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Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Blog Debut: Steamed Tapioca Cake (Ubi Kayu)

I didn’t get to know the wonderful world of food blogging until almost 2 years ago when I signed up for a Christmas Cupcake class at Shermay’s Cooking School. The chef instructor was none other than Kuidaore’s Joycelyn Shu and I am sure all avid bakers and blog regulars would attest to the sheer indulgence and awe-inspiring experience of lingering over her postings, the amazing photography and the equally amazing sweet concoctions. Two years and many hours of pottering around in my kitchen later, I finally decided that it would be fun to start writing and sharing the moments I spend in the kitchen. I am not sure if I would be disciplined and passionate enough to update this regularly but I do know, I always couldn’t wait to get into the kitchen even when I am still on my return flight from my business trips.

I also felt that this would probably be a good moment to start because lately, I have been absolutely obsessed with Kuehs, those definitive bite sized snacks so unique to the Malay Archipelago…and a little beyond.

It was while poring over Forest Leong’s cookbook, “Cooking Classics, Thailand” that I came across the recipe for steamed Tapioca Cake. This is a rather common Kueh in SE Asia. It is the familiar steamed Ubi Kayu to the Malays, the comforting Chiu Zi Kueh to the Chinese. It was simple enough and I just wanted to make sure that I could get the texture right – tender and light.

Forest’s cookbook is comprehensive and easy to replicate in the kitchen. I’ve had good success with her Pineapple Fried Rice and her Lemon Grass Roasted Chicken. Her instructions are very clear but I had to do some guessing when I came to her Steamed Tapioca Cake recipe. All ingredients quantity were well documented except for the Tapioca (Cassava root) itself. The recipe called for 1 medium Tapioca. Until then, I had never bought a Tapioca before and had trouble with the definition of a medium sized Tapioca. I took my chance and picked out what I thought was a mid sized root among the pitiful Tapioca collection at the wet market. (Didn’t know Tapioca can be so scarce nowadays, out of the 3 vegetable stalls at the market, only one would sell Tapioca) Needless to say, my first attempt did not turn out well. It was too soft and mushy. Apparently my medium sized Tapioca was too small. However, being the good chemist I used to be, I had the sense to take note of the weight of the grated Tapioca. I cross-referenced another similar recipe which specified the weight of the grated tapioca to be used but it didn’t call for any water in the recipe. It turned out a little tough for my liking but not unlike what we sometimes get from the market. Edible but I still decided to throw out the batch. The final batch was the result of tweaking the parameters from the first 2 trials. What turned out was soft and light, with a hint of Jasmine as recommended in Forest’s recipe.

Feedback from tasters in my neighbourhood
- Soft and light;
- Fine, non-fibrous;
- Subtle fragrance of Jasmine refines the experience further.

I will be giving out the recipes to the aunties in the neighbourhood so here goes:

Ingredients :

Tapioca 200g (weight of grated and squeeze dried tapioca)
Sugar 50g
Water 60ml
Red colouring 2 drops
Jasmine Essence 2 drops

Fresh Grated coconut 150g (can be bought freshly grated from wet market or get it from NTUC, Heng Guan Brand)
Pinch of salt
A few blades of Pandan Leave

1. Grate tapioca with a fine grater. Wash grated tapioca under running water to remove excess starch. Scoop up the grated tapioca,squeeze dry and place in a mixing bowl.The weight of the squeeze dried grated tapioca should be 200g.

2. Mix sugar, water, colouring and jasmine essence with the grated tapioca. Mix well and pour mixture into a deep tray for steaming.

3. Steam over boiling water for 30-35mins. Cool down completely.

4. Steam grated coconut with salt and pandan leaf for 5-10mins. Cool down completely.

5. Cut the steamed Tapioca cake into bite size pieces. Roll the bite size pieces in cooled grated coconut to evenly coat it with grated coconut.

So there, my first posting.... possibly more Kuehs to come.

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