Soon Kueh (Turnip Dumplings) (I)

Monday, 26 September 2011

Success at last at making the dough for soon kueh! It was my seventh attempt and sixth recipe. How's that for perseverance? As I kneaded the dough, I felt quite sure that this time it would work. And it did, beautifully. Mind you, I had spring roll wrappers standing by in case the dough failed again.

What was wrong with the five recipes that didn't work?

The one from Chan Chen Hei, ex-chef of Hai Tien Lo, failed outright because it had way too much water. What the recipe made was a batter, not dough.

The Best of Singapore Cooking gave me a dough that cracked even before it was steamed. The ingredients – rice flour, tapioca starch, water, salt and oil – were similar to the recipe I succeeded with. But the water added to the dry ingredients was hot instead of boiling.

I also tried the recipe in Cooking for the President. The dough I got, using rice and tapioca starch cooked on the stove, was simply too wet and soft to be shaped or rolled. I think there was way too much water and oil.

And then there was a Taiwanese recipe which used glutinous rice flour mixed with a bit of plain flour. That one wasn't too bad if eaten hot but it hardened badly when it was cold.

And then there was cornercafe's recipe for 'crystal pastry' which used tapioca starch, wheat starch, oil, salt and boiling water. What I got was a very bouncy dough that squelched (!) when it was kneaded, somewhat like what The Best of Singapore Cooking gave me although the ingredients and methods were substantially different between the two. The squelching was rather scary. I threw the dough away before it became alive and attacked me.

The successful recipe I tried was from Rose's Kitchen. The dough was not bouncy, not too soft and, most importantly, it didn't fart squelch. The minute I started kneading, it just felt right. Search mission accomplished.

30 July 2012 Update

(Recipe for 32 pieces)
Dough (adapted from Rose's Kitchen)
300 g rice flour
100 g tapioca starch
plus ¼ cup for adjusting and dusting
1 tsp salt
600 ml water, boiling
2 tbsp vegetable oil
2½ tbsp vegetable oil
40 g dried prawns
rinse and soak in 2 tbsp water till soft, about 15 minutes; squeeze dry, reserving the water; chop roughly
4 cloves garlic, peel and chop roughly
40 g dried mushrooms
break off stalks and reserve for other dishes; rinse caps and soak in ¼ cup water till soft, about 30 minutes; squeeze dry, reserving the water; slice thinly
1.1 kg "local" turnip (aka 沙葛, bangkuang, yam bean and jicama)
wash, peel and cut matchstick size to yield 1 kg; if grating, make sure grater doesn't turn turnip mushy

2 tbsp sugar
3 tbsp light soya sauce
¾ tsp ground white pepper
Finishing touch
1 tbsp shallot or vegetable oil

To make dough, mix rice flour, tapioca starch and salt thoroughly. Pour boiling water evenly over mixture. Immediately stir till well mixed and cool enough to handle but still extremely hot. Drizzle with vegetable oil. Knead till evenly mixed to make a smooth, sticky dough. Continue kneading, dusting with tapioca starch till dough is no longer sticky (like glue) but still quite tacky (like Post-it paper). Cover and let dough rest 10 minutes or up to a few hours.

To make filling, heat vegetable oil in a wok till just smoking. Over high heat, stir-fry dried prawns till lightly golden. Add garlic and stir-fry till translucent. Add dried mushrooms and stir-fry till everything is nicely golden brown. Add turnip and continue stirring till thoroughly heated and wok is very hot again. Add light soya sauce and sugar. Stir till LSS is absorbed. Add water drained from dried prawns and dried mushrooms, which should be no more than 2 tbsp or so. Stir-fry till turnip is wilted but still crunchy. Sprinkle with ground white pepper. Stir through. Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary. Turn off heat. Push turnip to side of wok to drain. If turnip is very wet, drain in a colander. Leave till cold. Transfer to a bowl.

To wrap,
dust worktop lightly with tapioca starch. Knead and roll dough into a log shape, dusting with tapioca starch if too sticky. Cut into 32 pieces of equal size, 30-32 g each. Keeping dough not being worked on covered, roll each piece into a ball, dusting with tapioca starch as necessary. Flatten into a disc with dough scraper, then roll into a 11-cm circle about 2 mm thick. If your dough looks more like an amoeba than a full moon, use a 11-cm rice bowl or cutter to cut a perfect circle. Using chopsticks, place 30-32 g filling (1 heaped Chinese soup spoon) on the dough, in the middle. Fold bottom half of dough upward, bringing edges together. Press to seal, from the middle to the corners. Set aside, covered, and repeat from "roll each piece into a ball . . . ."

Turnip filling in bottom of bowl would be rather wet. Drain as appropriate.
To steam, brush perforated tray with oil, or line with parchment paper. Place soon kueh on the tray spaced 1 cm apart. Steam over rapidly boiling water till slightly puffed, about 10 minutes. Brush lightly with oil. Transfer to an oiled plate, spaced apart whilst cooling down. If desired, pan-fry just before eating.

To serve, drizzle soon kueh with sweet dark soya sauce and/or chilli sauce. Leftovers should be refrigerated, then steamed or pan-fried till thoroughly heated through before eating.


mj said...

hi , i tried the recipe for your soon kueh dough today. it worked very well and i made them into mini soon kueh. thank you. 

KT said...


You're most welcome, mj.

Anonymous said...

Hi did you used glutinous flour in this recipe?

Ms A said...

Rose Kitchen, the lady from England, hei, her recipes works!  so far, I have tried out her chocolate chip cookies (I made 3 recipes for my girl's bazaar class , sell out !) and her butter cake recipes also very tasty! But I like your videos, pictures tells thousand words and works, hehehe!

Genevieve Ngui said...

Hi KT..just dropped by to say Soon Kueh but i don't think I can do it...=)

KT said...

Oh, I have failed then. *dramatically drape back of hand over forehead* The video is supposed to make it look real easy

Genevieve Ngui said...

 Just watched the video...I can change me mind...but I'm terrible with pastries and such...or maybe i can do the filling and get my friend Irene to do the wrapping...but..but this is the same Irene whom I was supposed to do Bak Chang with...years ago...hahaha=)

Jenny said...

I just tried making some today. It tastes good. Thanks for your recipes. I have a question. The skin turns hard and tough when it is cold. Should I add more water or should I knead the dough longer ?

KT said...

Hi Jenny

You can't add more water because the dough would be too sticky. Kneading longer doesn't make any difference.

You can try this: reduce the rice flour from 275 g from 300 g, increase the tapioca starch to 120 g from 100 g, increase the vegetable oil to 3 tbsp from 2 tbsp, and reduce the water as necessary.

The change in the mix of flour and starch would make the dough less chewy, and more oil makes it softer.

Alternatively, if you're in Singapore, you can try the "soon kueh flour" available at supermarkets. It has, besides rice flour and tapioca starch, wheat flour and cornflour. I can't tell you if it's good 'cause I haven't tried it yet. Have already bought a pack though. Hope to make some koo chye kueh.

Lynn said...

Hi KT,
I tried making some last night and it was really tricky dealing with the sticky dough. It got all stuck on my fingers and palm even after using up the 1/4cup tapioca starch for dusting :( I did not transfer the sticky dough to a table top. Is this a critical step? I mixed in the same bowl after adding the boiling water. Sadly the dough sticks all around the bowl and my whole hand. Can I ask if adding more tapioca starch makes it stickier since its starch? Pardon me please. I love soon kueh it's my comfort food and I have been trying to master the skin making but I think I really need a Shifu :)

KT said...

Did you measure the boiling water and tapioca starch correctly?

Rowen wong said...

Hi,I found your site,and love love to try this recipe out. But the problem is that I live in japan, and I can't find local turnip. Can't find any turnip though, can I replace it with anything else? :)) thz in advance :))

KT said...

Besides turnip, the steamed dumplings may be filled with bamboo shoots, yam, garlic chives, cabbage or leeks.

Unknown said...

Hi KT, I found your site accidently while looking for chwee kueh recipe. I am a Malay married to a Chinese. I've tried your chwee kueh recipe and my husband and daughter loves it very much..I'll definitely gonna try this soon kueh recipe soon :)

KT said...

Hi Norzila, welcome to my humble blog. You don't have any Malay family secret recipes to share, do you? Or is there a good Malay cookbook (in English) you'd recommend?

Diana said...

Thanks God, I stumble upon your site.. I miss Soon Kueh..

hamu said...

Thanks 4 sharing. This recipe is the one recipe i success to make chai kueh. But i wanna ask why my wrapper become hard to eat while its getting cold? What should i do. Did i missed somthing?
Thanks a lot.

kt said...

More oil in the dough (and less water) would make it softer when it's cold.

sofhie said...

U can add sweet potato for the dough, it make sweet and nicer.

Margaret lee said...

I juz made the soon kueh today, thanks for recipe. My dough turn out very good, it doesn't stick at all. But after steaming, some of it cracks. Why is it so ? Please help. Thanks

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