I was told that during World War II, tapioca was a staple diet in Malaya and helped to feed many families at that time. It is no more a staple diet now but tapioca (or “ubi kayu” as what it is known in Malay) remains a favourite snack for tea time. It can be steamed and eaten by dipping it into gula melaka or plain sugar. The adventurous might try honey instead. However, it is more common for it to be found sold in markets in the form of a yellow-tint cake. Not the cake as in cheesecake but more a local delicacy.
The yellow-tint comes naturally from the yellow flesh variety of the tapioca. Unlike the white coloured variety, the yellow flesh variety is harder to find. Grab them from the market if you are able to find them. I suspect the market vendors have taken big orders from the kuih vendors knowing that the yellow fleshed tapioca is in high demand. On its own, the tapioca is pretty much tasteless. It is also odourless and hence, you have to add flavouring to it when cooking.
The tapioca kuih or kuih ubi kayu or “chiu cze kuih” (in hokkien) is one of my favourites when I am in the mood to eat kuihs. I never knew how they were made until mum started making them recently, and regularly. So, there’s a good supply of tapioca kuih at home. I thought it must have taken lots of preparation or work but was I surprised when I found out how easy this kuih is to make. Truly, I don’t see anyone having any difficulty making this good looking tapioca parcels at home, save and except maybe trying to perfect it in texture and taste.
This is mum’s recipe for Golden Tapioca Parcels
- 500 grammes yellow-fleshed tapioca (finely grated)
- 5 to 7 tablespoons sugar (or to taste)
- some water or coconut milk
- banana leaves (cut into A4 size)
Clean and steam banana leaves for 1 minute or until it is slightly softened which allows you to fold it without breaking. Remove from heat and set aside to cool.
Grate the tapioca into a large mixing bowl. Add sugar and mix well.
Sprinkle some water or coconut milk and continue mixing and kneading until the tapioca forms a dough which you can shape out. Do not add too much water till it becomes runny.
Place banana leave on the table and add 2 tablespoons of tapioca mixture in the centre. Flatten the mixture a little before folding the banana leaf over it to make a parcel. Repeat with the rest of the tapioca mixture.
Bring water to boil in a steamer. Then place tapioca parcels in the steamer and steam for 25 minutes on high heat. Thereafter, turn off the heat and allow tapioca parcels to stand (remain in the steamer) for 10 minutes before serving.
If you don’t have banana leaves, simply place mixture in a baking tin and steam. After steaming, you can choose to place it under a grill to give the upper layer a slightly baked texture.
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