Kueh Ee and Tang Chek 2014
Yes it is that time of the year again to golek some kueh ee. A year went by just like this and we have all become a year older, and hopefully wiser. As the holiday season arrives, mood relaxes as one winds down for a period of festivities and celebrations, as it is just a couple more days to Christmas and shortly after, the New Year. Like what was mentioned during last year’s Tang Chek, the coming of Winter Solstice marks the beginning of the spring cleaning and preparatory work that leads up to the Lunar New Year. So its time to get busy as well!
We see a large variety of innovative ways to make kueh ee nowadays, and I especially love those with a black sesame or red bean filling. Not a fan of the grated peanut version though, but don’t ask me why. Then there are those which are made using a variety of “natural food colourings” e.g. green from daon pandan, blue from bunga telang, purple from the Japanese satsumaimo, pink from beet root, orange from pumpkin etc. Psychedelic colours indeed! Some takes the form of animal shapes or cutesy looking cartoon characters, a good way to entice the younger generation to learn about this cultural event I guess. While we do cook those with filling at home, we do make a point to keep to the traditions and make a portion via the “old ways”, that is to make them round and dainty. Symbolically, to “buat kueh ee bulat bulat” is a wish to maintain the family together as a whole and everyone to be harmonious with one another, much like the Chinese saying of “圆圆满满” or as the Hokkiens would say “ee ee mua mua“, for all to start well and end well…
Red and white are the colore de facto for the Peranakan kueh ee, clear and distinct, as red has always been regarded as being “auspicious” by the Chinese and widely used within major cultural practices, from the hanging of the “chai kee” (red door hanging banner), “chun lian” (door couplets with auspicious writing written on red paper), kueh koo merah aka ang koo kueh (red tortoise shaped kueh), red paper cuttings to be pasted on windows and doors, as well on religious offerings for deity and ancestral worship, down to the angbaos (red packets) !
I was told by an eldery Baba that the red kueh ee likens “wee sit“, which shares the same cultural significance as angbaos, which are given as a form of a monetary blessing! It is customary for one to eat at least one red and one white kueh ee, to remind oneself that one is one year older and thus one year wiser and should act more responsibly.
The Peranakans make their kueh ee really dainty and “kechik” (small) so that they look more “alus” (refined) while the person eating them can do it in an utmost “senonoh” (elegant and graceful) manner. Making them really small also allows more to be filled in each little “mangkok chuchi mulot” (dessert bowl) where the sheer numbers is symbolic of abundance and wealth as well.
In the old days, glutinous rice used has to be carefully sifted and selected before being presoaked for a couple of hours and then milled by the old fashion stone grinder called the “batu boh“. The milled starchy suspension is then drained in a muslin bag, pressed by the large stone slab of the “batu giling” to squeeze out the excess water. Hot water is then added in moderation to form a dough when is then “golek” (rolled into balls) into the pearly kueh ee we see. Nowadays, most folks settle for the easier way to make kueh ee with storebought tepong pulot (glutinous rice flour) and just “chiong” with ayer panair (hot water) to form the dough. Convenience at hand is traded off with the faint yet alluring aroma of soaked and freshly milled pulot, something which the younger generation may not have a chance to enjoy anymore.
Void of the fragrance of pulot, kueh ee made from tepong pulot is actually quite tasteless if you ask me. This is precisely why kueh ee is served in a sweet broth, usually one with gula batu (rock sugar) and pleasantly flavoured by daon pandan, or for a more colloquial touch, a gingery broth sweetened with gula melaka (palm sugar) and slices of halia. Some also serve kueh ee in a kuah pengat where the broth is further enriched with santan (fresh coconut milk). I would imagine kueh ee to be more enjoyable if they were sweet as well. So do let the kueh ee sit in the syrup broth for a while before serving.
Kueh Ee Recipe 2014 (serves 2)
To make kueh ee
100g glutinous rice flour
70-80g tepid water
red food colouring
To make syrup
80g rock sugar (adjust to personal liking for sweetness)
2-3 pandan leaves, rinsed thoroughly, slightly crushed and tied into a knot
After washing hands thoroughly, prepare glutinous rice dough by first adding a portion of hot water to glutinous rice flour in a large bowl and mixing well to incorporate. Gradually add more syrup until “play dough” or “soft clay” texture is achieved.
To make kueh ee, divide the glutinous rice dough into three portions. To one portion, add a small amount of red food colouring. Fold the dough repeatedly until the red coloration is uniform. Pinch and divide the dough into small clumps and proceed to roll them into small balls between your palms. You can also shape the dough between finger tips if they are too small. Set aside to let the surface dry out slightly. This is why kueh ee preparation starts after dinner on the eve of Tang Chek for some families.
Bring a pot of water to a gentle boil. Lower white dough balls first into the water slowly and stir gently to make sure that the balls do not stick to the bottom of the pot. Remove the cooked glutinous rice balls from the boiling water when they float with either a slotted spoon or small wired sieve into a separate bowl of water at room temperature. Repeat the cooking process with the red dough balls.
To another pot, place water, rock sugar and pandan leaves and bring the mixture to a boil. Cover with lid, lower flame and let the mixture simmer for another 5-10 min for the fragrance of the pandan leaves to infuse into the sweet broth.
To serve, place a portion of both white and red glutinous rice balls into dessert bowls. Ladle the sweet broth over the kueh ee. Serve immediately.
Slamat ari Tang Chek!