chwee kuay (water rice cakes)

If the pleats in a Chef’s Toque is said to symbolise a 100 ways they can cook an egg, the Chinese equivalent would have to be 100 ways to use rice (or 1000).

From noodles to dumpling skins to wine…no culinary stone is left unturned by this humble grain with global rice production stats at 432 million tons for the 2008-2009 year. But noone is here for statistics…

I stayed over at Lily’s last night after picking her up from the airport. Unfortunately, my driving skills live thoroughly up to the stereotype of “Asian Drivers”. The fact I’m female is a double whammy…what hope did I have really (especially in inclement weather).

Having moaned about the lack of variety in breakfast offerings in my last post, I was giddy with delight when Lily offered to make my favourite (FAVOURITE) breakfast treat, Chwee Kuay, a popular Singaporean breakfast food (and which I am yet to find here).

Ahh a mother’s love…

Now my command of the Chinese language is entirely limited to the names of my favourite Chinese foods but I’m led to believe that Chwee Kuay translates literally to Water Rice Cakes…alluding to the high amount of water to flour used in the mixture.

Essentially, Chwee Kuay is a steamed rice cake topped with preserved radish mix. They are steamed in little cup-like moulds which give them their bowl-like appearance. Is this the Chinese equivalent of a cupcake?

A good Chwee Kuay is soft, silky and luxurious…the perfect accompaniment to the salty, crunchy garlicky topping.

Call me biased but I am yet to find a version that tops Lily’s. Traditionally the preserved radish topping consists of the namesake radish, garlic, dried shrimp and the obligatory soy sauce and sesame oil seasonings. Lily, however, makes a slightly upmarket version with the omission of dried shrimp in favour of lup cheong (chinese sausage), shitake mushrooms and fresh chillies.

<interrupt> I finally took the plunge and treated myself to a fancy pants camera, the Canon EOS 1000D DSLR…as with any new toy I got a little overexcited so what follows is a semi pictorial guide to the process of making these delicious little babies…Note that I have also done away with borders on my photos as they no longer need a distraction from their crappiness (at least I hope not)! </interrupt>

Rice Cake Mixture

  • 200g Rice Flour
  • 2T Tapioca Flour
  • 31/2 cups Water
  • 2T Vegetable Oil
  • 2t Salt
  1. Mix the flours together in a large bowl, pour in 1 1/2 cups cold water and mix well.
  2. To this mixture, add 2 cups of boiling water followed by the oil.
  3. Season.
  4. Heat the moulds in the steamer…apparently this is done so they mixture doesn’t stick.

Lily said she bought these moulds in Singapore but you can substitute for any small bowl like items (pinch pots perhaps).

Once the moulds are heated through, pour in the mixture, cover and steam for approximately 12 minutes.


While these cool, make the topping.

Preserved Radish Topping (Chai Po)

  • 100g Preserved Radish
  • 2 Chinese Sausages
  • 5 or 6 Shitake Mushrooms
  • 2 Fresh Red Chillies
  • 1 Head of Garlic (recipe not appropriate for Twihards in the offchance they encounter Edward Cullen….)
  • Light Soy Sauce
  • Sesame Oil
  1. Finely dice all the ingredients. If you are using dried shitake mushrooms, a quicker way to reconstitute them is to simply boil them for around 10 to 15 minutes.
  2. Heat some (read A LOT) of cooking oil in a wok until smoky. The amount of oil may alarm you but this topping calls for a lot of it. Its not uncommon to find Chwee Kuay street vendors in Singapore with their preserved radish topping simply swimming in a vat of oil. The Cookie Monster would agree it’s definitely a sometimes food..
  3. Add in the chinese sausage first and fry until fragrant, push to one side and add in the garlic.
  4. Turn down the heat and add the rest of the ingredients. Lily says it’s best to do this bit over a lower heat as it leads to a crispier result. The topping is done when it has reduced in size, is beautifully crispy and the oil that was absorbed has been released again. This process takes about 20 minutes. Just before it is done, season with the soy sauce and sesame oil to taste – keeping in mind that the radishes themselves are already pretty salty.

Tuck, in ensuring you have a good supply of breath mints on hand!

Ps. This is traditionally served with a sambal or chilli sauce. Personally I prefer the latter as the vinegar cuts through the oil and salt.

8 Responses to “chwee kuay (water rice cakes)”
  1. That is something I haven’t had for ages! Used to love stopping by the local hawker center on my way to work and pick up a half dozen.

    I see that you’re enjoying the new camera and 50mm f/1.8 (I’m guessing?). Nice work on the bokeh 🙂

  2. Never had this before but can imagine what it tastes like in reference to similar Cantonese things. Love the look of that finely chopped topping! (And congrats again on the camera purchase!)

  3. natashalam says:

    oh woww!! your mum is great..they look delicious! i must try to make them one day..where did you get the tin molds?

    btw, love your new pics, they look great from a snazzy much did you get your camera for? i’m looking to buy a new camera too!! was eyeing the Canon powershot S90 or the G11.

  4. erin says:

    Yum, they look freaking awesome. Haven’t had chwee kuay for… years! Since I was in Singapore last. I’ve never seen them here either 😦 So much good food that we just don’t get in Perth. I also don’t have any nifty friends of the Singaporean variety who can whip me up a batch! I might have to give it a go myself…

  5. I have made Chwee Kueh a couple of times but have never occurred to me to incorporate Chinese Sausage into the Chai Poh. Shall earmark this for experiment next time 🙂
    If you are interested, do drop by my blog to check out my Chwee Kueh 🙂

  6. Chris – How could anyone resist really…8 chwee kuays for $2SGD. I can’t think of a more brilliant way to start the day! I tried the infamous Tiong Bahru Chwee Kuays recently and they do live up to the hype. Oh and 50mm f1.8 lens is the go-er! Still in experimental days 🙂

    mademoiselle delicieuse- And thanks again! Mm it’s quite the tasty little topping, very bold flavours. Give it a go if you ever come across it

    Natasha – Thanks! She is rather awesome..and very skilled in the kitchen. I’m quite lucky, fingers crossed it’s hereditary. She got these in Singapore but you can find miniature ceramic bowls in the asian foodstores in northbridge that could substitute? I’ll email details of the camera if you like – got a great deal. Just pop me a private email.

    Erin – Yes there are a certain things that we do miss out on! Luckily we’re not too far away…now if only money wasn’t an object. Pretty easy to make though, just a matter of finding the moulds and the time!

    Shirley – Thanks for dropping in! Had a squiz and your blog and chwee kuays and love it! Lup cheong makes anything better in my opinion 🙂 (except for maybe my waistline)

  7. Amazing! I haven’t seen these before, and now I have learnt of yet another awesome thing I can’t get here. Wahh!

    Awesome photos too!

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  1. […] chwee kuay (water rice cakes) « Musings of a Wannabe Gourmand […]

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