Kuih Bingka Ubi Kayu
“Kuih Bingka Ubi Kayu“, or better known as “Bingka Ubi” is another much-loved “kueh” of Malay-Peranakan origin which my family enjoys very much. It is sometimes spelt as “Binka Ubi” or “Bengka Ubi” depending on how it is being pronounced in the variety of colloquial tongues in this region. Coconut and cassava/tapioca go really well together, with the natural earthy sweetness from the starchy root complimenting the richness of the santan (coconut milk). And of course coconut milk and salt is an age-old combination. i.e. when there is santan, there must be salt. And the salt is perfect to bear contrast and accentuate the sweetness of the dessert snack without making it too cloying. Unlike some other kuehs, the recipe for Bengka Ubi is rather straightforward. And given how easily grated cassava is now available in local wet markets, it is literally a breeze to make it nowadays.
With the aid of modern technology, i.e. the conventional oven, one can now make this kueh very conveniently. I remember the “horror stories” I’d heard on how it used to be “grilled” in a special brass pan that came with “some kind of lid” for red hot charcoal placed below and over the pan, not unlike how the modern grill oven works now. Despite all the advancements in technology making things easier, it has also made it harder, i.e. for us to relive and revive the “authentic” smoky flavours that this kueh once used to be imbued with. Oh well… In life we can’t have it all. We win some and we lose some… let’s just hope that it is more of the former than the latter.
Despite the availability of grated cassava from the same stall that sells freshly grated coconut at the local morning wet markets, I prefer to buy the cassava whole and grate it myself. Firstly, I’d prefer a bengka ubi with a coarser texture and thus more bite. This is the texture which I grew up eating and remembering. So old habits die hard. Secondly, I could do with a workout, despite how infrequent it occurs!
While grating the cassava from scratch, be sure to avoid the tough fibres that runs through the length of the tubular root. It is really tough and would most definitely affect the texture of the cake when one has to bite into a piece containing a fibre or two.
The grated cassava has to be squeezed to extract the juices which is then left to stand for the tapioca starch to settle to the bottom, forming a cake layer of off-whitish sediment. The separated suspension is then carefully decanted to remove the liquids which would have cause the kueh to leave a slight bitter and astringent aftertaste otherwise. After that, it is just a matter of mixing all the ingredients together, pouring into the baking tin and into the oven it goes!
Kuih Bingka Ubi Kayu Recipe , adapted from Rohani Jelani’s “Malaysian Cakes & Desserts”
for a 6″ square tin
1 kg cassava/tapioca
180g white sugar
400 ml coconut milk
1 egg and 2 yolks (optional for vegetarian version, add 50 ml of coconut milk to batter if not adding eggs)
pinch of salt
To prepare grated cassava and tapioca starch, first rinse the cassava tubers to remove any debris. Cut a shallow slit along the length of the “skin bark” and proceed to peel it off. It should come off quite easily.
Grate the cassava but avoid the tough fibre that runs along the length of the tuber. Factoring attrition of tough fibre and skin, the remaining grated tapioca should come up to 800g.
Squeeze grated cassava with a muslin/cheese cloth or over a fine-wired sieve and collect the juice in a bowl beneath the sieve. Set the dehydrated grated cassava aside for later use.
Leave the starchy juice in the bowl to settle for 15-20 min for the tapioca starch to settle to the bottom of the bowl.
Carefully pour and decant the bitter sappy juices, leaving behind a layer of tapioca starch at the bottom. Discard juice and retain the tapioca starch.
Combine grated cassava, decanted tapioca starch, sugar, coconut milk and salt, as well as whole egg and egg yolks (if using) into a mixing bowl. Mix thoroughly to combine everything together.
Pour the mixture into a slightly greased 6″ square baking pan and bake in a preheated oven at 200 degrees Celsius for about 40-45 min.
After the baking is done, turn up the oven heat dial to 220-225 deg. C to allow the top surface to brown a bit more. Watch the kueh closely and remove it from the oven once the surface has attained the desired browning effect. Otherwise, you would end up with a slightly burnt surface like mine!
Leave to cool completely (appro. 3-6 hours) before cutting and serving.
Other Nyonya or Malay kueh recipes and related posts