Marriage of Malay and Chinese cultures gave birth to the distinctive Peranakan culture in Malacca (Melaka). The Peranakans blended the best of Malay and Chinese cuisines to produce many gastronomical delights. Ondeh-ondeh is a sweet treat that traces its roots to its Malay parent and improved upon with the addition of sweet potato by an inspired Peranakan nonya (lady). [Cooking is a womanly responsibility]. She substituted the juice of Betel nut (areca nut) in the original klepon recipe with the juice of fragrant pandan leaf (screwpine) as well.
When you eat an ondeh-ondeh, the first sensation is the mildly salty, fragrant textured grated coconut on your tongue. Then when your teeth sink through the sweet potato wrapping, you are greeted with a burst of melted sweet palm sugar. This is absorbed by the outer sweet potato wrapping that contributes its own texture and taste to this tiny delightful, dainty dessert.
• 300 gm. mashed sweet potato
• 150 gm. Glutinous rice flour
• 150 gm. Fresh grated coconut or desiccated coconut
• 100 ml. Pandan juice (extracted from 6 to 10 pandan leaves)
• 20 cut cubes of palm sugar (about the size of thumbnail)
• Boil a pot of water to cook sweet potato.
• If you are using whole raw sweet potato, boil it in a pot of boiling water to cook.
• The sweet potato is ready when you can poke a skewer or chopstick into its center. Turn off heat and remove from pot.
• Peel off and discard skin. Mash sweet potato in a large mixing bowl.
• If you are using desiccated coconut, steam it to rehydrate. Optionally, add a little coconut milk.
• Mix ½ tsp. salt into grated coconut or rehydrated coconut. (Use a large dish to hold the grated coconut for later use).
• Cut pandan leaves into shorter lengths and blend in food processor with 100 ml. water.
• Strain out pandan juice and discard leaves.
PALM SUGAR (GULA MELAKA)
• Squeeze or roll palm sugar into balls about the size of your thumb nail. (I live in a hot, humid country, so the palm sugar is pliable enough for me to do this.)
• If you find cut cubes of palm sugar too hard to remodel, leave them as cubes or chop or grate into tiny pieces, steam a short while. After sugar has softened, it is easier to roll into balls.
1. Mix pandan juice gradually into mash sweet potato until they formed an evenly mixed paste.
2. Mix in glutinous rice flour bit by bit into the above paste until you get a soft dough like Play dough. Knead dough and cover with a cling film to prevent drying while you get other ingredients ready.
3. Place large dish of grated coconut, palm sugar balls, kneaded dough, an empty plate, a slotted spoon near pot of boiling water.
4. Pinch about 15 gm. Of dough out and roll into a ball. Flatten ball and place a ball of palm sugar in the center.
5. Wrap dough around palm sugar, press edges together and roll into a ball.
6. Make batches of five of these palm sugar filled balls then, drop them carefully into boiling water.
7. Stir to ensure balls do not stick to the bottom and to each other.
8. Once the balls are cooked, they will float to the surface.
9. Scoop them out with the slotted spoon, shake off the excess water and drop them in the grated coconut. Roll them around until they are well coated.
10. Repeat the process five balls at a time.
11. Let them cool down before transferring to a serving plate.
If you find the dough too soft, knead in a little glutinous rice flour. Add more liquid if the dough is too dry and break up easily.
You can roll more balls before boiling but sometimes the brown palm sugar seeps out and discolor the outer coating.