Kuih are bite-sized snack or dessert foods commonly found in the Nusantara region. It is a fairly broad term which may include items that would be called cakes, cookies, dumplings, pudding, biscuits, or pastries in English and can be used to refer to sweet or savoury desserts.
A taste of everything
In Malaysia — while we have adopted different breakfast culture from around the globe, there is always that classic Malaysian breakfast meal. Among the noodles, rice, bread and cereal, every Malaysian can relate to having ‘kuih-muih’ to complement their breakfast.
In Sarawak, at almost every breakfast kopitiam and eateries, there will always be a table selling these traditional sweetcakes. Usually, there will be varieties to choose from. From sweet sticky cakes to crunchy fritters and curry puffs, each ‘kuih’ have a different and distinct taste that suits different preferences.
Ang Ku Kuih
Ang Ku Kuih, or “red tortoise cake” is one of the most famous breakfast kuih in Malaysia. Filled with mung beans, it is usually palm-sized, and circular. The skin is moulded to look like the shell of a tortoise as olden Chinese believe that tortoise shell equals longevity.
For the sticky nature of the kuih, it is placed on a square piece of banana leaf to avoid it from sticking to one another. Aside from being a breakfast kuih, Ang Ku, which is bright red symbolises the Chinese blessings for prosperity, longevity and wealth.
Hence, Ang Ku can also be found during important festivals like the Chinese New Year especially at altars as offerings to the deities. Apart from that, the kuih can also be found at auspicious events such as a newborn baby’s first month or birthdays of the elderly.
While it used to be limited to only occasions, today, Ang Ku can be easily found. There are even mini-sized Ang Ku for little children to enjoy.
Banana fritters, or more commonly known as ‘pisang goreng’ or ‘cucur pisang’ is a deep-fried banana covered in batter. It is said to be a popular snack in not only Malaysia but also the neighbouring countries like Indonesia, Singapore and Brunei.
Crispy on the outside, mushy in the inside, banana fritters are fried using plantain, or cooking banana. Plantains known as ‘pisang raja’, ‘pisang tanduk’ and ‘pisang kepok’ are popularly used to make banana fritters. They have a different textures than and flavour compared to regular bananas.
The savoury fritter is usually eaten warm or dipped in chilli sauce. Nowadays, banana fritters often can be found with cheese and creamer toppings.
Originating from the Chinese dumplings, this translucent-skin kuih have different variations in different countries.
This vegetable dumpling kuih, or known as chai kuih is a more healthy variant among most Malaysian kuih. Filled with jicama, and at times carrots and small prawns, the chai kuih tastes better with chilli sauce.
‘Orh kuih’ or yam cake is a favourite among Malaysians for its peppery, salty taste. It is usually served with chilli sauce to enhance the taste, but can also be enjoyed on its own.
It is almost similar to its cousin — chai dao kuih (radish cake). However, the texture is different where orh kuih is denser and chai dao kuih is softer on the inside.
Curry puffs or simply ‘Karipap’ is aone of the favourite malaysian snacks. A karipap is a small pie, deep-fried or baked with curry chicken and potatoes fillings.
Crispy on the outside, karipap can be enjoyed over a cup of tea or coffee. The shell is quite similar to the English baked pies.
These days, karipap can come in different sizes and aside from the usual ones, there are also different ways it can be presented.
‘Karipap pusing’ is a version with layered skins, popular for its ultimate crunchiness compared to the original. The method of making one make is also more complicated.
Karipap can be seen at almost every stall or eateries, and with the fusion of cultures, the fillings may vary. But nothing beats the good old chicken and potato curry in a puff!
Onde-onde are round, little balls filled with palm sugar, and coated with shredded coconut. Originating from the Baba Nyonya community in Melaka, onde-onde made its way to Sarawak and quickly became everyone’s favourite.
Made from glutinous rice flour, shredded coconut and palm sugar, it is a sticky sweet kuih, and a messy one too!
Because of the shredded coconut, onde-onde should be eaten on a plate to avoid mess. The fillings will usually ooze out at the first bite. The popular chewy delight can be easily found in any stalls selling kuih in Sarawak.