Recipes – Chwee Kueh (Water Rice Cakes with Preserved Turnip)

2 Jan

[Edit (Aug 2012): This chwee kueh has been lovingly reviewed by London-Unattached and Hot-Dinners awarded it Silver just behind Anna Hansen MBE!]

Alright, so lets kick of 2012, with a ridiculously simple recipe which is virtually impossible to botch up unless you are trying your darndest to do so just to spite me.

Everytime I serve it, theres always one person who squelches up their face and go, “eww! preserved turnip?! on what? a gooey rice cake?!”

But their look of disgust turns to euphoria and surprise when they take their first bite into the pillowy soft semi translucent rice cake and crunch on that savoury oily hit from the chai poh (preserved turnip) and take a wiff of the subtle gentle garlickiness.

YEAH KIDS! its possibly the best freaking turnip u will ever have eaten unless your tastebuds suck or have no tongue generally. I swear they should serve this in school canteens as part of Jamie Oliver’s food revolution. Kids will have no trouble meeting their 5 a day i reckon (although their sodium and fat levels might take a beating).

Its an awesome starter and very easy to make too. I think of it as a way to rev up the tastebuds a notch and set the tempo for the evening’s menu to come!

I also like to serve it in the same way which they serve it in Singapore – on that crummy brown paper to soak up all the oil and with little toothpicks which are completely ergonomically inappropriate for the task. But for nostalgia’s sake, I wont change it for the world.

This makes about 25 chwee kuehs. Im also using the authentic Chwee Kueh ramekin mold type thing here which I got in Singapore and stole borrowed from the very talented E. But you can use any small ramekin shaped objects… Gu choc ramekins, small sauce bowls, big soup spoons, ashtrays, a giant’s contact lenses, an oompa loompa‘s jockstrap…

Even if you cant be bothered to make the rice cakes, I reckon if you like anchovies on toast, u’ll love this on toast.

What to buy?

Rice Cake (this is the white carby rice cake base)

  • 510ml water (boiling hot)
  • 510ml room temp water
  • 250g rice flour
  • 60g tapioca flour
  • 2 tablespoon of oil
  • 2 tsp salt

Savouryyummykicka$$mouthwatering Turnip thing on the top (u wanna make more of this badboy to satisfy the masses or keep it all for yourself and eat it the next morning slathered on some toast)

  • 200g of sweet preserved turnip (sometimes called sweet Chinese radish in stores/ sometimes called white radish/ always called Chai Por to a Singaporean)
  • 1 whole head of garlic
  • 3 tsp sesame seeds
  • 4 dried chillis or add more if you think you are hardcore.
  • LARD. yeap. a whole lotta lard. Like 300g of pig fat lard. If lard scares you n u rather lull yourself into a false sense of healthy security, use vegetable oil but it wont be as yummy i tell you. Its even better if u render your own lard cos u know u can be hardcore like that.
  • a whole range of condiments – light soy sauce, fish sauce, sambal belachan and maggi chilli sauce

What do i do?

You can actually make these a day before the meal. They both keep well and in fact, the chilling time for the rice cakes help them keep their shape and not spoolge out into a gooey mess.

  • Rice Cake
  1. Mix all the ingredients together (EXCEPT for the boiling water)
  2. Now stir and mix til its all well mixed in and there are no lumpy bits. If you can be bothered to sieve it then do. But i usually can’t be bothered. Theres enough washing up as it is!
  3. Whilst you are doing this, get your kitchen elves to heat a wok filled with water up or whatever steaming device you have and heat up the molds.
  4. Now put the boiling water in a pan, set to medium / low fire and as it boils away, dunk in the mixture and keep stirring it AND WATCH IT HARD AND CLOSE. WATCH IT LIKE A HAWK. Watch it like He-Man watches Skeletor as Skeletor tries to take over castle greyskull.
  5. THIS IS THE IMPORTANT BIT: You want to achieve a consistency which is a bit like a wet glue, a paste, a consistency like wet mayo, like cake dough with soft peaks, like a thick porridge… try not to push it too far. If you think its getting too thick and gloopy, err on the safe side and remove from fire immediately.
  6. Now spoon in the gloopy mixture into the molds and let it steam away.
  7. Steam for 15 to 20 mins until its cooked. U can tell its cooked when u pierce it with a skewer and it comes out clean (ish).
  8. When its done, it should look something like this:

    Apparently its called Chwee Kueh (water ricecake) because of that dimple of water which collects at the top when its done! (apparently anyway)

  9. Now you can refrigerate them til your guests come.
  • SuperduperawesomeTurniptopping
  1. Soak the dried chillis til they are rehydrated and happy looking. Drain and slice and dice them to little fine bits.
  2. Soak the turnip in water for 5 to 10 mins. Rinse and then dice roughly.
  3. Finely dice the garlic.
  4. Now melt the lard in a heavy sauce pan. Once its good and hot, flashfry the garlic and chilli for about a minute. Then add the preserved turnip and let that fri for about 10 mins on a small fire. Let those turnipygarlickyflavours get sexy and make sweet oily fragrant love in that pan. Once its super fragrant and yes u WILL know when its gets super fragrant, start adding the sesame seeds and then season according to taste.
  5. Im bit hesitant to tell you exactly how much of the condiments to add because its really individual, some like it sweeter so u add more sugar, I prefer it saltier so I add fish sauce, soy sauce and a good dash of chilli.
  6. Some people prefer the belachan chilli on the side. Can also. But i prefer it all mixed in.
  • Serve!
  1. Take molds outta the fridge and unmold them.
  2. Slap them in the microwave (gasp! yes. its easier than resteaming all of them) for 1 and half mins or so til its spanking hot and springy.
  3. Heat up the turnip topping and slap it generously onto the cakes and serve with sambal belachan on the side, on brown paper and toothpicks!
  4. Smile smugly.


(photo credit: Wen at EdibleEperiences and @equinoxhan)

17 Responses to “Recipes – Chwee Kueh (Water Rice Cakes with Preserved Turnip)”

  1. Eunice Lim January 2, 2012 at 2:48 pm #


    • plusixfive January 2, 2012 at 6:58 pm #

      :) Thanks Eunice! Go spread the word…! Think Singaporean food culture will get lost if we rely too much on hawkers…

  2. Shu Han January 2, 2012 at 3:31 pm #

    awesome. bookmarking this. going to do this,definitely with the lard too. where to get the molds??

    • Shu Han January 2, 2012 at 3:33 pm #

      oh i just read that part. ok, may have to settle for little bowls.

      • plusixfive January 2, 2012 at 6:57 pm #

        yes u can use little bowls or tiny sauce bowls?

      • plusixfive January 2, 2012 at 6:57 pm #

        ooh or small muffin trays?

  3. Claire January 2, 2012 at 8:12 pm #

    This looks AWE.SOME. But really puts the ridiculous in ridiculously simple. Please have another supper club soon. I can wash up. I can mix the piña coladas. I can decorate each napkin individually with an animal representing the participants birth month. But I can’t, and never will, be able to make an elegant meal out of a turnip.

  4. lapetitechamelle January 5, 2012 at 12:45 pm #

    might just make one big chwee kway cake in a bowl.😀

  5. Sha January 5, 2012 at 9:16 pm #

    I keep failing to make this successful. I suspect it has to do with the rice flour. I bought mine from an Indian store and I read somewhere that it has to be rice flour from Thailand.😦 Also, some recipes I read didn’t call for tapioca flour so wondering if that is necessary (because there is no tapioca flour where I live). So sad.

    • plusixfive January 6, 2012 at 12:00 am #

      hmmm my rice flour was bought from Chinatown so maybe thats a point. Ive never ommmitted the tapioca flour before. I think it gives it that slight chewiness/bite? Maybe its the consistency? By failing to be successful do u mean its too soft or doesnt harden? that was my problem at first but i realise it either means i need to steam it longer or make it more gooey before i steam it.

  6. Hsu May 13, 2012 at 2:53 am #

    Where can i buy sweet preserved turnip or sweet Chinese radish or Chai Por in Singapore?

    • plusixfive May 14, 2012 at 10:00 am #

      Any chinese provision shop should have it:)


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