Firstly allow me to clear the misconception of Asian definition when it comes to food. When there’s such a thing as American British or Steak bread batter, or Australian Carrot Cake, there is indeed no such thing as Asian Dessert anything. There are nevertheless a great number of desserts across various cultural groups in Asia.
Each culture carries with it a totally different tradition and heritage and this is reflected within their desserts as well.
One special “Asian” a dessert that’s little known amongst Westerners would be the classic Malay kuihs. These are delightful chewy and rich desserts which are made from natural ingredients like tapioca flour, sweet potato flour, bananas, palm sugar, coconut milk, glutinous rice . There are more than 100 different kinds of Malay kids and these recipes emerged and came in the Indonesian and Malay villages. I was raised with those kids and used to see my grandma lovingly prepared her snacks over the cooker and delighted in feeding us those delectables. She too learned the skill from her homeland in Sumatera Indonesia before she migrated to Singapore.
In those days, the womenfolk found resourceful ways to make their desserts and snacks from organic ingredients or whatever they grew in their garden and grew on trees. These kids were steamed mainly, occasionally grilled – baking was nonexistent because they not only did have no oven, electricity was rare. Besides sweets, there are also savoury version which is often consumed or served during tea time.
Some recipes are available on the internet. I am aware of many Western friends or people residing in the west, who’d regularly request for translated version out of me. In this part of the world, it’s quite simple to find these desserts in the wet market to resorts and restaurants. Many of the recipes are simplified and substitutes are introduced to get eg fullcream milk can be used instead of almond milk.
Many locals make their living from selling these kuihs since there are more people ready to eat than to learn the craft of making these traditional and delicious desserts. The Malays understood the secrets to make these kids differently in different desserts through using banana and pandan leaves for odor and colour, through use of bread to give contrasting tastes and usage of hand sugar melted like cheese to heighten the ingestion feeling.
If you like baking and cooking, you will delight in learning the craft of making this “Asian” dessert that belongs to the Malay or Indonesian ethnic group. While Asians are familiar with western desserts, and appreciating a wonderful selection of desserts, the westerners are yet to find a whole new world of desserts that can be quickly learned and easily made. And of course, to impress the entire neighbourhood!