Malaysian Monday 35: Kuih Apam* / Fatt Kueh (Malaysian Steamed Rice Cupcakes)

Monday, May 10, 2010

*not to be confused with the Apam balik. There is also another different kind of breakfast apam. Confusing, I know.
Subtitle: An experiment in fermentation

Hi all, today’s Malaysian Monday is a record of my experiment over the weekend, rather than a proper recipe.

This kuih (generic term meaning snack/cake) has many permutations. Some versions are made using Eno (antacid salts), while others make use of creaming soda as a raising agent. The hallmark of a good kuih apam is the “split” at the top of the cake, some refer to it as the “smile”.

(accidentally tipped too much colour in the mix- it was meant to be a soft pink!)

Mum had actually collected quite a few apam recipes in her handwritten notebooks, but I had bookmarked this particular recipe because the method really appealed to my inner nerd. The method involves fermenting cold cooked rice, then adding rice flour, sugar and water to this mix.

The recipe itself was a bit vague, so I kind of made it up as I went along. Here’s how it went:

Placed 1 cup of cooked rice (cooled) and about 1 teaspoon yeast (I used instant dried yeast) in a bowl. I also added a couple of tablespoons of water, just enough to moisten the rice. Covered with plastic wrap and left to ferment for about 48 hours (the recipe says two days).

After day 1: the bowl was slightly warm to the touch, a bit of moisture had condensed on the plastic wrap, but the rice still looked “ricey”. The mixture smelt yeasty but sweet. I wondered if the fermentation process was a bit slow as it’s autumn and the kitchen was quite cool.

After day 2: More pronounced yeasty smell, rice still in grains. Suddenly occurred to me that maybe the yeast was old (didn’t check it first). Looked at box and expiry date: 11 May 2010. *slapped forehead.* Never mind, I pressed on.

Blitzed the rice with about 250ml water, in the food processor. Water sloshed everywhere. Note to self: Use the blender next time!

Poured watery mix into clean bowl, added half a teaspoon of (almost expired) yeast, and half a cup of sugar. Left overnight (about 8 hours)

Day 3: Ah, this looked promising. Realised that not all the rice had been blitzed, so poued this mix through a sieve and pushed the rice through with a spoon. Long tedious process which earned me a blister.

Added 1 cup rice flour and another half a cup of sugar. Stirred it well, then covered and left for about 2 hours.

Next, I lightly oiled some teacups, half filled it with the mix and placed in a steamer. I steamed it until it was cooked (a skewer inserted in the centre came out with a few sticky crumbs, taste the crumbs, it should taste cooked. The cake itself is going to be sticky)

Only one of the cakes in this batch had a split.

Worked out that I probably needed to fill the cups a bit more. Tried again, and …eureka!

(That is MC Junior's finger - she' was laying claim to the one she wanted)

Happily, it was a pretty successful experiment, and best of all, the kuih tasted  close to what I remember from childhood. The texture of this kuih is slightly sticky yet spongy, almost like a cross between a mochi cake and a cupcake. Surprisingly, the mini-critics adored this, they called it “sticky buns” and kept asking for more. The kuih does smell a bit “fermenty” and can take some getting used to.

They are actually best eaten warm, and on the day they are made because they don’t keep well. If put in the fridge, the kuih go rock hard - although the texture can be revived with a very quick blast in the microwave.

I’ll definitely revisit this kuih again, maybe exploring some of the other methods.

 (Attempted some mini versions too, using a muffin pan. Again, I underfilled the cases, so not much splitting happened)

A quick note on the fermentation process: if the mixture smells “off” or looks strange, throw it out. Err on the side of caution, I don’t want to be responsible for sending anyone to the ER!

Have a great start to the week!


grace said...

fun fun! what a terrific little experiment, and i actually love the deeper pink hue. i'm glad you like to play with your food, shaz. :)

Von said...

Wow! I've never had kuih before, but it looks so interesting to make! I love the fermenting the rice bit- it sounds so fun!

Barbara said...

Oh Shaz! That was such fun. Watching you make kuih apam step by step, errors and all. (hope your blister is better!)
It really looks lovely!

Anh said...

I have read a lot of people try to re-create this kuih. I've not even eaten it before!

Always love your experiment, Shaz!

Ellie (Almost Bourdain) said...

My auties have always made these kueh during chiense festivals. I haven't made them myself. They bring back a lot of memories. Thanks for sharing.

Juliana said...

I love rice cake...we always have similar ones for Chinese New Year :-)

Heavenly Housewife said...

I've never had a steamed cake before, but they all look so wonderful soft and moist in texture. Got to try one some time.
*kisses* HH
p.s. love that pink colour

shaz said...

Cheers Grace - food is such fun :)

Von - it was pretty easy too, but I was quite impatient havign to wait 3 days to see if it worked

Barbara - thank you. I know I shouldn't have but I've popped the blister and now it's all better :)

Anh - thanks:) I think I have to try the other versions, just for comparison :)

Ellie (Almost Bourdain) - no probs!

Juliana - I did mean to try this for NEw Year, but ran out of time :)

Heavenly Housewife - it is very moist, and a bit "spongy". Very sweet too, like you dah-ling :)

Barbara Bakes said...

Sounds like you had fun experimenting with it. I have never tasted something like this. It sounds delightful.

Trissa said...

Shaz! You know what? We have a similar treat in the Philippines called Puto - and I always thought it was made from rice flour and impossibly hard to make it from scratch - thanks for this - I can now get my puto fix with this!