Just when I thought I’d step away from the kitchen today, my sister bursts into my room, interrupting my lazy reading-on-a-beanbag session.
“I need you to make something Malaysian for my Multicultural Festival tomorrow.”
Lisa Jewell had to wait, I guess.
I usually do not attempt to make Asian food (besides dessert) because my mother does it very well. If it’s not broken, don’t fix it, right? Plus I simply do not share the same curiosity for Asian food as I do with Western food. This time though, I was handed the task because she was too busy, and it was a very specific request from my sister: onde-onde.
Yup, my sister is definitely one who knows what she wants.
Ondeh-ondeh is a soft and slightly chewy green-coloured glutinous rice ball that is filled with Gula Melaka or palm sugar syrup. It is also usually coated in grated coconut that has been very lightly salted. Whilst there are variants of this delicacy that uses mashed sweet potato, I chose to make an easy version of this. In hindsight, I should have thought of making agar-agar – that would’ve been way simpler! But the truth is, I’m a little glad that I made these as they weren’t too difficult, and realising that I had succeeded upon tasting the dark sugar centre was a pretty sweet feeling.
After referring to two recipes from Rasa Malaysia and Lily’s Wai Sek Hong, I decided to adapt theirs and create my own recipe based on the contents of my pantry. By mixing the two flours, I had hoped to achieve some sort of in-between mix that would accurately re-create the texture of ondeh-ondeh. Gula Melaka or palm sugar is usually sold in cylindrical blocks, and it may be difficult to cut these into small pieces, so you can just slice them thinly and then mince to get a rough ‘meal’ which is inserted into the middle of the dough. Upon boiling, these will melt into liquid gold. Oh yeah.
As with many Nyonya kuihs/sweet delicacies, ondeh-ondeh gets its signature green colour from screwpine (pandan) leaves, which are commonly used in Malaysian cooking due to their subtly sweet fragrance and flavour. If you don’t have them growing in your backyard, you should be able to buy pandan essence from Asian supermarket, or frozen pandan leaves. To give it a greener colour, I added two drops of food colouring but this is optional. Also, I don’t own a coconut grater and fresh coconuts are expensive, so I used desiccated coconut. Let’s hope the kids love this tiny, slightly adapted morsel of Malaysia tomorrow!
Makes about 50 balls
200 g glutinous rice flour
50 g tapioca flour (or replace with an additional 50 g of glutinous rice flour)
150 g of palm sugar, sliced then minced
2 tbsp of blended pandan leaves, or 1 tsp pandan essence
2 drops green food colouring, dissolved with 1 tbsp water
3/4 cup dessicated coconut
1 tsp salt
Add about 220 ml of water to the blended pandan leaves to extract 200 ml of pandan juice. If using pandan essence, dissolve essence in 200 ml of water.
Mix both flours in a large bowl and add pandan juice/essence mix. Stir, then knead for 2 minutes.
Grab a small piece of the dough (slightly smaller than a ping-pong ball) and put it in a pot of boiling water. When it floats, scoop it up with a slotted spoon and then add it to the dough, along with the food colouring mixture (if not using, simply add 1 tablespoon of water). Stir again, incorporating the wet dough and then knead well until you form a smooth dough.
Cover the dough with cling film and leave for 15 minutes.
Pinch off one tablespoon of the dough, flatten with your palm and put 1/8 tsp of palm sugar in the centre. Then seal the edges and roll into a ball.
Repeat with the rest of the dough. If you feel the dough is losing its pliability, moisten your palm with the tiniest bit of water.
Combine desiccated coconut with the salt and spread on a plate. Cover with a moist kitchen paper towel and heat in the microwave for 40 seconds. Discard paper towel.
Add the ondeh-ondeh into the pot of boiling water. When it floats, remove it with the slotted spoon, and then coat in the desiccated coconut mix.
Leave to cool before serving.