Ondeh-Ondeh: Traditional Malaysian Dessert
Making Ondeh-Ondeh With My Mother
A few weeks ago, I was in my hometown of Perak, Malaysia, to celebrate Hari Raya Aidilfitri (the Eid Festival) with my family. The trip was enjoyable as I spent time with my beloved family at my parents' house. Every time I have the opportunity to go back, I love spending time with my mother in her kitchen. I savor the precious opportunity to cook with her and learn some of her traditional Malay recipes.
One of the most famous Malaysian desserts is called ondeh-ondeh. This sweet dessert is made from glutinous rice flour mixed with pandan juice and palm sugar (gula melaka), and then the whole thing is covered with freshly grated coconut. It is delicious and perfect for teatime.
My mother learned to make ondeh-ondeh 50 years ago from her sister-in-law, when they were both young. Now, I'm learning how to make this recipe from her. I love cooking with my mother whilst listening to her stories. She shares the amazing and wonderful experiences she had when she was a young woman living in a small village.
To make ondeh-ondeh, you need a few simple ingredients. Whenever I'm making a traditional Malay recipe, I always use authentic ingredients. For example, to make this particular treat you'll need freshly grated coconut and palm sugar. If you don't have these ingredients you can find them at your nearest Asian store.
Let's see the full ingredients.
- 3 cups glutinous rice flour
- 8-10 pandan leaves, cut into thin strips
- 1 cup gula melaka, finely chopped or cut into small cubes
- 1 1/2 cups freshly grated coconut
- Pinch of salt
- Water for blending
- Make pandan juice: Take the pandan leaf strips and place them into a blender. Pour in some water and blend until fine. Use a strainer and squeeze out the juice into a medium bowl. Set aside.
- In a large bowl, combine the glutinous rice flour with the pandan juice. Use your hand to knead the mixture lightly until it is smooth. If the mixture is still hard, add a tablespoon of pandan juice at a time. Once done, form into the shape of a ball, and set aside.
- Place the gula melaka onto a chopping board and finely chop or cut into small cubes. If you prefer a runny center, use soft gula Melaka while those who prefer a crunchy texture in the middle should look out for a harder type. (Please refer to the photo below for the harder type.)
- Place the grated coconut on a plate or in a bowl and add some salt. Stir until well-mixed. The grated coconut brings a mildly savory element to counter the sweetness of the center. You'll be amazed how these combinations are so perfect together.
- Prepare the ondeh-ondeh: Use your hands to roll them into a ball. Make an indentation to place the gula melaka cubes in the center. Once in place, roll into a complete ball, making sure that no part of the gula melaka is exposed, or it will seep out during cooking. Place the balls on a tray for a few minutes before putting into the boiling water.
- Next, bring water in a deep pan to a boil. Slowly lower the balls into the boiling water, one at a time, and leave them in the rolling boil. My mother's tip: The ondeh-ondeh should be done cooking once they float to the surface. Use a strainer to scoop and place them onto a plate.
- Continue cooking the remaining balls until they are all finished.
- Roll ondeh-ondeh around the grated coconut and make sure they all covered.
- Serve with a cup of coffee or tea.
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