link rel = "image_src” href=”preview-image-here.jpg” / expr:content='data:blog.metaDescription' Sukanya's musings: STARTING MY JOURNEY ON THE SINGAPORE VEGETARIAN TRAIL WITH TU-TU CAKE

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Wednesday, May 5, 2010


Singapore Vegetarian Trail aims at giving information on local vegetarian food and I also aspire to cover restaurants and their specialties with lots of photos for you'll to drool upon. This is my way of saying "Thanks" to the country which has proven to be a second home for me.

After my marriage I came to live in Singapore. Being a strict vegetarian didn’t leave many avenues for me to eat out. Another thing was I wasn’t exposed to international cuisines and really didn’t know where to find pure vegetarian outlets. We used to end up going to the pure Indian Vegetarian restaurants @ Serangoon (Little India) and Yo (my hubby) used to complain about driving so far just for a meal. And the scene 9 years ago wasn’t the same as it is now. There were only a few restaurants back then and not much variety, so eating out was pretty humdrum, but it’s boring to cook everyday, we do need a break from the kitchen too. In fact, when you ask people most will tell you that it is even more boring to think what to cook than the cooking itself. I think 9 out of 10 people reading this will be nodding their heads at this juncture.
Anyways, the topic is about the Singapore vegetarian trail and hope I am, not deviating from it.
This is for all the people like me who come from India or other countries and are vegetarians living abroad, I would like to assure you that Singapore is a wonderful country and has a variety of cuisines available. And surprised as you may be there are a lot of vegetarian treats available which closely resemble some of the Indian treats. So as you are on your way, wherever you are you can dunk into these treats guilt free. I would also like to assure you that the Chinese vegetarian food stalls which you may find in most food courts serve strictly vegetarian food and don’t even use onion and garlic…….isn’t that surprising!!!!!! Ahem!!! Ahem!!!!!

I would like to start my Singapore Vegetarian Trail with the Tu-Tu cake since it looks and tastes like Modakam our Lord Ganesha's favorite.

Presenting the Tu-Tu Cake.....
Nobody knows wherefrom this dish originated. Did it originate from Malaysia or did it originate from China or is this dish a Singapore delicacy which then caught on to the other parts of Asia. The malay call it kueh tutu and the Chinese call it tutu cake.
History says the snack was originally eaten plain in China. But filling was added when it was reproduced here in Singapore because of the migrant influence.
I was wondering why its is called the tutu cake, sounds cute, doesn’t it?.
It seems in the earlier days the kueh was steamed on charcoal / firewood heated steamers that made a 'tutu' sound when steam blew through it, and that was how the cake got its name. Nowadays, a silent electric steamer has taken its place, but the yummy tutu cake is still just as good.

Kueh Tutu or Tu tu cake as it is popularly known as, is made primarily from rice flour or glutinous rice flour. Traditionally, the light snack contains either ground peanuts and sugar or a sweet coconut as filling.  There are dishes in India and Malaysia which are very similar to the tutu cake, so you can see that Singapore cuisine has various influences.
When my husband first got me the tutu cake, the first bite into the coconut filled cake made me feel very nostalgic as it reminded me of kozhakatai, a south Indian sweet made from rice flour and filled in with a coconut and jaggery mixture.
Kozhakattai is a sweet dumpling popular in Western and South India. It is called Ukdiche modak (steam cooked rice and coconut jaggery balls) in marathi, "modhaka" in Kannada, "modagam"or "and "kolukattai" in Telugu and kozhakatai in Tamil. The sweet filling is made of fresh coconut and jaggery while the outer covering is of rice flour. Modak has a special importance in the worship of the Hindu elephant god, Ganesh. Modak is believed to be his favorite food and Ganesh worship ceremony (puja) sometimes concludes with an offering of modaks to the deity.

Tu tu cake making at the stall
When you go to any pasar malam (night market), you will see stalls where they sell finger foods. Typically steamed groundnuts, steamed chickpeas, tea-eggs, steamed sweet corn etc and you will also see Tu tu cake.
I always admire the way the ladies make the cake, (usually I see women making them…sorry gentlemen). The instruments they use are so tiny, including the small piece of plate they use to flatten the flour or the mould in it self, the tiny spoon of filling they scoop out for the cake….now I know why it is mostly the ladies who make these delectable delights.
I always stand to admire the lady make the cakes with deft fingers, the speed leaves you awestruck. She will coat the mould with a thin layer of the rice flour, fill in the stuffing as per our choice and smooth it with another layer of flour, leave to steam. The typical method of preparation involves rapid steaming of the flour and the filling. Once ready, the Tutu is served on pandan leaves to add a pleasing aroma to it. The steps get quite hypnotic after a while.  It’s a pleasure to watch them make and fill in little transparent square boxes or Styrofoam boxes. The cost since the 9 years I lived in Singapore is $2 for a box which has 5 pieces of cakes in it and the best part is you can mix and match. I love the yummy coconut filling, so I usually order 3 coconuts and 2 peanuts in my box.
Dunk into the steaming hot delight by holding the pandan leaf. Its totally yummy…..You will be asking for more for sure…

Here is a recipe of the Tu Tu cake……
Rice flour - 2 cups
Salt - ¾ tsp
Water - 150 -160 ml
Desiccated coconut - ½ cup
Gula melaka, grated - ½ cup
Freshly grated coconut without skin - ½ cup
Pandan leaves, cut into squares

Dry roast rice flour for 5 minute with some pandan leaves. Discard the pandan leaves and sift the flour and leave it to cool.
Mix the salt in hot water and sprinkle over the rice flour. Rub the water into the flour until mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs.

Coconut filling
Roast the grated coconut over low heat till the aroma of coconut fills the air. Then add Gula melaka or palm sugar, to make the coconut filling juicy.
Lightly grease a Kuih Tu-Tu mould. Fill half the mould with the prepared flour and top with 1 – 2 tsp gula melaka filling and cover with more flour. Place a small piece of pandan leaf over it.
Steam for 10 – 20 minutes.
Serve with grated coconut if desired.

Peanut filling
Also a pleasure to savour is the peanut filling, as the freshly toasted nuts are fragrant and not too finely ground. Coarse grind freshly toasted skinless peanuts and mix with Palm sugar and voila your peanut filling is ready.

Chocolate filling
The latest addition to the fillings is the chocolate filling, where chocolate rice is used as a filling, Chocolate rice is widely available in most shops. It’s called chocolate rice as the chocolate is rolled into bits and resembles rice grains, this chocolate rice is filled in place of the peanut/coconut filling and when steamed the chocolate rice in the middle melts and when you bite into the rice cake the molten chocolate oozes into your mouth and it is really delightful. 
Thanks to the wonderful culinary innovations.


Priya said...

Wat a lovely post, cake looks truly choice will definitely go for chocolate filling..yumm!

Suhaina said...

Really interesting. I have never tasted this before here in Singapore. May be next time give it a try.
Thanks for all the information. Really appreciate it.

Hari Chandana said...

Very new to me.. looks mouth watering dear.. thanks for the wonderful recipe.. :)

sowmya's creative saga said...

I have been exploring the vege cusine in singapore and the chinese vege. shops in the foodcourts do have a variety of vegetarian food for people like us..nice post..

notyet100 said...

this does look like modak...looks yum

vaidyanathan said...

supurb. Only we i.e PI use coconut leaves to steam. In fact there is a slight variation of this dish in Karnataka and Maharastra. It is called ela adai /pan poli where filling is with coconut poornam/N ariel poli.A slight variation is to use Fanas or jack fruit jam.

Apu said...

It looks so lovely - yummy cake!!

Pari said...

Hi First time here.Lovely post, I am in for the chocolate filling.Following u.
Drop by when u have time

Priti said...

Nice readup dear..h u doing?

Sukanya said...

Thanks for the lovely comments. Iam glad people found it interesting.
Thanks Pari...The chocolate filling tastes yum!!!
Iam dong fine Priti.

SathyaSridhar said...

Sukanya,,thanks for stoppjng by n for ur lovely comment dear,,am glad to follow ur blog...this cake looks soo perfect in shape sounds great also ,,,we also do kozhukkatai is it like this..

naomileo7 said...

Hi Sukanya,

Thanks for your generous recipe for Tu Tu Kueh. I don't seem to find any recipe for this kueh and had been searching for it for some time.

Would appreciate very much if you could let me know where can I get the tu tu kueh mould in Singapore?

Thanks again for your recipe.


Sukanya said...

Hi Leo,
Thanks Iam glad you found the recipe on my blog. You can get the Tu Tu Kueh mould in Bakery stores. There are some stores that sell accessories related to Baking only for eg. There's one on Holland Village. There used to be one in Jurong East but unfortunately it got closed. They usually have these moulds.Small sections in Fariprice or shop and save may not carry these, but u can try asking them.


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