ONDEH ONDEH/ KLEPON
This iconic traditional treat still holds the Malay Archipelago in a firm grip, and is absolutely ubiquitous in local markets and family feasts during festive occasions! The earliest record of ondeh ondeh or klepon can be traced back to the Majapahit Empire in the 12th century, and probably originated from the Indonesian island of Java. The earliest reference to the treat is from the Majapahit Empire in the 12th century Interestingly, you can find an adapted version sold in Dutch confectioneries, which arrived in the Netherlands during its colonisation of Indonesia.
This treat literally bursts with distinct Southeast Asian flavours, in a daring combination of pandan, coconut and palm sugar. and typically look like small, green, meatball-sized globes covered in grated coconut. The chewy green skin is made from glutinous (sticky) rice flour that’s infused with pandan essence, which encases a gula melaka (palm sugar) centre – locals will warn you to eat it in one bite if you don’t want molten brown sugar all over yourself!
Ondeh ondeh isn’t always green, by the way! In Singapore and Malaysia, you can also find a Peranakan* iteration that mashes sweet potato into the rice flour, which makes for a warm orange skin. It’s a lil more toothsome than its pandan counterpart, so mochi-lovers will definitely be coming back for seconds!
You won’t have to look too far to find the ubiquitous sweet in Singapore, with hawker centres and large malls alike featuring at least one stall that stocks ondeh ondeh! These stalls usually serve up spreads of brightly-coloured kuih in an astounding variety of textures, flavours and culinary characters, and you’ll be able to find the most vibrant offerings during festive periods like Hari Raya Puasa and Chinese New Year.
*The term ‘Peranakan’ or ‘Baba-Nyonya’ refers to the ethnic group and culture that descended from unions between Chinese migrants and Nusantara (Malay Archipelago) natives.