Fluffy, Hot Putu Piring @ Jalan Tengkera, Malacca
It was the Golden Hour when I arrived. The golden rays of the sun crept into the porch where the utensils were laid out, ready to be used in the preparation of a snack that has become increasingly more difficult to find for the past 15 years or so.
Putu Piring draws its origins from a South Indian snack called Putu Mayam (aka string hoppers) which comprised steamed vermicelli-like rice noodles, served with grated coconut and palm sugar or cane sugar. The picture above is the variation that is found in Singapore served with orange-coloured fine sugar. Putu Mayam is often served during breakfast and like Putu Piring is also becoming quite difficult to find.
Putu Piring was modified by the Malays to incorporate Gula Melaka (coconut palm sugar) within a steamed rice cake.
Putu Piring owes the second half of its name to the round shallow plates perched on top of the steel cups on the tray above. "Piring" is a Malay word for "plate" whilst "Putu" refers to the rice cake.
The cake is made by putting a first layer of ground rice flour onto the empty plate, adding a spoon of gula melaka, covering the gula melaka with a second layer of ground rice flour and placing a cheesecloth on top of the cake before steaming.
The cloth-covered rice cake is tipped over the steaming plates and then covered with a conical lid for steaming. The entire process only takes about 8 minutes per rice cake from start to finish (steaming takes about 5 minutes).
The steamed Putu Piring is then topped with lightly-salted grated fresh coconut. Coconut is an ingredient that is very sensitive to heat and needs to be handled with care to avoid it going bad and causing stomach upsets. Salt is added to freshly grated coconut to help preserve the ingredient especially when used as a topping for dessert.
The Putu Piring is then topped with a piece of cut banana leaf before being tipped out of the cheesecloth cover to be served.
This is Asia's version of molten chocolate cake, albeit made from rice and coconut.
The fluffy, steaming hot rice cakes melted in the mouth. The molten palm sugar filling lent a smoky, caramelized sugariness to the delicate flavour of the rice cake without being cloyingly sweet. The lightly salted grated coconut added a crunch with a touch of savoury sweetness. This is a MUST-TRY!
Larger than the ones sold in Singapore, these rice cakes measured about the size of the palm of my hand. Be careful when biting into these rice cakes when hot as the melted palm sugar will ooze out onto your hands.