easy on how much liquid/stock you use .. any starchy root vegetable should work - I'm going to be trying sweet potato one day coz the Yams here are A$24/kg ... try and report back * smiles *

Sam said...

Can I replace yam with pumpkin to make pumpkin kuih with similar portion of the rest of the ingredients?

chloe said...

hi kt, big fan of your blog, thanks for the detailed explanation and science behind the bakes. feel very "safe" following ur recipes, hehe. I just wanted to clarify the frying yam part, "just soft" could you describe the texture a lil bit? Can't really tell from the video. Is it like, easily breakable upon touch? (like steamed potatoes) Or does it still have some resistance?


I've made some godawful wu tou kou before so I just wanted to be super careful this time around.

Citygirlspore said...

Thank you so much for your cooking video.....

Juanasjuan said...

Hi KT,

I have made this a couple of times and making it again after a year has yielded the same fond taste and memory of this yam cake. I found that 2 tablespoons of light soy sauce is too salty to our liking and have adapted it to 2 teaspoon instead. Thanks for the recipe and video. :)

KT said...

1.5 tsp = 7.5 ml. The kueh may be cut into 24 portions, so each portion has 0.3 ml. That's way too little unless you use highly salted ingredients. Maybe your dried prawns are very salty, or you used store-bought stock, or you add laap cheong?

Emerline said...

I'm in Perth too... I used the frozen yam and it taste as good :)

Emerline said...

I'm a big fan of your blog, I have made the Or Kueh yesterday and it is seriously yummy. I think I have made you proud and thank you again... from Perth

KT said...

Good job!

thedancing jewels said...

Hello talented KT,

I've tried my first yamcake using your receipe! I hope you are proud of me too!(:

Everything was proceeding perfect until the making of the batter which I messed up ):

Didn't read the instructions properly to lower the heat and the whole batter turned out lumpy and bubbling like a monster breathing out waters in the lurking waters )): But I eventually salvaged it. YAY(: It turned out really soft when it was still hot. But managed to firm out after it was refridgerated

And I love it such much. It tasted awesome!(: Thank you!!

Have blogged about my first attempt with credits to your receipe and page

http://thejewelsthatdance.blogspot.sg/2014/07/hueys-in-kitchen-1-power-yam-cake.html

Yen said...

KT
I stumbled unto your blog while googling for orh kueh recipe and was glad I chose to use your recipe; mainly because of your comment that there is no preparation-shortcut to authentic tasting food. However, I use prawn stock instead of pork/chicken stock and it tasted just as good. Didn't think that this is too much work as the result was well worth the effort. One good thing that comes from awful tasting $1 orhless kueh is when people like me stop buying and making our own orh kueh. Thank you again for the recipe.

maggie said...

Hello KT,

Thank you for this recipe and demo. It tasted delicious!

My only problem was after steaming for a long time, it did not set.

So I needed up pan searing it.

What did I do wrong? Would it be too much water?

Cheers from gorgeous Sydney,
Maggie

Zanth said...

Hi kt, so the the total amount of water is 840ml?

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