Most people only know about Japanese mochi, but throughout Asia, you’ll find many varieties of soft, sticky, chewy (and naturally gluten-free) foods made from glutinous rice flour.
Here in Malaysia, there are many kinds of kuih (also spelled kueh; kuih muih in Malay) – traditional snacks/desserts, many of which consist of a mochi-like skin encasing different fillings. A while back I made kuih koci, one of my favourite kuih. And now, finally, I’ve made another favourite – perhaps my all-time favourite – angku kuih (angku kueh).
Angku kuih literally translates to “red tortoise cake” in the Chinese Hokkien dialect. It gets its name from the fact that it’s made in the shape of a tortoise. Traditionally, these kuih are made of a red (actually more like orangey-red) dough similar to mochi, and filled with a sweetened mung bean paste. In Chinese culture, red is considered a “lucky” colour, and tortoises symbolize longevity and good fortune. So it’s not surprising that amongst the Chinese communities in Southeast Asia, angku kuih remains an auspicious food item, eaten on special occasions such as Chinese New Year, the celebration of the first month after a baby is born, and birthdays of the elderly.
These days, however, angku kuih is sold just as regular snacks, and can be eaten anytime. You’ll find them in an array of non-traditional colours too – yellow, purple, black, even multicoloured…and also with different fillings, such as peanut or coconut.
The dough for the skin is usually mixed with mashed sweet potato (which also gives the colour), but you can also find recipes without sweet potato. I chose the latter method, and instead, used natural food powder to colour my dough.
To make this kuih, you will need to use a wooden or plastic tortoise mould, or substitute with a mould of another shape. If you don’t have a suitable mould (I’m pretty sure you wont find any kind of kuih moulds outside of Southeast Asia), you could just make them as round balls, or create your own shape (as I did with these Pumpkin Mochi).
The mung bean filling is usually pureed to a really smooth paste. I thought it might be nice (or maybe I was just lazy lol) to leave in some tiny bits of mung bean. It was fine, but on second thought, I think I prefer a smooth consistency.
This was my first time making this kuih, so while they’re not the best looking, I was nevertheless thrilled that they turned out! Don’t you love all the different colours? Most importantly, they were delicious!
If you love all things mochi, like me, you should definitely give these a try! And if you still can’t get enough of sticky, chewy foods, make sure to also check out Pumpkin Mochi Ice Cream!
Did you make this recipe?
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(Dough recipe adapted from Kathrine Kwa; Filling recipe adapted from The Way of Kueh by Christopher Tan)
ANGKU KUIH (RED TORTOISE MOCHI)
Yield: 17 pieces (with a 60g mould)
250g glutinous rice flour + extra for dusting
30g tapioca flour
1 tablespoon (12g) sugar
240 ml hot water
2 tablespoons (22g) oil
3 to 5 teaspoons natural food colour powder
200g skinned split mung beans, washed and soaked overnight for 12 hours
2 pandan leaves knotted (for steaming)
3 pandan leaves, cut into 4″ segments
80g thick coconut milk
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons (22g) oil
17 pieces of unwilted banana leaves, cut into rectangular/oval pieces and lightly greased
oil for brushing, optional
1) Drain the mung beans from the overnight soaking, and place in a wide and shallow, flat-bottomed heat-proof bowl. Spread it out into a thin, even layer. Embed the knotted pandan leaves in the beans. Steam on high, stirring once or twice, for 25-30 minutes, or until very soft. Then remove pandan leaves and while hot, puree the beans, using an immersion blender, until smooth.
2) In a non-stick pan, stir together pandan leaf segments, coconut milk, sugar and salt over medium-low heat until sugar dissolves. Then add in the pureed mung beans and oil, stirring continuously for 6-8 minutes, until it becomes drier and has the consistency of mashed potatoes. Transfer to a plate, discard pandan leaves, and cover loosely with plastic wrap and set aside to cool.
1) In a large bowl, combine glutinous rice flour, tapioca flour and sugar and set aside.
2) In a small pot, measure out the water and dissolve the colour powder in it. Bring to a boil over low heat (Tip: it’s a good idea to boil a little more coloured water – maybe 50 ml – so you have some extra in case your dough requires it in Step 5).
3) Make a well in the centre of the flour mixture, and pour in the hot liquid.
4) Use a wooden spoon or spatula to mix the water and flour mixture into a crumbly dough.
5) When cool enough, use your hand to combine the mixture, add the oil, and knead into a soft and pliable dough. (If your dough is too dry, add a little more water, a teaspoon at a time until the right consistency is achieved).
6) Portion out 30-35g pieces of dough and roll them into balls (I made 17 balls, 33 grams each). Roll the cooled filling into 25g balls. Loosely cover both with plastic wrap (and keep them covered as you assemble each piece).
7) Take a piece of dough, flatten it with your hands, place a ball of filling inside, gather all the edges and seal it well and roll into a ball.
8) Dust your mould with some glutinous rice flour, shake off any excess. Place the filled ball into the mould and gently press it in. Turn the mould over, give it a light tap on the surface while placing your other hand under it to catch it when it falls out. Place finished kuih on a greased piece of banana leaf.
9) Repeat Steps 7 and 8 for the rest of the dough and filling.
10) Prepare a steamer pot with water, bring to a boil. Then turn heat down to medium low.
11) Place kuih in steamer rack, spaced at least 1″ apart. Set over boiling water. Cover with the lid but leave a half-inch crack open for the steam to escape. Steam for 8 to 10 minutes.
12) Remove kuih to a plate. Brush the surface of kuih with a little oil, if desired. Let cool before eating.
Note 1: If you want to make the kuih in 3 different colours, as I did, you just need to do some extra calculations:
For the hot liquid, separately boil 80 ml of water and 1 to 1.5 tsp of colour powder for each colour.
In each of 3 medium bowls, combine 83g glutinous rice flour, 10g tapioca starch and 4g sugar.
You will need 2/3 tablespoon of oil for each coloured dough.
Note 2: The mung bean filling can be prepared a day or two in advance, stored in a tightly sealed container and kept in the refrigerator until ready to use. Angku Kuih is best enjoyed fresh, at room temperature, the day it’s made. However, if you have leftovers, they can be kept in the fridge for up to 3 days. Once cold, the skin on the kuih hardens, so they will need to be heated up. You can steam them for a few minutes on low heat, or microwave for about 45 seconds – just until the skin is soft again. Do not remove the banana leaves until you’ve heated them up and are ready to eat them. I’ve also read that the cooked kuih can be frozen, although I have not tried this.
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