Malaysian Monday 57: Yam kuih (Taro cake)

Monday, December 13, 2010

Happy Monday all! Ah, only a couple more weeks till the holidays and I yam definitely ready for a break.

Ha, did you catch that? I said yam. My segue into this week’s Malaysian Monday item : Yam kuih, also known as Woo Tau Koh. When I say yam, most Asians will know that I am talking about Taro, that hairy brown tuber with the white and purple flecked insides. But in other parts of the world, the tuber referred to as yam is actually what we call sweet potato, which is orange (or purple or white depending where you are). If you want to see a photo of a yam and sweet potato side by side, I have one in this post.

Back to the dish today: yam kuih is a savoury snack and makes for a filling brunch or supper treat. It’s often found at potlucks and parties too. because it’s a dish that can be enjoyed even at room temperature.

I was inspired to make this because a) I’d found a ziplock bag of cubed fresh yam stashed in the freezer, and b) I was going through some recipe cards mum had given me and came across the recipe.

These recipe cards were distributed by a leading Malaysian margerine manufacturer, and the styling is definitely 70s. Take this chicken salad for example...

Who knew that reassembling chicken into a semblance of a whole would be such a great serving idea!?

And before I go off on anymore tangents, here’s how I made the Yam kuih:

(I used some ingredients from the recipe card, but made the base of the kuih by adapting a recipe found in a book called Hot Favourites: Kuih, which I’d mentioned before. I know it sounds like a lot of Franken-recipeing, but Malaysian dishes are like that. You can tweak and add and subtract until you find something to match your own tastebuds. I also made a smaller serve than either recipe recommended).

250g (about 2 cups) Taro, peeled and cut into small cubes
2 cloves garlic - finely chopped
3 tablespoons dried shrimp (or to taste)
150 g (about 1 1/4 cup) rice flour
2 tbsp corn flour
1 tbsp plain (wheat) flour
2 1/2 cups water
salt and pepper to season (the recipe called for chicken stock granules, and I’ve seen some other recipes that use five spice powder. I found the kuih flavourful enough with the garlic and dried prawns and garnish to help it along).

To garnish - deep fried onion, green eschallots, fresh chilli, preserved salted radish (chai por), dried prawns. (Use as much or as little as you fancy - finely dice the bigger ingredients)

From left: yam, dried prawns, salted radish

First I usually soak and rinse the dried prawns before using to get rid of excess salt and to remove any impurites. I’m not sure if anyone else does this or whether I’m just fussy. I drain the prawns on paper towels.

Prepare a steamer and a pan to cook a kuih in. I lightly greased a non-stick loaf pan to use.

Mix all the flours together with the water to form a thin batter. Set aside. Heat some vegetable oil in a wide frying pan (over medium high heat), fry the dried prawns until crisp and golden, then remove about a tablespoonful to use as garnish later. Add the garlic and the yam cubes and stir-fry until the garlic is fragrant, be careful to keep the mixture moving so it doesn’t burn. Lower the heat then pour the batter in and stir constantly until mixture thickens (around 4 or 5 minutes). Season well, remember that the garnish will be pretty salty too thanks to the dried prawns and preserved radish.

Pour mixture into prepared pan and steam until cooked. It took about an hour, and I wasn’t sure how to test for doneness. I touched the top of the kuih and it was sticky but firm, and the edges had started to come away slightly from the sides of the pan.

Sprinkle garnish ingredients over the top, leave to cool before attempting to slice. I, of course, was trying to be too clever and thought that if I tipped the pan upside down, I’d get a nice loaf shape that would be easy to cut. In theory it would have worked if I had waited till the kuih was much cooler. In reality, I ended up with a messy “top” but at least the garnish helped disguise this flaw a little bit.

I’m sending this dish over to Suresh ( at 3 Hungry Tummies who will be hosting Muhibbah Malaysian Monday 6. If you’d like to join in, here’swhat you need to do.

Have a great start to the week!


cikmanggis said...

Kami sekeluarga sangat suka makan kuih Yam ni..baunya sangat wangi..cicah dgn sos cili..yum yum yam:)

Jeannie said...

I love this kuih too and so does my sons! But yam here can be rather expensive!

Cheah said...

Your 'woo tau koh' looks delicious. Yam is one of my favourites.

Charmaine said...

Love yam cake, esp with the sweet sauce. Yours looks delicious.

PlumLeaf 李葉 said...

Yum! Looks good! I've not made this before but I may do now! I've only made the white radish cake for Chinese New Year. I made 4 & gave them all away. No-one even cut me a slice to taste - waaaah! ;0)

chocolatesuze said...

i yam so looking forward to the holidays too! this recipe looks like one to try out on the inlaws yum cant wait!

Juliana said...

I love taro cake...I always ask my mom to make it...your look so good, love how you top it :-)

♥LOVE2COOK♥ said...

We love this yam cake! Especially my Mum! Looks super yummy ya ;)

Sorry I'm pretty occupied right now and unable to make any dish for MMM. I posted on my son's graduation's a 1Malaysia themed show though. Hehehe :D

grace said...

i yam what i yam, and what i yam is a lover of everything you make. :)

3 hungry tummies said...

I can easily eat a whole tray of yam kek! Love those vintage recipe cards :)

Lisa said...

Would you believe I have yet to try Taro? It looks so yummy, shaz! I love how you always manage to whip up something so elegant via whatever you find in the fridge or freezer! Hope your holiday shopping and prep is going well and full of fun! :)

jen cheung said...

I WaNT I WANT! I'm like starving right now!! Yikess - this looks too good!!

have a lovely day!
jen @

Bo said...

I actually collect vintage the vintage recipe cards are awesome.

Barbara said...

I've had taro root in Hawaii. It certainly didn't taste anything like yams. I know yams and sweet potatoes are slightly different in appearance, but is taro another form?

Indie.Tea said...

That looks good...waaay better than the way my family eats taro (plain, boiled...boring).

Anh said...

this looks delicious!! yum! And I laught at the 70s styling comments! I recently did some work for an Asian food mag and I nearly killed myself trying to work to their preferences!

shaz said...

cikmanggis - betul CM, lupa pulak nak cakap kena makan dengan sos cili.

Jeannie - I can't remember how much yams cost in Malaysia :) It's not too bad here, but just seasonal.

Cheah - I am hapy to eat anything if it has yam in it :)

Charmaine - thank you, yes, I think the sauces are the best part.

PlumLeaf 李葉 - oh that's sad. Make sure you eat this one by yourself then ;P

chocolatesuze - hope it goes down well :)

Juliana -thanks! I think I went a little overboard with the topping but I love it.

♥LOVE2COOK♥ - no problems Love, completely understand, it's such a busy time. Well done to your boy.

grace - You are what you are which is a sweetheart!

3 hungry tummies - know what I did? I had it for lunch and 2 dinners. SO pleased with myself.

Lisa - thank you! I cook pretty spontaneously based on what I find in the vege crisper etc, which is why I don't often blog about savoury meals. I never have the proper "measurements" for them :) I'm doing well, haven't started any holiday baking yet so hoping to do that soon.

jen cheung - thank you! Glad you like it.

Bo - hi there, glad you joined us for MM, everyone go check Bo's entry out. I love "old" books and things like that. I have my grandmother's sewing book from the 50s, it's full of beautiful Mad Men style illustrated clothes.

Barbara - even though they are both tubers, I don't think they're closely related, they come from different plant families. I think the taro is in the Arum family and the sweet potato is in the same family as potatoes. There are a few different forms of Taro, the one I used is quite big and tastes mild. I've also tasted some small ones, about the size of a fist, and they are quite sweet.

Indie.Tea - ha ha, I love atro so much I'll even eat it plain and boiled!

Anh - ha ha, glad you survived. I'm sure you did a fab job regardless.

Heavenly Housewife said...

I yam loving this daaahling, looks wonderful :D
*kisses* HH