KitchenTigress: Orh Kueh (Yam Cake) (II)

Orh Kueh (Yam Cake) (II)

Orh kueh (yam cake) is a Chinese steamed kueh. Rice flour batter is heated on the stove till it's thick, then it's steamed. At its most basic, only yam is added to the batter. More luxurious versions would have additional ingredients such as lap cheong, dried mushrooms, dried prawns, and dried scallops.

Tips for making the best orh kueh ever:

1. The yam for making orh kueh must be fried, and it must be salted and seasoned with five-spice powder whilst it's piping hot. These two steps are crucial to bringing out the flavour of yam.

2. To maximise the flavour and aroma of the dried prawns and mushrooms, season whilst you're stir-frying. If you season when you're making the batter, your kueh wouldn't taste anywhere near as nice even if you use the same amount of seasoning.

3. If you prefer a softer kueh, leave the batter thinner when you're cooking it on the stove. If you prefer a harder kueh, make it a bit thicker. Unless you like your orh kueh quite hard, the batter shouldn't be thick enough to hold its shape.

4. If you line the cake tin with parchment paper, you can lift the kueh out of the tin whilst it's still hot to let it cool down faster. If you're not in a hurry, the parchment paper isn't necessary.

5. When buying yam, make sure the peel is firm. Soft spots would mean the yam is starting to rot.

6. Yam may be sold with the stem withered or still fresh. The state of the stem doesn't affect the eating quality of the yam but fresher ones would keep longer.

7. Don't keep yam in the fridge or the starch would convert to sugar in the cold. Put it in a wooden bowl or on a pile of newspapers, uncovered. Yam needs plenty of ventilation or it would rot very quickly. Avoid plastic containers because yam may rot where it sits on the plastic, which doesn't breathe.

8. Watch my wonderful video.

How to make orh kueh (芋粿, steamed yam cake)

Step-by-step guide

This recipe makes an orh kueh flavoured with lots of yummy ingredients: yam, dried prawns, dried mushrooms and shallots, all fried till wonderfully fragrant. Homemade stock is the killer that gives homemade orh kueh extra oomph.

orh kueh
  • 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; dice
  • 500-600 g yam (aka taro) – peel, trim all white parts under peel that don't have much red veins to yield about 300 g, rinse, cut corn kernel-sized
  • 100 g shallots – peel, rinse, 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
  • 2 tbsp spring onions, roughly chopped
  • 2 tbsp coriander, roughly chopped
  • ½ red chilli, julienned; or 1 tsp toasted white sesame seeds
Related post: more tips for making orh kueh.

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

  2. 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.
  3. orh kueh with lots of yam and mushrooms
  4. Reheat wok and oil till warm. Over medium heat, fry yam till 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.

  5. 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.

  6. Add stir-fried mixture to yam along with all of fried shallots except 2 tbsp. Stir till evenly mixed. Set aside.

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

  8. Top up water from soaking dried prawns and mushrooms to make 240 ml. Pour liquid into wok and stir to deglaze. Add rice flour. Stir till smooth. Add boiling chicken or pork stock. Stir till evenly mixed.

  9. Turn on low heat. 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.

  10. 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.

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

  12. Remove kueh to 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. Garnish with spring onions, coriander, red chilli or sesame seeds, and remaining shallots.