I had these little yummies for breakfast the other day.
Chwee kueh (literally “water cakes” in Teochew) is a popular Chinese breakfast item in Singapore. Rice flour is mixed with water, then steamed in shallow cups, resulting in soft rice cakes of about 5 cm in diameter. They used to be steamed in clay cups, but metal cups are now used to reduce breakage. I used to wonder why they were named “water cakes”, but after seeing my mom make them, I understood why. To make these cakes, a large amount of water is used in proportion to the amount of rice flour, resulting in a very watery flour mixture.
The ideal chwee kueh should be soft, yet tight in texture. Tasteless on their own, these steamed rice cakes are served with a topping of salty chai poh (preserved salted radish). Together with minced garlic, shallots, oil, and sometimes, toasted sesame seeds, the chopped chai poh is fried till extremely fragrant. The marriage of flavors and textures – the plain, soft cakes and the sweet-salty, crunchy chai poh – results in a simple yet perennial breakfast favorite and snack for Singaporeans. It is cheap too; four chwee kueh usually costs just S$1.00.
I used to have the luxury of eating delicious home-made chwee kueh made by my mom. Not anymore. But these are commonly sold, though not all are well-made. The most famous chwee kueh stall in Singapore has to be the one at Tiong Bahru Market. I’ve no idea where my mother-in-law got the chwee kueh that you see in the photo above, but they were pretty good. My only grouse is that the chai poh wasn’t crunchy enough, but I liked that it wasn’t overly salty and oily. The chilli sauce was fantastic; it had a lot of kick!
Here’s a link that has a great overview of chwee kueh, as well as a recipe, though I must warn you that I haven’t tried it out for myself yet. Maybe you could try it and tell me how it turns out? 🙂
Update (Aug 11, 2005): The link to the recipe mentioned is no longer available.