A common and welcome sight in street stalls all over Singapore, kueh tutu is one of Singapore’s most beloved inventions (and is also known as putu piring). This sweet dumpling traditionally has in its decadent centre either a combination of ground peanuts and brown sugar or a combination of shredded coconut and red sugar. More contemporary versions of kueh tutu even have chocolate chips at their core for an added kick of sweetness.
Around the sweet centre is rice flour or glutinous flour, which is packed tight into a scalloped mould and steamed quickly at a high temperature. The dumpling is then placed on a fragrant pandan leaf and served.
Another popular local snack, kueh lapis (lapis = layer), is a traditional cake that comes in two versions: a layered cake that’s made by painstakingly baking thin layer upon thin layer of spiced cake, and a steamed version which is more gelatinous and colourful. The latter is known as kueh lapis Nonya because of its Peranakan influence.
Popular Peranakan desserts include kueh salat Nonya, also known as Puteri Salat (puteri means princess in Malay!): a steamed custard-like cake with a layer of pandan-coconut kaya on one half, and a layer of glutinous rice on the other half - widely recognised for its distinctive green and white colours.
Pandan is an essential ingredient in cuisine of the Southeast Asian region, and its leaves are used in flavouring pandan cake. Pandan chiffon cakes are immediately recognisable by their green colour and are immensely popular among the locals. Pandan kaya kueh is a slight variation, which includes layers of pandan kaya (an egg-based spread made with pandan leaves and coconut milk) sandwiched between sponge layers.
Another dish which features pandan is ondeh-ondeh, one of the most addictive types of kueh you’ll encounter: little balls of pleasure filled with pandan juice and coconut, rolled with rice flour and tossed in grated coconut.
Then there are 'love letters', known locally as sapit, a crisp, baked cylindrical kueh. They're nicknamed so due to the fact that they look like rolled-up letters. These light, crispy treats are usually sold in large tins and are made using flour, coconut milk, eggs and sugar.
These are just a few varieties of the many types of kueh you’ll encounter on the island: eating is one of the most interesting things to do in Singapore, and discovering the varieties of treats only adds to that excitement. Look for patisserie chains like SweetSpot to satisfy your dessert cravings, or head to a street market to grab some freshly-made kueh!