Kuih buah melaka is a celebrated street snack that can be found in different variations across South East Asia. Today’s recipe will teach you how to make kuih buah melaka at home with only 5 ingredients! These little green balls are essentially Asian mochi made from glutinous rice flour, pandan leaves (or extract), filled with palm sugar, and grated coconut flesh.
If you’re wondering what on earth the title means, stick around for an explanation and more as we cover a few topics such as:
We’ve got a heck of a post to get through, so let’s start with some fun facts and work our way through the do’s, don’ts, and methodology –so fancy- of making these little parcels of joy.
The Many Names Of Kuih Buah Melaka
It was Shakespeare that wrote, “What’s in a name?… That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” These glutinous rice balls seem to take that quote rather seriously. In my life, I’ve only known these sweet treats as two names, kuih onde onde (or ondeh ondeh) and kuih buah melaka (Malaccan-a region in Malaysia- fruit).
But these coconut-covered pandan mochi go by another name in Indonesia and the Netherlands. They’re called kue klepon or kelepon. Whatever you choose to call them or whether you search for ondeh-ondeh or klepon recipe, you’re getting the same thing.
A delicious gula melaka glutinous rice ball flavored with pandan, filled with molten palm sugar that mimics burnt caramel, and coated in savory grated coconut. These little green balls are of Javanese origin and can be found in neighboring countries like Malaysia, Brunei, and Singapore. I’m not sure of the full ondeh ondeh origin story or folklore but I’m happy they’ve traveled through Southeast Asia.
Interested in other popular street snacks or traditional kuih-kuih? Here are a few recipes that might interest you:
Can you make this klepon resep with rice flour? That’s the question we’re going to answer in the next section.
Rice Flour VS Glutinous Rice Flour
What is mochi made of? Glutinous rice flour. This recipe uses glutinous rice flour as the main ingredients and to understand why rice flour and glutinous rice flour are not the same, let’s talk about these two ingredients.
Rice flour is made from regular rice, whereas glutinous rice flour is made from glutinous rice. These two rice come from different cultivars and substituting one for the other will yield very different results.
When cooked, glutinous rice flour gives a chewy or QQ texture. Rice flour is crumbly. These two flours should not be used interchangeably unless otherwise stated in a recipe. Because they’re so different, using one in place of the other will give your desserts a different texture as they react differently to the cooking process.
If you’re interested, have a quick look at a comparison between rice and glutinous rice here. Now, let’s move on to the molten surprise that is encased in these little glutinous rice balls: palm sugar.
What Is Palm Sugar?
Palm sugar -often confused with coconut sugar- is a natural sweetener that comes from a variety of palm trees. So, technically speaking coconut sugar is a type of palm sugar but palm sugar is not coconut sugar.
The difference between the two is the type of tree the sugar is derived from but to be honest, they’re almost always used interchangeably. This recipe calls for gula Jawa or palm sugar which has a deeply caramelized flavor. You can use coconut sugar but it is lighter in shade, slightly sweeter, and does not have that deep caramel flavor that is associated with kuih buah melaka.
Before we get into the actual recipe, it is wise to first discuss the things that should not be done so as to avoid any mishaps -as best as we can- or disasters in the kitchen.
Things Not To Do
Making this Malaysian mochi recipe is actually very simple and takes little time but any easy recipe can result in failed attempts if not followed carefully. With any klepon recept (for our Dutch readers) two things need to be considered when making the dough and cooking the kuih.
Making The Dough
When making the mochi pandan dough, make sure to add the water a little bit at a time and mix it in between until it forms a solid dough that is soft to the touch but not wet. If you do end up with a wet batter instead of a dough, that’s okay! Just add in a bit more glutinous rice flour to fix this issue.
More dough, more dessert, right? That’s never a bad thing.
Cooking The Kuih
All you need to do to get these bouncy coconut glutinous rice balls is boil them, that’s it. So you may be wondering, “what could go wrong there?” Well, just one itty-bitty thing that will leave you with mushy gooey balls.
Only add your fully formed glutinous rice balls into boiling water. I repeat. ONLY ADD YOUR GLUTINOUS RICE BALLS INTO BOILING WATER. Here’s why:
If you place these uncooked sweet treats in warm or cold water, the starchy dough layer will simply seep into the water and disintegrate. Leaving you with starchy water flavored with palm sugar. Sounds like an odd soup but not the result we’re trying to achieve with this recipe.
Enough chit-chat, or click-clack in my case (Get it? Since I’m typing and my keyboard is going click-clack… and that rhymes with chit-chat?). I digress. Onto the main event, we’re finally going to learn how to make these popular desserts!
How To Make Kuih Buah Melaka
This dessert is made from glutinous rice flour, palm sugar, coconut, and pandan -all ingredients that make this mochi vegan friendly, soy, nut, and gluten-free. Dare I say it’s even healthy?
When making this kuih, you need to have 3 components:
- The coating
- The filling
- The dough
To make everything slightly more efficient, we’ll be working on each component of this dessert in that order.
I applaud you if you can get your hands on freshly grated coconut flesh. In which case, all you need to do is mix a pinch of salt with your coconut flesh.
But I live in the Netherlands and freshly grated coconut flesh is an elusive ingredient, to say the least. Dried desiccated coconut is an equally fantastic and identical substitute. Before it can be used, the dried coconut flakes need to be rehydrated in a steamer or microwave. Simply add 2 tablespoons of water and a pinch of salt to your dried coconut flakes and steam for 10 minutes.
Once steamed, set the coconut aside to cool and move on to making the filling.
If you don’t have a steamer, we’ve got the fix for you: Learn how to make your own steamer at home with things you have in your kitchen.
This step is very straightforward, simply chop your palm sugar into bite-sized chunks. The bigger the piece, the more dough you’ll need. So try to keep them small. These kuihs are traditionally quite small but hey, no judgment if you want to make them golf ball-sized.
Just remember that more dough means larger balls and larger balls take a longer time to cook.
Pandan juice and glutinous rice flour make up this dough. If you do not have access to frozen or fresh pandan (screwpine leaves) then you can use pandan extract in place. Simply add 1 tablespoon of pandan extract to 200ml of water and mix until fully combined.
If you can get a hold of pandan leaves, then use a pair of kitchen shears to cut the leaves into small pieces:
Add them into a blender or a mixer and blitz it all up for a minute or two.
Strain the mixture and get rid of the roughage. We only want the pandan juice.
Gradually add the pandan juice into the flour mixture and mix everything until a dough begins to form. It should be soft to the touch, not crumbly, and by now it should not stick to the sides of the bowl. This dough doesn’t require any kneading. You just need to mix everything until combined.
Once that’s done, you can form the desserts into balls and directly plop them into boiling water. Or you can make a tray full of them first and then boil them. As you can see below, I seem to have no perception of size or form but what does it matter when they’re all going to be gobbled up in the end?
Both ways work but they need to be cooked immediately if you choose to make a tray full. Otherwise, the palm sugar will melt and leech out of the dough, creating holes and pockets for the water to get into the mochi balls. For example:
This unfortunate little ball had a hole I was unaware of and popped open in the water. That’s no problem of course but something we want to avoid.
Forming The Balls
To form the balls, grab a small piece of dough, flatten it, place a piece of sugar in the center, tuck everything together, and roll in between your palms to smoothen it out into a circular shape:
When the water comes to a boil, turn the heat down from high to medium-high. We want the water to be scalding hot but not too hot for this reason; if the water is too hot, the dough will not cook evenly and the palm sugar center will remain solid.
Tip: Stir the pot gently (we don’t want to break these delicate gems) to stop the glutinous rice balls from sticking to the bottom of the pot. Or if you’re feeling rather cautious, place a ball or two in a handheld sieve or slotted spoon. Submerge them in the water and move them back and forth. This sets the outer layer of the glutinous rice balls and keeps them from sticking.
Cooking the onde-onde on medium-high heat will allow the dough to cook through and the palm sugar to turn molten. This usually takes 2.5 minutes but only remove the green glutinous rice balls from the water when they float to the top.
Transfer them straight into the coconut mixture. Roll until fully coated:
The Final Result
If you’ve made it this far then you’ll have yourself a platter full of delightful green gems filled with a molten burnt caramel center and a fragrant coconut coating.
Whether you know this dessert as kuih buah melaka, klepon, or if it’s entirely new to you, I hope you give this recipe a try. It will transport you to the streets of Malaysia and perfume your house with the aromas of coconut, pandan, and -surprisingly- rice.
And if you’re looking for other dessert recipes, have a look at some of our other posts:
Kuih Buah Melaka
Make this easy and fool-proof recipe for kuih buah melaka or Malaysian mochi. Made from glutinous rice flour, this traditional kuih buah melaka or ondeh-ondeh is flavored with pandan, filled with caramelly palm sugar, and rolled in coconut. This recipe makes roughly 30 balls.
- Mochi dough:
- 5 fresh or frozen pandan leaves (DO NOT USE DRY LEAVES) OR 1 tbsp pandan extract
- 200ml water (3/4 cup)
- 120g glutinous rice flour (1 cup)
- 15g rice flour or plain flour (2 tbsp)
- A few drops of green food coloring
- A pinch of salt
- 100g chopped palm sugar
- 50g desiccated or fresh coconut (3/4 cup)
- 2 tbsp water *Only if using dried desiccated coconut
- A pinch of salt
If you are using dried desiccated coconut:
Add the coconut, salt, and 2 tablespoons of water into a heat-safe dish. Mix everything together and steam for 10 minutes.
When the dried coconut is rehydrated, set it aside to cool.
If you are using fresh coconut:
Simply mix the coconut and salt together.
While the dried desiccated coconut is steaming, chop your palm sugar into small chunks. This will be the filling for your dough.
If using pandan extract:
Mix 200ml of water with 1 tablespoon of pandan extract and green food coloring.
If you are using fresh or frozen pandan leaves:
Cut the pandan leaves into chunks.
Add the leaves along with 200ml of water into a blender and blitz everything up.
Strain this mixture and get rid of the roughage from the leaves.
Add a few drops of green food coloring to the pandan juice.
Place your glutinous rice flour, the additional plain or rice flour, and salt in a bowl. Whisk everything until combined.
Gradually pour the pandan juice into the dry mix until it forms a dough. It should not stick to the sides of the bowl or your hands.
Cooking the mochi:
Fill a large pot with a lot of water and let it come to a boil on high heat.
Grab a small piece of dough and flatten it with your hands.
Place a piece of palm sugar into the center of the dough and fold the sides up to cover it.
Roll the dough in your hands to form a ball and repeat this step until there is no dough left. It took about 10 minutes to roll 30 little balls.
When the water is boiling, turn down the heat to medium-high. Gently place each ball individually into the boiling water. Only add 6-7 balls in the water at a time.
To stop the balls from sticking to the bottom of the pot, gently stir the water. Be gentle and careful not to break them.
Boil the little mochi balls until they float. This took us about 2.5 minutes.
Remove the balls from the water and add them directly to the coconut.
Roll the balls around to coat them in coconut. Repeat this step until all the balls are boiled and covered in coconut and enjoy!
- Only add the glutinous rice balls into boiling water. Otherwise, they will disintegrate into the water and you'll have mushy balls.
- To stop the glutinous rice balls from sticking to the bottom of the pot: Stir the pot gently (we don't want to break these delicate gems) or place a ball or two in a handheld sieve or slotted spoon. Submerge them in the water and move them back and forth. This sets the outer layer of the glutinous rice balls and keeps them from sticking.