My grandfather loved to eat this snack and there was a lady at the morning markets near my house who makes these with turnip or yam. Delish to boot! Unfortunately – as with everything that the older generation makes – when the lady decided to retire to focus on her failing health, I lost access to one of the best chai kueh I’ve ever tasted. Everything else that I tried lacked something – the filling was either too peppery, too salty, there wasn’t enough garlic, the skin wasn’t chewy enough, the list is endless but one thing was for sure, it wasn’t the same.
So I gave up my search for this snack and decided to try and make my own. It was hard in Switzerland as I couldn’t find the right flour – you need wheat starch flour which isn’t the same as regular white flour. It was only upon arriving that I decided that I would try my hand at making this dish. It wasn’t immediate as I was quite busy – as you may already know – with heaps of stuff. It didn’t help that I spent some of my free time on trivial stuff like looking for costumes (work-related) and so forth. Heh.
While the filling is satisfactory, the skin still needs more work to give it that extra chewy texture. And of course, the size and pleating wasn’t exactly what I had in mind. So I might just give this another go again. This just goes to show that cooking requires regular practice!
Vegetable dumplings (Chai Kueh)
1 smallish turnip/jicama/sengkuang – shred finely
1 medium carrot – shred finely
50-80 gms dried prawns
5-6 cloves garlic – finely diced
1 tbsp oyster sauce
Soy sauce and pepper to taste
Oil for frying
165 gms wheat starch (tang mein hoon)
85 gms tapioca starch
420 ml BOILING water
5 tbsp oil
- Prepare the vegetables by finely slicing them into thin stripes. You could use a food processer or grated BUT the effect is not the same. It doesn’t give the dumpling filling the right texture.
- Fry the garlic in some oil until golden brown and fragrant. Remove half for use later. Using the remaining half, fry the dried prawns until fragrant before adding in the turnip and carrots. Add in the oyster sauce, soy sauce and some pepper to taste together with about 50ml of water (or more if necessary).
- Fry until the vegetables are soft and then turn the fire down to a simmer to dry up the sauce. It’s crucial that the filling is not too wet. Once ready, turn off the heat and place aside to cool.
- In a separate bowl, add boiling water to the wheat starch and tapioca flour. The temperature of the water is important as hot boiling water is needed to make the dough translucent. Stir immediately until the mixture comes together. Allow to cool and rest for 10 minutes.
- Once the dough is ready, knead on a lightly oiled surface while gradually adding five tablespoons of oil. The dough should be smooth yet stretchable when it is ready. The longer you knead, the better the texture will be upon steaming.
- Divide the dough into small portions and roll them out into flat circles. Fill each piece with about 1 to 2 tablespoons of the filling. Fold the edges and pleat them. Lightly oil them with the garlic oil that was set aside earlier and place the dumpling onto a lightly oiled steaming dish.
- Steam on high heat for 10-12 minutes or until the skin is translucent. Remove and serve cool on its own or with some chilli sauce.