Chwee Kueh (水粿; Steamed Rice Cakes)

Thursday, 30 May 2013

There're several types of steamed cakes made with rice flour. If you want to learn how to make these traditional delicacies, chwee kueh would be a good start. It doesn't take long and the ingredients are cheap, so you don't waste much time or money if you fail.

The first step in making chwee kueh is mixing the batter. The main ingredient is rice flour but that alone would make a rather hard kueh. To soften it, you need to add some starch. Some people use tapioca flour; I prefer a mix of cornflour and wheat starch. Of course, the amount of water in the batter is crucial to the success of the steamed kueh. If the ratio of water to flour/starch is wrong, the steamed cake will be too hard or too soft.

If you have a good recipe, the only tricky part in making chwee kueh is the second step, when you thicken the batter. If the consistency is too thick, the steamed cake will be hard, and mushy if it's too thin.

You need to judge when to take the pot off the heat. How do you do that? By observing the batter. Once it's thick enough to coat the sides of the pot thinly, put the pot in a water-bath to stop the cooking.

Chwee kueh should have a slight depression in the middle after it's steamed. That's the classic hallmark of chwee kueh. In fact, it's the water collected in the depression that gives chwee kueh its name, which means "water cake".

Where does the water come from? The batter which, if it's thin, releases water when it's heated, creating a depression in the process. Thick batter doesn't do that because the water can't break away from the starch.

If the steamed cake doesn't have a depression and is level, that means it isn't as soft as it should be. Mind you, that's not always a bad thing. A cake that's a bit harder than it should be may be ready to eat straightaway after it's steamed. A soft cake, OTOH, needs to cool down and set before you can eat it. If you like your chwee kueh piping hot, you'd have to re-steam it.

To make a good topping, you must avoid overcooking the chai poh. It becomes chewy and tough if it's heated for too long, and it'll stick to your teeth. How do you tell when the chai poh is done? Just mix it with a wee bit of dark soya sauce for colour, then fry it with some minced garlic. It's done when the garlic is nicely golden brown.

What sort of chai poh should you use? Salted, not sweet. The latter isn't really sweet but is just kind of tasteless because it's been washed, excessively, to get rid of the salt. Of course, not all of the salted variety is good. The bad ones (like Pagoda brand) are mushy, have none of the fragrance of chai poh, and taste only of salt. Chwee kueh is nice only when the topping is crunchy and fragrant.

Between orh kueh, chai tow kway, lor bak gou and chwee kueh, orh kueh is the easiest because it's quite forgiving. Orh kueh is nice whether it's a bit harder or softer.  

Chwee kueh is OK too. If you get it right, you eat it as chwee kueh. If it's hard, you can make it into char kway, i.e. chai tow kway sans chai tow, fried.

Chai tow kway is the most difficult. If it's too soft, it'll turn to mush when you fry it, and it's not nice if it's too hard. You have to get it just right.

Lor bak gou isn't too bad. Like orh kueh, it's got a lot of tasty ingredients which help make the job easier. I'll be doing a post on lor bak gou soon . . . ish. Meanwhile, here's the video for chwee kueh:

Source: adapted from honeybeesweets88
(Recipe for 20 pieces)
150 g rice flour
12 g wheat starch
12 g cornflour
½ tsp salt
2 tsp oil
300 ml room temperature water
400 ml boiling water
150 g chopped chai poh (菜脯; salted turnip), Twin Rabbit brand
30 g garlic, peel and chop roughly
¼ tsp dark soya sauce
120 ml vegetable oil
2 tbsp sugar

To make kueh, thoroughly whisk rice flour, wheat starch, cornflour, salt, oil and 300 ml room temperature water. Add 400 ml boiling water. Whisk again. Cook over medium-low heat till just thick enough to coat sides of pot thinly, stirring constantly. Place pot in water-bath. Stir till half-cool.

Bring steamer to a boil. Place perforated tray in steamer. Arrange moulds, measuring 6 x 2 cm, slightly apart on tray. Fill moulds with batter to 3 mm from edge. Cover and bring steamer back to a boil. Steam 20 minutes over rapidly boiling water. Uncover. Cakes should have some water on top. If there is, steam uncovered till water evaporates, 1-2 minutes. Remove cakes from steamer.

Cakes should be mushy just after steaming. Leave to cool down and set. Resteam just before serving if you prefer hot/warm chwee kueh. If batter is overthickened before steaming, cakes may be set or half-set whilst piping hot.

To make topping, rinse chai poh twice. Drain in sieve, pressing to remove excess water. Transfer to mixing bowl. Add garlic and dark soya sauce. Mix thoroughly. Heat wok till hot. Place chai poh mixture in wok. Add enough oil to almost cover mixture, about 120 ml. Fry over medium-high heat till garlic is golden brown. Reduce heat to low. Add sugar and stir till dissolved. Turn off heat. Taste and if necessary adjust seasoning.

To serve, unmould chwee kueh and top with fried chai poh, along with some oil. Add sambal on the side if you like your chwee kueh spicy.


Krista said...

Thanks for a detailed video on making this. My husband loves this but I have never attempted it before. Your video gives me no reason not to try the recipe out :-)

Addle said...

I love Chee kueh!!! This gives me no reason not to try this out. I posted this to my friend who made this and gave some to me. I tried it. It was delicious!!! Thanks KT!!!

Juanasjuan said...

Just tried your chwee kueh recipe for dinner just now. My Mum says, "Mmmmm!! Mmmm!!" Thanks for sharing! Now I can have chwee kueh anytime of the day when I feel like it. :D

Although I find the chwee kueh not as translucent as those outside.

Susanna Chong said...

Made these delicious chwee kueh for tea today ! Like both the kueh text n its topping. Thks for sharing this recipe!;) It's my keeper recipe now.
Here is a pic of my chwee kueh -


Travis said...

I tried looking for a recipe many years ago and couldn't find one. Thank god I can finally try this out! May I know where you get your chai poh from?

Jerene Claris Ho said...

Any idea how to make the chwee kueh chilli? :)

kt said...

Grind shallots, red chillies and rehydrated dried red chillies – all roughly chopped, about 1 cup each – with 2 tsp belachan powder. Fry with 1½ cups vegetable oil till oil separates, seasoning with 1/2 tsp salt and 1/2 tsp sugar.

kt said...

I buy mine at a market.

Lai said...

I love love love....your videos ! keep it up!

LuneGrumpyFace (・へ・) said...

Hi May i know if the recipe is for 20 pieces or 6? because the recipe wrote 20 but only 6 moulds were used? Was it did in batches or was the recipe modified? Thanks! (:

Jllow said...

Would the same timing work for slightly bigger moulds? ( ie. 10 cm) or should I be steaming them for slightly longer? Thanks

CookingWithLouis said...

Recipe is for 20 just that she did it in batches :)

KT said...

I don't think LuneGrumpyFace can count beyond 6.

MrsLim said...

Hi, thanks for your video. May I know what is wheat starch? I'm from KL.

maureen said...

Hi - thanks for sharing this recipe. I am going to make this soon, can you tell me where can I purchase the bowls and steamer - by the way I am also from Singapore. Thank you so much! :D

Margaret said...

will it work if I omit the wheat starch and increase the corn starch? (for the gluten intolerant guest)

zainon said...

hi is there any orther name bisite wheat starch?thks
is there any photo that ican see?

huien said...

A bit late, this, but I bought my moulds from Phoon Huat

Hsu said...

Hi KT,
Do I need to grease the moulds?

pillow said...

Can the batter be set aside and kept at room temperature so that it can be used later on used to steam to make the chwee kueh?

Rani Vijoo said...

wonderful post and presentation....looks yummy!!

Beth said...

Was trying to make today,but got difficulty measuring 12 grms of the flour

irene woon said...

I dont have chwee kueh mould so i use small metal bowl to steam it. It had been in the steamer for an hour, i inserted a toothpick to test for doneness, it came out with sticky paste on the toothpick. Is it done yet?

Erica said...

I made these kueh again today and the result is still as nice as those I made last week. The recipe is easy and yummy. Thanks for so much! As I'm in france, I can't find this mould so I use those silicon mould. It doesn't matters to me what the shape is like, so long as the taste is chwee kueh! Luckily managed to get those flour from the asian market.

Erica said...

There shouldn't be any problem as long as u have a weighing machine. Even if I tell u to use conversion, u may also have problem measuring 2.4teaspoon... So. Just weigh them. I did that too

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