My Kitchen From Scratch

Savory Taro Cake (Or Kuih)

Posted on: February 22, 2011

Savory Taro Cake (Or Kuih)

The Irish has their spuds and the American South has their sweet potatoes. But in Southeast Asia and Hawaii, taro is a popular root vegetable that is often used in sweet and savory dishes. When peeled and cut, raw taro has almost no smell but once cooked, it has a subtle comforting aroma. Although I absolutely love taro ice cream, nothing beats a warm steamed savory taro cake on a cold day.

Taro cake (also known as yam cake, woo tau koh in Cantonese, or kueh/kuih in Hokkien) is a steamed savory cake made from rice flour, taro and water. It’s really not cake in the traditional sense as it is not leavened with baking powder and iced with frosting. I would like to think of it as a category of its own, called kuih because they are steamed, denser in texture and can be sweet or savory.

A secret to making really good taro cake is putting a hint of good quality five spice powder into the batter. And to make that happen, I have my blogger friend, Elaine to thank for. She sent me some five spice powder from the island of Penang and it was so aromatic, I could smell it without opening the packaging. I thought I might as well make use of it by making a good plate of taro cake, also inspired by her post.

It could not be any easier. The base batter is a rather thick mixture of mashed taro, rice flour and water. Then strips of sauteed taro are added to the batter to give it a more interesting texture. When steamed and cooled, serve taro cake with lots of chopped scallions, fried shallot, shallot oil, julienned red chilli, fried dried shrimps and hoisin sauce/sweet soy sauce (kicap manis).

Ingredients:

Batter

  • 250g rice flour
  • 600g taro, peeled and cut into disks
  • 2 cups water
  • 2 tbsp shallot oil
  • 1 tsp five spice powder
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp white pepper

Sauteed Taro

  • 300g taro, peeled and cut into disks
  • 1/2 tsp five spice powder
  • pinch of salt.

Garnishes

Method:

  1. Steam taro disks until soft and mash with a potato ricer. Mix mash with rice flour, water, and the rest of the batter seasonings. The mixture should be fairly thick.
  2. Julienne 300g of taro disks into 1/2 inch sticks. Saute taro sticks with five spice powder and salt with about two tablespoons of oil for about 10 minutes under medium heat until very al dente.
  3. Mix taro sticks into the batter. Oil the inside of a 10 inch tin container and pour the batter in it. Steam for 40 minutes and let it cool.
  4. Garnish with scallions, fried shallots, fried dried shrimp, chilli and drizzle with shallot oil. Slice the taro cake diagonally into diamond-shaped pieces and serve with hoisin sauce or kicap manis.

(recipe adapted from “Or Kuih (Savoury Taro Cake),” Nyonya Flavours: A Complete Guide to Penang Straits Chinese Cuisine by Star Publications and Savory Taro Cake (Orh Kueh) by A Series of Kitchen Experiments)

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4 Responses to "Savory Taro Cake (Or Kuih)"

That looks so delicious!

Thank you very much!

Looks wonderful, Kwok Mun. I can’t get enough of the toppings on taro cakes.

Thanks, I love the crunchy dried shrimps.

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