Chwee Kueh

Chwee kueh

Chwee kueh

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.



  1. says

    dear julia, i have been trying to make this for the longest, do you have a recipe i can follow? thanks in advance!!

  2. says

    that’s for reading too fast, sorry! i’m going to try out the recipe and let you know how it goes. thanks for finding it.

  3. says

    Wow…that is so neat! I know Matt would like these, and even better…so would I! I’m sure one of the local Asian stores would have the preserved pickled relish. I have a feeling we’ll be trying these, soon.

  4. says

    you make me miss chai poh so much. We use to have chai poh with plaint rice. It looks nice to come with rice cake too~

  5. says

    Hey.. Julia,
    This is one of my very favourite food.. when i was in singapore.. ! i could eat it everyday..!

  6. says

    Hi Julia,
    I’m almost tempted to try and make this but I don’t have the molds for it. I was looking for some in Chinatown, but couldn’t find any. Any clues as to where I might find them on my next visit?
    BTW…I like the chai poi when it’s crunchy too. I had some pretty good chwee kway at Changi Village, but it was a bit oily.

  7. says

    reid, tiong bahru is known for the chwee kueh…and there is one stall i used to go to as a child, at ghim moh, near holland v. 🙂 it’s typically sold for breakfast. i found a good one at marine crescent when I was last home.
    but I’m sure julia has the updated places to go to 🙂

  8. says

    i’m sorry, i did it again. julia, sorry about that. i read too fast and thought reid was looking for chwee kueh!
    as for the molds, reid, try baking/restaurant supply stores for mini pie molds. i saw some that work great for chwee kueh. i’m attempting my chwee kueh in a muffin tray.

  9. says

    hey Julia
    This looks delicious! It’s rather similar to the Taiwanese snack called “wa kueh” (bowl kueh) but the Taiwanese cousin is a much bigger one. It takes the size of a rice bowl and I think it is also served with chai poh and Taiwanese minced meat sauce (lu rou). I think.
    I have been wanting to make this a long time. But laziness got to me. Ha! If only we have the convenience like Singapore. I didn’t know Tiong Bahru is famous for Chwee Kueh (and some other yummies too, right?). Were there probably 5 years ago. I only ever remember the giant ice kacang we had!

  10. says

    I lurve chwee kueh!!!! lucky got one stall (which close very early) at the Bendemeer food centre (above Boon Keng mrt)…. last time i can eat 12 pieces for breakfast. Brraappp!!

  11. says

    Wow, I had no idea there are so many chwee kueh fans out here. It proves that some of the best-loved classics don’t have to be fancy dishes or made from expensive ingredients. 🙂
    stef: looks like you’re a little too quick with the “Post” button today. 🙂 Please let me know how the chwee kueh recipe turns out.
    Reid: Oh, why didn’t you tell me you wanted chwee kueh molds? I saw them at Phoon Huat, a supplier of baking ingredients. They sell utensils and materials too, and chwee kueh molds as well. They have a branch in the city, at Bencoolen Street, just a stone’s throw from Sim Lim Square.
    Stephanie: We use chai poh to make an omelette too. Very easy and yummy. Goes so well with plain porridge or rice.
    MrsT: You’re a bigger fan of chwee kueh than I am! 🙂
    Leafyu: Can you get chai poh where you live now?
    pinkcocoa: I think wa kueh is sold in SG too, but it’s not as popular as chwee kueh. Yes, Tiong Bahru Food Centre is well-known for having lots of good food. Hope you can visit SG again soon. 🙂
    budak: Hi budak, thanks for visiting my blog! Lucky you to have proximity to a chwee kueh stall. I only get to eat this once a month. And my record is only 6 for breakfast. Are we talking the same size here? 🙂

  12. says

    Hi Julia,
    I’m going to note that down so that I can pick some up on my next visit to Singapore. Thank you! =)

  13. says

    You’re most welcome, Penny! 🙂 But I’m not sure how good the recipe is. Given the convenience of ready-made versions, I’m just too lazy to make my own chwee kueh!

  14. says

    Hey Julia, I finally make chwee kweh today using the recipe! It turns out great! YUMMY! I didn’t add soy saude because the radish is already quite salty. I also added sugar to make the radish sweeter! 🙂

  15. says

    Chwee Kueh/Kway

    I first saw this recipe at Julia’s fabulous, “always-makes-me-hungry-for-Singapore-food” blog and then sent Penny to it since she had asked me about it but this morning, I woke up with a chwee kway craving. What is chwee kway [sometimes referred…

  16. says

    Julia, you’re so right abt the best is in Tiong Bahru mkt! My whole family loves the chwee kweh there and I reckon it’s much better than the ones we get in KL.

  17. Doreen says

    hi, i tried your recipe for chwee kueh because this has been my kids favourite. but it did not turn out well. it tasted more like muah ji, you know the sweet glutinous desert coated with peanut and sugar. i followed exactly but it did not even taste like chwee kueh. is there a special brand for rice flour?

  18. says

    Hi Doreen,
    Oh dear, it sounds like you might have used glutinuous rice flour instead, resulting in the sticky muah chee-like texture. Please watch out for the label on the packaging. I’ve also bought the wrong flour by mistake before, because it’s quite easy to miss the word “glutinuous”. That said, I’ve still haven’t had time to try this recipe out myself.

  19. Between2Worlds says

    I feel like a beggar, but I am a Singaporean living in New York now. Even though there is a Singaporean/Malaysian restaurant that’s pretty decent, I can’t get Chwee Kueh.
    Can anyone spare me a recipe please?
    Would appreciate it greatly!
    Thanks in advance

  20. Patricia says

    Hi there!
    I have tried making chwee kueh yesterday!But it turned out either tooo hard and sticky or too watery.
    Can anyone please give me the correct recipe with the right ingredients and proportions?
    I am living overseas and am having cravings for chwee kuehs!!!
    Please helppppppp!

  21. clara says

    can someone spare me the recipe for chwee kueh? craving for it but kinda non existent in new york… help!

  22. cheryl says

    Hi this is the first time I seen this website and I am a food lover and I am very interested in the recipe “wa kueh” (bowl kueh)and the sauce.
    Can somebody please let me know how is it done. HELP!
    Thank you