March 14, 2011

Iban Kuih Penganan - gift of the Rainforest to the Gods

If you are told that this is the kuih or snack that an Iban would be homesick for please believe him or her.

Simply made from all ingredients found in the ulu the Iban mother can literally make the best kuih penganan in the world! Today it is a popular street food all over Sarawak - in the capital Kuching and along the streets in Engkili and even in Kapit  and in a kitchen deep in the jungle  and up the river Rajang. It is found every day in Miri and we have it for breakfast or afternoon tea.

Originally this was made for spirit worshipping or Miring. But today it is home cooked food. A comfort food which keeps the human soul happy and at peace with the world and fellow men. Its basic ingredient is freshly ground ( hand pounded I heard is best). Gula apong added to it gives it a beautiful colour and fragrant aroma.

Freshly made penganan is drained of its oil. A small kuali is needed for this small kuih. Mother has to deep fry one by one and slowly to bring out the best texture and taste. A foreign writer had written ,"The palm sugar and the rice flour mix well to bring out a tropical rainforest flavour."

Love comes in a round chewy cake! The round shapes tells you that there is no end to love and loving. So it is a good gift to send to the spirits in the unknown Mandai or Heaven.

As I write t his I wish I can set up a stall in the earthquake zone and make this kuih for all the people and especially old mothers who are left devasted by the Japanese earthquake.

Home recipe given by a friend:

l cup of plain flour
l cup of rice flour
1/2cup of sugar
2cups of warm water or enough to make a pancake batter consistency
1 cup gula apong or gula melaka
cooking oil

1) Mix both the flours (some people use slightly more rice flour - you need to have your own trial and error) together with the sugar and mix evenly.
2) Melt sugar in the water (Some people boil the gula apong and then strain the sugar to get rid of little bits of processing materials)
3) Mix the sugar+water mixture with your flour mixture and let it sit for preferrably over night.
4) Prepare a small and heavy wrought iron (if you have) wok with a deep base so it allows the side to come up fluffy (hence why mine doesnt)
5) When ready to cook, heat up enough oil to partially deep fry it. I use a small plastic cup to scoop the batter so that all the kuih will be the same size. Turn over when slightly brown to fry the other side.

N/B a small kerosene stove is the best to give you a small fire. Gas fire should be slow and steady.


  1. Oh I had this kuih from tamu before, never knew it's Iban, thought it's Malay.

    1. Thought it was Malay--Kuih Penyaram

  2. DearSunflower
    Being married to an Iban I have always been told that this is Iban in origin...but no one has said otherwise. I do know that it is so common now in Sarawak that people think that it is Sarawakian!

  3. I always love the crispy crust around the kuih.

  4. Looks like a paua or PAU YI aka abalone. Very nice shape, how do you get the edge like this?

  5. Never knew the name to this kuih

  6. your blog has been loading quite slowly (even for relatively fast broadband). Y

    You may want to remove some extras on the sidebar and the top bar because your blog has to wait for those data to load to your blog.

  7. the Hakka call this "let ma pang" - nice and its a lau cheng hu kuih

  8. Charles...I would even wait for the kuih to be picked from the kuali!!The crispy crust is really nice and I can enjoy the flavours of locally grown rice!!

  9. Ann...You are right. It looks like Abalone. May be it should have a new name now. The crispy edge is the nice part. May be it is how it crisps up because it is thinner on the sides and thicker in the middle following the shape of the small kuali...I will soon be making some (on trial) with some friends...

  10. Daniel....Kuih Penganan is the local name. I think the Bruneians call them differently too. I will try to find out.....are my pages easier to "open" up now? Thanks for the tips.

  11. Lena....when you come back to Sarawak you must eat more of it...Pity it cannot be stored for more than two days!! Some one should invent the method to make it less perishable. Cannot be found in West Malaysia and Singapore?

  12. Ah to write it in Chinese? I like the term Lau Cheng Hu....hahahaha

  13. hi. i always thought that this kuih is chinese, as i always found it at the chinese stall. thanks for the recipe btw.

  14. Ah, love this simple yet flavourful kuih. I never fail to have one when going back to Sarawak. Thanks very much for sharing this recipe.

  15. thanks for the recipe...i have to try it because it's my children's favorite kuih.