by Kenny Mah
Don’t tell my sifu this, but I’m terribly nervous.
Even if that sifu happens to be none other than the redoubtable Angkoo Queen herself, Madame Pureglutton – you can’t blame me for worrying about this little venture. It’s one thing to eat delicious, home-made angkoo kueh lovingly crafted by the hands of an expert, it’s quite another to attempt to make it yourself.
Please, I pray, don’t let this be a disaster.
It isn’t as though I am being asked to do very complex tasks. My sifu had already prepared most of the ingredients. To colour the angkoo dough, she had mashed up some sweet potatoes for their rich purple, beetroots for their vibrant pink and pumpkins for their bright, buttery yellow sunshine.
I just needed to pour the right amount of glutinous flour into the bowl, scrape some purple (or pink, or yellow) mash into the flour, add oil and mix the whole thing up until it becomes a decent blob of angkoo dough. If only.
First, the dough was too wet so I had to add more flour. Then it became too dry so I had to add more oil. Then the colour got too diluted, so I had to add more mash. Which, of course, made it too wet again. So: repeat, repeat, repeat. Why does this all seem so familiar?
Then it gets complicated.
(Aye, that first bit? That was the easy bit. Sighs.)
My very kind and thoughtful sifu had also prepared the angkoo fillings ahead of time (probably because she had the prescience to know I’d likely screw this part up spectacularly if left to my own devices). And as with the three colours of dough, there are three types of filling – the quintessential mung bean, sweet ground peanuts (Devil’s favourite, and in fact, the very reason my sifu made this) and some savoury mix of julienned Chinese turnip, carrots and minced meat – all rolled into neat little balls.
Make that not-so-little balls that I now needed to stuff into blobs of angkoo dough. Uhm, how?
Fortunately, Fate intervened at this critical juncture in the lovely form of Babe_KL, my fellow angkoo student. Nothing like some competition to get me crackin’.
Whilst Babe dived into rolling, fondling and churning out one perfectly stuffed angkoo blob after another, not unlike a conveyor belt at some large food factory, I struggled with simply not having the blasted blobs crack, squirt and spill out additional, non-approved baby blobs. I have to admit, with much shame and dishonour, that I tried to cover up the first few cracks with more angkoo dough, that I felt less like a home chef by the end of it and more like a kitchen plasterer.
O woe is me!
Histrionics aside, I eventually get there. The perfect angkoo blob – a yin/yang partnership of dough and filling, of sweet potato with mung bean, of beetroot and peanut, of pumpkin and all that salty stuff sifu mixed together.
Now comes the fun part. Time for some violence.
Bowl of flour. Wooden angkoo mould. Dust flour over angkoo mould. Squash angkoo blob into mould. Press a piece of banana leaf over squashed blob. Turn mould over. Then BAM! BAM! BAM! BAM! BAM! that sucker till it comes out!
Uhm, actually just one BAM! (and more of a soft “bamphh”, actually) but it does the trick. One perfect little angkoo kueh, ready for steaming. And of course, nothing quite like eating it while it’s fresh and pipin’ hot.
That, boys and girls, is how you make angkoo kueh. Hooray!
Copyright © 2011 Kenny Mah Ying Fye. Pictures by Devil CK.
Special thanks to my sifu, Pureglutton the Angkoo Queen.