Light, airy, and fragrant Kuih Bangkit (Tapioca Cookies) are a Chinese New Year favorite. Only 5 ingredients.
One of my most enduring childhood memories of Chinese New Year in Malaysia was the “kuih-making” party among the women in the clan. My aunts and other relatives will converge upon Grandma’s house for the annual molding and baking of Kuih Bangkit (Tapioca Cookies), Kuih Kapit (Love Letter Crepes), and Pineapple Jam Tarts. There was a festive air about it as the women worked and gossiped about the latest family news.
Banned from the kitchen, the men played mahjong. The rattle of tiles provided a back drop while we cooked in the kitchen. The children pretty much shuttled between the two groups, playing and hoping for some early treats from the kitchen.
The Young Apprentice
When I was younger, I pretty much played with my cousins but as I got older, I began to take an interest in the kitchen going-ons. I started my unofficial apprenticeship by taking on simple tasks like putting little red dots on freshly baked Kuih Bangkit, folding Kuih Kapit into fan-shaped triangles, and filling tart shells with pineapple jam. The real secrets to making these confections were at the beginning of the process during the mixing of the dough. This task was reserved for the most senior matriarchs of the clan.
These women, namely Ah-Mah (Grandma) and Ah-Poh (Grand Aunt), put together the ingredients using only hand measurements. They could tell whether the mixture was correct by the feel of their hands. When asked, they would use the famous expression agak-agak, which is Malay for “guesstimate”.
Secret Recipes of Kuih Bangkit and Kuih Kapit
These formidable women would not simply divulge their hard earned secrets to casual inquiry. One has to work one’s way through years of apprenticeship with them before learning some of the inner secrets on the exact dough mix. This is the reason why every family has its version of what makes a successful Kuih Bangkit or Kuih Kapit.
Many of us left home without knowing the full details of the exact mixes. Hence, the difficulty in bringing these recipes to the modern audience. Also, having moved to different lands, the different types of flour needed may not be exactly what was once available.
Kuih Bangkit – Deceptively Simple
Kuih Bangkit, a powdery sweet cookie seemed very easy to make but is in fact very challenging. To get that light, airy texture is no small feat. The tapioca flour has to be pan fried with pandan leaves until light and fluffy. The egg and sugar mixture is hand whipped with a spring beater until light and frothy before the cooked flour and freshly squeezed coconut milk are added to the mix. It is then kneaded to form a soft pliable dough that is not too moist or dry. It sounds easy, right? Grandma and Grand Aunt certainly made it look easy but try recreating it in your modern kitchen and you will agree that this “not-too-moist-or-dry” thing is almost a fluke shot.
Room for Improvement
Not having attempted these since I left my childhood home, it took me several tries to get it right. I am fortunate to have inherited my Mother-in-law’s (another matriarch in her own right) wooden Kuih Bangkit molds which I finally put to good use. What you see here today is an approximation of the family recipe and like all approximations there is always room for improvements.
Similar Tools Used in Making These Kuih Bangkit (Tapioca Cookies)
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Kuih Bangkit (Tapioca Cookies)
- Place tapioca flour in a baking tray. Cut pandan leaves into 3 inch lengths and bury them in the tapioca flour. Place in a 200°F (93°C) oven for 1 hour. Remove and allow tapioca flour to cool. **
- Sift cooked tapioca flour. You should get about 14 oz (396g) of cooked flour. Reserve ¼ cup (1 oz/28g) for dusting wooden molds.
- Do not shake coconut milk in can. Open and scoop out about ¾ cup (180ml) coconut cream/thick coconut milk. Set aside.
- Cream egg yolks and sugar in a large bowl until light and fluffy. Add ⅓ of the cooked tapioca flour and ⅓ of the coconut cream. Mix with a spatula. Continue until all flour and coconut cream are used up.
- Gently knead to form a soft dough. If dough appears to be too dry, add 1 to 2 additional tablespoons of coconut cream. Turn dough onto counter to knead if necessary. Dough should be soft but not sticky. Place dough back in the bowl and cover with a moist towel.
- Place reserved cooked tapioca flour in a muslin/filter bag. Dust wooden kuih bangkit mold.
- Pinch a little dough from the bowl and press into each of the wooden mold indentations. Trim off excess with a butter knife. Gently tap wooden mold on the counter to release molded cookies. Place on a parchment lined baking tray.
- If you do not have wooden kuih bangkit mold, you can use small 1 inch cookie cutters. Lightly flour working surface and rolling pin with a little cooked tapioca flour. Gently roll dough out to ¼ inch thick. Dip cookie cutter in cooked tapioca flour and cut into shapes.
- Bake cookies in a 325°F (163°C) oven for 20 to 25 minutes depending on the size of the cookies. Bottom of cookies should be lightly browned. Remove and allow cookies to cool completely.
- Dot cookies with red food coloring if desired. Store in an air tight container for up to 1 month.
Update: January 12, 2018
Some people have suggested using sago flour in place of tapioca flour. Since sago flour is seldom available outside of Malaysia and Singapore, I had to purchase it on one of my visits back to Kuala Lumpur. Upon my return to the US, I made the cookies using the sago flour but was not satisfied with the results. The cookies lack flavor and the batter spread out and puffed up during baking. They did not look pretty at all. I have tried it twice. Once with just sago flour and another time with a combination of tapioca and sago flour. I have yet to get the combination right. Will try again soon. Stay tuned…
Update: February 8, 2018
Finally, after several tries I am satisfied with this version of Kuih Bangkit Sago and Tapioca Flours. You can get the recipe and read all about it by clicking on the picture below.