Ondeh ondeh or onde onde is a conventional rice cake made from glutinous rice flour and sometimes mixed with mashed sweet potato, in Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia (called keplon). It is a small round rice ball flavoured with Pandan, filled with grated palm sugar, boiled and then coated with shredded coconut. Commercially available versions are normally green in colour due to the Pandan flavouring. For my gluten free version of this dessert, I decided to use mashed sweet potato with glutinous rice flour, vanilla extract, grated palm sugar, boiled and then coated with desiccated coconut. This is a no-bake dessert recipe and really easy to make. Impress your family and friends with this dessert especially when they take a bite and get a nice surprise from the oozing syrupy palm sugar. This dessert is not only gluten free, it is also vegan, dairy free, soy free, egg free, nut free and refined sugar free.
In Malaysia, ondeh ondeh is broadly referred to as one of the many kuihs in Malay, meaning desserts, cakes, puddings or dumplings, are usually made from glutinous rice flour, rice flour and/or tapioca flour, giving the kuihs their unique velvety and yet dense texture. Cooking methods used are normally boiled or steamed and not baked. The term kuihs generally refers to sweet or savoury desserts in Malaysia and Singapore. They can be eaten during any time of the day. Kuihs are also an important element of Chinese New Year and Malay New Year like Hari Raya. Wheat flours are not normally used as an ingredient in kuihs, making them a good option for people who are on a gluten free diet. When you travel to South East Asia, you will notice a whole range of sweet, savoury and very colourful desserts available in many places for food. There is no novel or original recipe for the many different types of kuihs, they can be filled with palm sugar syrup, ground peanuts, green beans paste, red beans paste, black sesame seeds paste, coated with shredded coconut, wrapped in banana leaves or layered with many different colours. Malay kuihs and Nyonya (fusion of Malay and Chinese cuisines) kuihs are very similar, with the later being adopted and concocted by the Peranakan (Nyonya) people.
Sweet potato is a common starchy root crop that belongs to the group of root vegetables. Other starchy root crops are potatoes, yams, arrowroot and cassavas. Sweet potatoes are an amazingly nourishing vegetable. Their bright orange flesh is an excellent source of vitamins C, vitamin E and vitamin A (beta carotene). They are a fantastic source of vitamin B5 (pantothenic acid), vitamin B6 (pyridoxine), vitamin B1 (thiamine), vitamin B2 (riboflavin), vitamin B3 (niacin), and biotin (vitamin H). Sweet potatoes are also a rich source trace minerals like manganese, copper, potassium and phosphorus. They are also high in fibre, low in sodium, fat free, and have less calories than white potatoes. Health benefits of sweet potatoes include healthy radiant skin and hair, healthy eye sights by preventing macular degeneration and loss of vision, healthy blood vessels, help maintain healthy heart, brain and central nervous system functions and may prevent numerous types of cancer.
Sweet Potato Glutinous Rice Balls (Ondeh Ondeh/Onde Onde)
- 3 medium sweet potatoes 1.2kg/2.7Ib/42.3oz, peeled and cut into 3 to 4 inch pieces
- 500 g 1.1Ib/17.6oz glutinous rice flour
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 2 tablespoons water
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 200 g 7oz grated palm sugar (Gula Melaka)
- 1 cup desiccated coconut
- Place a steaming rack in a large wok and fill the wok with one third full of water and bring to a boil. Cover with wok lid and steam the sweet potato pieces on a large plate on medium to high heat for 25 to 30 minutes or until sweet potatoes are soft. Remove and set aside in a large bowl to cool until sweet potatoes are just warm. Mash the sweet potatoes with a potato masher or a fork and spoon.
- Add all the glutinous rice flour, vanilla extract, salt and water into the mashed sweet potatoes, mix well and knead into a soft dough (Add more water if dough is too dry or more glutinous rice flour if dough is too wet).
- Pinch and shape the dough into small balls about 3cm (1 inch) in diameters, make a well in the middle of each ball and fill with 1 teaspoon of grated palm sugar. Wrap the palm sugar with the dough and roll and form a smooth ball with your palms and place on a large plate. Repeat with the rest of the dough until finished.
- Bring a large pot of water to rolling boil, carefully drop about 10 balls into the pot and cook on medium heat. Once the balls float on the surface of the water, simmer for another 2 minutes. Remove and drain the balls and set aside on a large plate, making sure they do not stick together. Repeat and cook the balls in 4 to 5 batches.
- Once the balls have cooled down slightly, coat each of the balls evenly with desiccated coconut and serve warm.