Ang Ku Kueh (紅龟粿; Kuih Angkoo)

Friday, 15 March 2013

I've just made some 紅龟粿. Is it good? Heheheh . . . heh . . . . Is your mother a woman?

It's my virgin attempt but the results are as good as the best store-bought ang ku kueh in town. The mung bean filling is uber smooth, has a very strong "beany" fragrance and isn't too sweet. The "skin" is very chewy and yet very soft. I tell ya, this 紅龟粿 is really to die for.

I'd like to think my kick-ass AKK is because of my brilliant culinary talent and all that. But the truth is the success is due to the excellent recipe from none other than Cooking for the President. I just followed the instructions (more or less).

C4P's dough recipe is quite unusual. The ingredients are roughly the same as other recipes but the method is very different. First, glutinous rice flour is combined with water and then refrigerated overnight. Second, coconut milk is cooked with rice flour, oil and sugar into a paste before it's mixed with mashed sweet potato and the wet glutinous rice flour. Other recipes don't have these two steps. Instead, the ingredients are just mixed together.

I think the extra work in C4P's method is the key to the chewy and soft "skin", which is so good I shan't bother to try other recipes. It doesn't get better than this, seriously.

What about the mung bean filling? That's less complicated compared to what it's wrapped in. It's not
rocket science but a lot of people get it wrong. Why? Because of their obsession over cutting down as much fat as possible. Compared to other recipes, there's a lot of oil in C4P's filling. The amount is absolutely necessary to give the mung bean paste its velvety smoothness and strong fragrance, without making it overly rich.

I've made 紅龟粿 all of one time but, hey, I already have quite a few tips for conquering the traditional kueh. Here we go:

🐢 Don't soak split mung beans for too long. The longer the beans sit in water, the more flavour (and nutrition) they lose. An hour is ample, IMO. C4P says three hours, which might be ok. Some recipes go for an overnight soak. That's definitely too long.

🐢 A lot of recipes, including C4P's, have the soaked mung beans steamed. I think boiling is better because it's faster but you mustn't discard the cooking liquid which has heaps of flavour. Instead, let the beans boil dry. That allows the flavour released into the water to be absorbed back into the beans. The same argument applies to the sweet potato used for the dough.

🐢 How good the mung bean filling is depends on, besides the quality of the beans, how much sugar and fat there is. If there's too little, that means it has more water to get the right consistency. Water doesn't taste of anything and it dilutes the flavour of the beans. Sugar and fat, OTOH, enhance the flavour.

🐢 How long does it take to steam 紅龟粿? No time at all because the filling is cooked and the 
dough is very thin and partly cooked. The ones I make, which are pretty small, take about six minutes over low heat.

🐢 How do you know when the ang ku kueh is done? When it expands a little. If you continue steaming beyond that point, the dough becomes too soft, resulting in a flat, collapsed kueh without any distinct motif. To lower the risk of overcooking, 紅龟粿 should be steamed over barely simmering water.

🐢 The shell of a real tortoise is hard but the make-believe tortoise's shell needs to be propped up. The "supporting role" is played by the filling which must be able to hold its shape when it's hot. If it's too soft, the "tortoise cake" would flatten into a pancake once it's heated.

🐢 The ideal filling to dough ratio is 1:1. The capacity of my mould is 40 g, so I wrap 20 g of filling in 20 g of dough. C4P actually uses 27 g of dough for 20 g of filling. That would make the "skin" a bit too thick, methinks.

🐢 How do you find the mould's capacity? Put it on your kitchen scale, tare, then fill it with water. The weight of the water multiplied by 1.33 is the mould's capacity.

🐢 To reheat chilled ang ku kueh, bring some water in a rice cooker to a boil. Put the kueh in the pot, on the steaming tray. Cover and switch the cooker to warm mode. Ten minutes would be just right.

I thoroughly enjoyed myself using my new wooden mould. I felt very authoritative (!) whacking it against the chopping board – TWACK! and out came a perfectly formed ang ku kueh, like magic. I'll definitely make AKK again but it won't be anytime soon 'cause it's a hell of a lot of work . . . . Oh hang on, what am I saying? It's a hell of a lot of FUN, not work! I'm making AKK again this weekend . . . I think . . . .

Source: Adapted from Cooking for the President
(Recipe for 21 pieces)
160 g skinless split mung beans
115 g sugar
80 ml peanut oil
60 g young, light green pandan leaves
wash and chop roughly
60 g undiluted fresh coconut milk
2¼ tsp rice flour
1 tbsp peanut oil
2 tsp castor sugar

1 medium-sized yellow sweet potato (aka yam in the US, I  think)
wash and peel; slice 110 g ½ cm thick
150 g glutinous rice flour
mix evenly with 125 ml water; refrigerate overnight, covered

banana leaf
scald in hot water; drain and blot totally dry; cut into 21 pieces each slightly bigger than your AKK

rice flour, for dusting
peanut oil, for glazing

🐢 If you prefer red AKK, you should: (1) use an orange instead of yellow sweet potato; (2) omit the pandan leaves for the dough; (3) add red food colouring instead, enough to get a shade of red that's significantly darker than what the AKK looks like when it's cooked (the colour fades a fair bit when heated); and (4) cook the mung beans with a few pandan leaves.

To make filling, soak mung beans in 480 ml water till expanded, about 1 hour (in tropical weather). Drain, rinse and drain again. Cook in 180 ml water, uncovered, till soft and dry, about 20 minutes. Mash beans roughly with spatula. Add sugar. Mash till dissolved and evenly mixed. Add oil. Mix till combined. Blend mixture till silky smooth. Fry in a wok over maximum heat possible, stirring constantly, till thick enough to hold its shape. Leave till cool. Divide and roll into balls weighing 20 g each (adjust to suit size of your mould if necessary; mine is 6 x 5 x 2 cm).

To make dough, blend pandan leaves with coconut milk till finely minced. Squeeze to yield 60 g green milk. Place milk in a small pot. Add rice flour, oil and sugar. Mix till smooth. Cook over low heat, stirring, to make a smooth paste. Leave till cool.

Cook 110 g sliced sweet potato in 120 ml water till soft and dry, about 15 minutes, to yield 100 g. Mash roughly. Add green coconut paste. Continue mashing till paste is smooth. Add wet glutinous rice flour made earlier. Knead thoroughly till evenly mixed. Divide and roll into balls weighing 20 g each (adjust if necessary to equal weight of filling).

To assemble, lightly dust AKK mould with rice flour. Flatten ball  of dough, to about 6 cm wide. Place 1 piece of filling in the middle. Cupping top of kueh with corner of right thumb and forefinger (for right-handers), nudge and press dough to seal filling. Roll gently between palms till round, dusting lightly with rice flour if too damp. Place in mould. Press to flatten and level top. Turn over mould and whack hard against worktop so that kueh falls out, onto shiny side of banana leaf.

To steam, bring steamer to a rolling boil. Place kueh in steamer, on a perforated tray. Cover and reduce heat to very low so that water barely simmers. Steam till kueh is slightly expanded, about 6 minutes. Remove kueh to a plate. Brush lightly with oil. Leave till cool. Trim excess leaf around kueh.

To serve, wait till there's a birthday celebration . . . . Just kidding. AKK is good any day of the year but if you have a red one on your birthday, you'll live as long as a tortoise. And when your baby is one month old, you must give your friends and relatives some red tortoise cakes. The red colour brings good luck and the tortoise shape symbolizes longevity.


jeannie said...

Well worth the time spent....if you love AKK, which I do and so does my mom and sisters....I always ended up being the one making this...hmmm! Great video! Pinning for the next birthday celebration:D

Susanna Chong said...

Your AKK looks really awesome! I really like the almost round shape, rather than the usual oval shape. Can u please advise where I can buy the wooden mould u used?

Thks n regards,

Susanna Chong said...

Btw, nearly forgot to ask - what is the size of the hole?


kt said...

Thanks, Susanna. I bought my mould at Phoon Huat. They don't always have it though. I think they sell everything before bringing in a new shipment.

kt said...

It's 6 x 5 x 2 cm.

kt said...

Hey, you must share your recipe!

Susanna Chong said...

Thks for the quick replyi and info, KT! :)


Chef and Sommelier said...

I'm truly impressed with your AKK!

I have the C4P cookbook too and this is definitely better than Mrs Lee's.

anna said...

enjoying your site so much which i just discovered...and love your sense of humour and all the rest.

Susanna Chong said...

Hi KT,
Couldnt wait any longer for my new AKK mould! Decided to go ahead to make these AKK with my old AKK mould today. Thks for sharing the recipe - the skin is really awesome! Chewy but soft! I like it very much - heaps better than my go-to AKK recipe. This recipe will henceforth be my go-to AKK recipe! :)

Here is a pic of my AKK -

kt said...

Whoa . . . niiiice!

kt said...

Thanks! I think C4P is better than Mrs Leong Yee Soo's cookbooks too.

teochiugirl said...

Could I use vegetable or olive oil instead of peanut? I made pineapple tarts for CNY for my family and it was a hit with my family. Thank you for sharing.

kt said...

Olive oil – only if it's tasteless.

Vegetable oil – yes. Frankly, the peanut oil we get nowadays has hardly any fragrance. I think it's mixed with vegetable oil anyway that's much cheaper.

Mrs O said...

KT, 开工啦? miss you so much! AKK, a lot of works, I bought 1 piece from Imbi market, good, but "flower" missing,kueh seller A said fire too strong (your point), then, a piece from Cheras, this time, flower also missing, kueh seller B said handmade is like that??? and the taste, lousy, the skin and mung beans separated!

I will try your recipe.

Sarah said...

Wow..wonderful. I am an AKK fan. Thank you very much for sharing. Love you!!!!!

kt said...

Besides gentle heat, there must be enough sweet potato in the dough if you want a distinct "flower". Too much glutinous flour would ruin the patterns.

Mrs O said...

dusting process?

kt said...

No, whilst making the dough.

Mrs O said...

thank you.

S Y KOH said...

what is the purpose for soaking the glutinous rice flour overnight

kt said...

Starch retrogradation.

Blanca said...

Excelent recipe. I watched the whole video. its very meticulous, many steps.

I have some problems, I cant find the pandan leaves here in South America, 1) May I use instead of it somthing similar, like " citronella" called also "Hierba limón" we have a lot here, this plant is original from Asia,

2) May I use some molds, those we use in confectionary? Thanks for your reply. My best regards

Blanca said...

thanks a lot, As soon as I could i will practice your reciipe and tell how was it

AKK fan said...

Are rice floor and glutinous rice flour different?

Nigel said...

Hey thanks for the time making those videos. You are hilarious sometimes. Can I check where u got the device for squeezing out the juice from the pandan leaves from?

kt said...

Ikea. Cheers.

Dewi C said...

Hi, Can I replaced the oil for the filling with 'coconut milk'? and can I just steam the sweet potatoes instead of cooked? if yes, is it just omit the water? Thanks alot :)

Marilyn said...

Must i take out the overnight dough from fridge to cool at room temperature before adding to the rest of the dough. I have taken the dough from fridge the last time and the finished dough seems very very soft. Not sure if this is the reason. Thanks for your advice.

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