Tapioca Cake

As typical Asians go, we celebrated the new year with a feast.  It wasn’t a super grand event, there wasn’t crackers or people dressed to the best, but there was a lot of food and good eating.  The menu consisted of spicy noodle soup with shrimp and minced meat pieces and cilantro garnish, homemade chicken-ginger soup with lemongrass, fried kway teow, fried rice, malaysian rojak salad, spiced rum cake, and tapioca cake.

Tapioca cake, otherwise known as kueh bengka, is a nonya dessert in Malaysia.  While many nonyas can be found all over SE Asia, I want to say that the largest population can be found in Penang.  Nonyas are, according to Wiki, the slang term for the Peranakan people who immigrated from China to Malaysia.  However, their cuisine is unique in the sense that it combines both Chinese and Malay tastes into their own foods.  You can read more about it here on Wiki if it tickles your fancy.  Kueh is the name for “cake” in various dialects.  It can be spelt “kui” or “kue” or “kueh”, depending on the region.  I personally am used to spelling it with an -h because a majority of the bakeries and stores that sell these cakes in Singapore are of Hokkien (Fu-jian) descent, and this is how they spell it most of the time.

tapioca/cassava cake

tapioca/cassava cake

This cake is pretty sticky and fairly starchy.  Be prepared for either constipation or weight gain if this cake is combined with a high rate of consumption.  But it is so delicious!  A decadent combination of coconut milk and sugar as well as a hefty amount of fresh grated tapioca leads to one great treat.  The basic recipe can be found on the Rasa Malaysia website.  My mom and I frequently go here to look up recipes that we want to try whenever we get a hankering for “home”.  However, we substitute dark brown sugar which gives more of a molasses taste to the cake.  It also gives it a much more brown color and perhaps a little more sticky consistency due to the increase in H2o content from the sugar.  The recipe above also calls from fresh grated coconut which is difficult to make here in the United States.  I think if I wanted to do this by the book, I’d have to go back to Malaysia and procure an actual coconut grater.  We simply used one to two cans of coconut milk although I’m sure frozen coconut would suffice.  As this is a recipe from Asia, it is posted in the metric system.  I have posted the original recipe in italics and the converted recipe in regular print.

Kuih Bengka ( Tapioca/Cassava Cake)

Ingredients:

  • 1kg finely grated cassava (tapioca)
  • 4 cups sugar
  • 1 tin coconut milk and add water to make 1 litre in total
  • 3 heap tablespoons plain flour
  • 250g freshly grated coconut

Method:

  1. Mix the grated cassava, grated coconut and flour in a large mixing bowl.  
  2. Heat up the coconut milk together with sugar. When the sugar starts to melt, add this mixture into the combined cassava mix.  Use a balloon whisk to stir thoroughly.  
  3. Lastly pour into a 8”X 8”X 3” tin, either lined with grease proof paper (baking paper) or banana leaves.  Bake in the oven at 180 degrees Celsius for 2 hours.

Kueh Bengka ( Tapioca/Cassava Cake) edited version

Ingredients:

  • 2.2 lbs (32.5 oz) finely grated cassava (tapioca)
  • 4 cups sugar
  • 1 can coconut milk and add water to make 33 fl oz in total
  • 3 heap tablespoons plain flour (we did not use flour, but you can also purchase tapioca flour)
  • 8.8 oz freshly grated coconut

Method:

  1. Mix the grated cassava, grated coconut and flour in a large mixing bowl.  
  2. Heat up the coconut milk together with sugar. When the sugar starts to melt, add this mixture into the combined cassava mix.  Use a balloon whisk to stir thoroughly.  
  3. Lastly pour into a 8”X 8”X 3” pan, either lined with grease proof paper (baking paper) or banana leaves.  Bake in the oven at 356 degrees Fahrenheit for 2 hours. (We simply used a medium-sized rectangular pyrex glass casserole dish, about 2 inches high)

Truth is, I feel inspired to try and perfect recipes from my “motherlands” these days.  I guess with time flying by as quickly as it is, I feel an urgency to get back to my roots more.  Being the youngest among my cousins from my mom’s side, I didn’t get to spend much time with my maternal grandmother who was a fabulous cook.  Most of the dishes that she prepared are difficult to make now without having some sort of reference.  The book “A Tiger In The Kitchen” is a great example of what I would love to do, minus the family drama.  Many of the tricks of the trade cannot be repeated on a modern stove either.  For this reason my mom actually has an external and portable gas stove that she can heat up a gigantic iron-cast wok for fried dishes.  However, when the original recipe calls for a charcoal oven, we’re almost SOL on that one.

I hope that you all enjoy making this if you choose to try it.  It’s pretty simple to bake and tastes decadent and definitely “tropical” given the coconut milk.  Let me know how you find it if you do! Thank you for your readership and bon apetit!

R/g

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This entry was published on January 1, 2014 at 22:16. It’s filed under Asia, Peranakan-Nonya, recipes, The Gastronome and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. Follow any comments here with the RSS feed for this post.

4 thoughts on “Tapioca Cake

  1. like a traditional food …nice

    • Yes, definitely traditional. My mum doesn’t make it too often though because it is quite a lot of work to grate the tapioca from scratch, but that makes it all the better. Thanks for stopping by!

  2. I think I’ve eaten this cake, but I forgot his name……………visit http://www.kulinerindonesia.net

    • hello! sorry it took awhile for me to reply, I had really limited internet access. I’m not sure what the real name is called but we call it tapioca cake, made with brown sugar. Thanks again for stopping by!

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