Onde Onde: It's like a party in your mouth

Nyonya kuih Onde Onde is a hugely popular dessert in Malaysia. — Picture by Elaine Ho
Nyonya kuih Onde Onde is a hugely popular dessert in Malaysia. — Picture by Elaine Ho

KUALA LUMPUR, Dec 27 — If there’s one dish that has the element of surprise, this has to be it. 

Pop one of these unassuming-looking balls into your mouth, bite into it and I can guarantee what happens next is bound to bring about a delighted grin. 

Onde Onde, a popular Nyonya kuih in Malaysia, are small, round balls made of sweet potato flour with a filling of palm sugar, or gula melaka. 

Their exterior has a beautiful greenish hue, a contribution of the natural colouring of screwpine (pandan) leaves and they are rolled in grated coconut. 

Salt is added to the grated coconut as it not only complements the sweetness of the palm sugar but provides a balance to the flavour. Bite into their softness and a lava of sweetness instantly flows onto your tongue. 

Sweet potato flour is a fantastic choice for the dough as it retains moisture very well. The natural sweetness is an added bonus that enhances the taste of the Onde Onde. 

Besides that, it also contributes to the softness of the dough, therefore, is superior to recipes which use 100 per cent glutinous rice flour. 

Somehow, the sweet potato flour seems to bring out the flavours of the palm sugar filling better. 

Of course, one reason that the filling is so devastatingly good is due to the usage of palm sugar, instead of the usual refined cane sugar. 

As opposed to cane sugar which is made from sugarcane, palm sugar is made from the sugary sap from a variety of different palm trees, the most common being the coconut palm. 

They are usually sold in the form of cones, blocks or sometimes paste, and they contain ascorbic acid and certain B vitamins unlike their cane-originating counterpart. They also possess a rich, organic flavour. Their low melting temperature and high burning temperature makes them the perfect choice for cooking and baking. 

One word of advice: I would suggest making these in abundance as once you start popping them into your mouth, it’s almost impossible to stop. What else would you expect of a delectable delicacy such as this? 

Onde Onde

Prep time: 15 minutes

Cooking time: 30 minutes

Makes approximately 25 Onde Onde balls

200gm white-fleshed sweet potato, peeled

90gm glutinous rice flour (adjust accordingly—some sweet potato holds more moisture, therefore, will call for more flour)

2 tablespoons pandan juice* or a few drops of pandan extract

100gm palm sugar, roughly chopped

100gm grated fresh coconut (fresh is possible, if not dessicated coconut will do)

a pinch of sea salt

1. Cut sweet potatoes into thin slices & steam for approx 20 minutes or until soft to touch. Whilst still warm, mash the sweet potatoes in a bowl using the back of a fork.

2. In a large bowl, combine mashed sweet potato, glutinous rice flour and pandan juice and knead well to form a soft dough. NOTE: If dough is still sticky, add a little more glutinous rice flour. 

3. Mix grated coconut and sea salt together and steam for approx 2-3 minutes. Allow the mix to cool completely.

4. Pinch a small piece of the dough and roll it into a ball. Flatten the ball slightly and place a small piece of gula melaka in the centre. Pinch the sides of the dough towards the centre and roll it in your palms to form a smooth ball. 

5. Cook the Onde Onde in boiling water. Once they float to the surface, scoop the Onde Onde out with a slotted spoon and gently shake off excess water. 

6. Roll the Onde Onde in grated coconut mix and serve immediately. Best eaten warm.

* To make pandan juice, blend 10 blades of pandan leaves with approx 40gm water. 

Then, either strain the pandan leaves through a sieve and gently press the leaves against the sieve using a spoon or place pandan leaves in a muslin cloth and squeeze out the juice.