Why It Works
- Rolling the onde-onde into one-inch balls makes them good one-bite snacks.
- Shaving the gula melaka (palm sugar) into positive grains helps it soften into syrup throughout cooking.
A favourite teatime deal with for a lot of Malaysians is onde-onde, a fluffy, chewy ball crammed with melted palm sugar, the dough tinged inexperienced with pandan and coated with freshly grated coconut. I say “a” nevertheless it’s laborious to cease at only one, as these emerald nuggets are extraordinarily snackable. Onde-onde is considered one of dozens of sorts of kuih, lovingly and laboriously ready snack objects which have their roots in Nyonya tradition. There are two issues to outline right here now: What’s Nyonya, and what’s kuih? Let’s speak about Nyonya first.
Nyonya is a shortened type of the time period Baba-Nyonya, which refers back to the Peranakan Chinese language, probably the most well-known of Malaysia’s many ethnic teams. The Peranakan Chinese language are descended from Chinese language settlers who built-in into native Malay communities and adopted lots of their cultural practices. There are different Peranakan teams across the area, together with the Peranakan Chitty and Peranakan Jawa (“Peranakan” means “combined parentage,” roughly), however the Peranakan Chinese language have arguably gone to the best lengths to protect their tradition and heritage, particularly meals.
As for the definition of kuih, in essentially the most basic sense it refers to snack meals each candy and savory. Kuih means various things to totally different folks, however based on Debbie Teoh, a famend Nyonya chef from Malaysia, kuih is any snack merchandise that very particularly may be eaten in “one—most two—bites.”
Kuih: Symbolism in Each Chew
The small dimension of kuih is important, their daintiness reflecting the significance positioned on refinement in Nyonya tradition. This type of symbolism is woven all through Nyonya tradition, from furnishings to vogue to meals, every merchandise signifying one thing specific. Meals is the place this symbolism exhibits itself essentially the most: Present as much as a Nyonya wedding ceremony dinner and every dish might be curated to characterize prosperity, fertility, and the like.
Nowadays, although, loads of kuih supplied exterior the house tends to be bigger in dimension, missing the standard symbolism of those snacks. Once I spoke to Debbie Teoh about kuih, I requested her concerning the super-sizing that was turning into an increasing number of widespread. “Persons are not so cautious about symbolism and significance today,” Debbie lamented. “Greater than two bites isn’t kuih—Nyonya would say kasar.” “Kasar” on this context means “impolite” or “uncouth.” Small bites are essential as a result of conventional Nyonya etiquette dictates that you simply’re to be dainty and never open your mouth too vast when consuming.
Past their dimension, kuih can perform on a number of different symbolic ranges. Completely different shapes, colours, and methods of presenting kuih are chosen relying on the event. Comfortable celebrations like birthdays contain brightly coloured kuih in purple, orange, and yellow hues. Somber gatherings like funerals use the colours black, blue, and white.
Onde-onde is particularly meant to be served at weddings. As for why, effectively, one may have the ability to guess based mostly on the visuals of the fluffy balls. “The Nyonya are very crude! They’re really very loud; they only don’t use their mouths to speak,” Debbie says, laughing, of the way in which these Nyonya symbols can concurrently implement good manners whereas indulging in some good, old style sexual innuendo. “I didn’t provide you with this stuff. These symbols happened approach earlier than I used to be born.
The Constructing Blocks of Onde-Onde
If there was a cheat sheet of widespread Malaysian kuih components, it will embrace some type of rice flour (both common or glutinous), palm sugar, contemporary grated coconut, and pandan leaves. Onde-onde has all of them. These sweets are made by wrapping pandan-scented glutinous rice flour dough round a filling of Malaysian palm sugar referred to as gula melaka, boiling the crammed dough balls, after which rolling them in coconut.
In response to Debbie Teoh, the true Nyona approach of getting ready onde-onde makes use of gula melaka syrup. However since filling the dough balls with syrup may be difficult even for seasoned cooks, Debbie suggests utilizing very finely shaved gula melaka as an alternative. To make sure that the sugar melts into gooey, pops-in-your-mouth sweetness, it’s necessary to make use of the correct ratio of dough to filling. If the pores and skin is simply too thick, the gula melaka shavings won’t soften whereas boiling, leading to an disagreeable grainy texture. Many Nyonya aunties insist as effectively on utilizing mashed cooked candy potato within the dough (as does this recipe), because it helps hold the onde-onde tender after they calm down.
Once we chatted concerning the substitutions that diaspora Malaysians use when making Malaysian recipes, Debbie was supportive, saying, “Recipes will at all times evolve. You must settle for it.” For these with out easy accessibility to freshly grated coconut, she supplied an ingenious tip she heard from Malaysians dwelling abroad: microwaving desiccated coconut in a small quantity of water. I attempted this system, and it rehydrated completely, producing a wonderful stand-in for freshly grated shavings.
Of course we’d all prefer to make a dish with its “authentic” and “appropriate” components within the “correct” approach. However the additional you get from the place and time a dish originates, the extra it adapts. The Nyonya most likely perceive this in addition to anybody, themselves being a diasporic group. So if you’re hankering for a style for house, you do the most effective you possibly can with what you could have, even when it means microwaving dried coconut.