Malay street food : Putu piring (coconut cakes)


Sometimes you really luck out. Like on the occasion we sat in a Melaka restaurant with a chef friend whom we had met a few days earlier, and he say’s “You haven’t had putu piring!?” He then jumped into his car and took us to his favourite stall, for indulgent, gooey coconut and palm sugar kuih.

Kuih, – can also be spelled kueh – is a broader term to describe sweets and small treats in Malay, however it is not exclusive to sweets as some savoury kuih exist too, such as one of my favourite snacks – curry puffs.

Melaka, being the Malaysia home of Nyonya cookery is well known for sweet kuih, with many varieties which are mostly steamed.

These pictures were sourced from Flickr, under the Creative Commons Licensing, thanks to Choo Yut Shing & Kyle Lam

Putu piring, are steamed coconut and palm sugar patties. Palm sugar is made by extracting the sap from palm trees and boiling it until it turns to syrup. Melaka is famous (especially in Malaysia) for its gula melaka, the local and exceptionally tasty palm sugar. Palm sugar is also used in savoury dishes and curries to balance fishy flavours.

Rice flour, shredded coconut and pieces of gula melaka are cupped into a fine mesh, which is put onto a conical head attached to a large steamer. They are rapidly steamed so that the rice flour and coconut bind slightly and the sugar lumps melt. They are served up on a square of banana leaf, with a little more shredded coconut and a sprinkling of salt.

The result is biscuit sized warm coconut spongey kuih, with gooey sugary nectar oozing out of the sides. The palm sugar in itself has an incredibly rich taste, like a maple syrup – it’s not a synthetic or artificial sugar taste at all!

They take seconds to make and cost only around one ringgit each. Deliciously moreish – Click here for more sweets and deserts.

Phrases worth knowing 

Satu – One
Dua – Two
Tiga – Three
Hello  – Hello
Apa kabar – are you well/ how are you?
salamat pagi – good morning
Salamt tingal – goodbye
sila (see luh) – please
Terima kasih –  Thank you
berapa harga – how much?
bungkus – Take away
Tidak – No
Ya – yes
Maaf – sorry


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