Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Chwee Kueh

Preparing the chai poh (preserved radish) and batter
Chwee Kueh freshly out of the steamer
The soft texture and tastelessness of the dough suports the saltiness and cruch of the fried preserved radish.
Nyonya Kueh are traditional 'cakes' in Malaysia and Singapore, which essentially, is a marriage of Chinese and Malay flavours. Nyonya describes a culture that was born when the Chinese came to Malaysia as part of a wedding entourage, and then settled there. Their Chinese heritage merged with the Malay culture. What stands out in this amalgamation of cultures is its food. Chinese style cooking using the South East's herbs and spices, the evolution of which results in a unique blend of textures and flavours.

Which brings me to the subject of today's post - Chwee Kueh. Coming from Penang, hailed as a food paradise, I had not heard of this kueh. Seemingly, it's a popular breakfast item in the southern states of Malacca and Johor and the island republic of Singapore. My friend YP needs to make a typical Singaporean food item to be served at her sons' school's international day. Yvonne came to the rescue and gave YP a lesson in Chwee Kueh. Yvonne is the expert in this area as she comes from a family of 'Asian delicacies' makers. Curious, I decided to find out more about this 'unknown' kueh.

Chwee kueh involves making a mixture of rice and corn flours, water, salt and oil and then cooking it till it thickens, then poured into small moulds and steamed till done. Preserved radish is chopped finely and fried in plenty of oil till it turns crispy and fragrant, adding garlic and toasted sesame seeds to the mix. After the dough has cooled, it's scooped out and served with the preserved radish mix on top, and if you like it spicy, with a side of chilli paste.

Believe me, it sounds easy but it isn't. As with all kueh, the ingredients are simple, but the technique is what sets one kueh maker apart from the rest. Mastering the skill to make a kueh of the perfect texture takes practice, and can't be learnt just by reading a recipe. Traditional recipes such as kueh came from a generation of people who would make everything literally from scratch, with love and attention to detail. They would not rush, and would lovingly stir a pot, coaxing the contents to reach perfection. Having said that, Yvonne's recipe yielded Chwee Kueh that was soft, firm and packed with the zing of the radish. She is, after all, the expert...

It's nice to meet you, Chwee Kueh. I'm sure we'll be meeting again.....


  1. I am no expert, its just that my family makes Chwee Kueh for a Just having fun together as well as learning from u ladies.

  2. can u share receipe as I have been making the chwee kueh and has been unsuccessful.

  3. Hi can u share recipe with me as I missed my Singapore local breakfast in Downunder and have tried many other recipe but was unsuccessful.

  4. I would love to be able to make Chwee Kueh. Please please can you send me the recipe.

    Ben Chiew


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