Irresistible Nyonya Yam Cake: A Savory Steamed Delight

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Nyonya yam cake, also known as “Ong Cai” or “Ang Ku Kueh” in Teochew, is a popular Southeast Asian dessert enjoyed in Singapore, Malaysia, and Indonesia. This delightful treat features a vibrant purple exterior made from grated yam and a sweet, flaky filling of mung beans and sugar. The contrasting textures and vibrant colors make it a feast for both the eyes and the taste buds.

This recipe offers a simple and straightforward way to create this delectable dessert at home, even for novice cooks. With a preparation time of around 30 minutes and a cooking time of approximately 45 minutes, you can whip up a batch of Nyonya yam cakes in under two hours.

Steamed Yam Cake
Steamed Yam Cake


For the Dough:

2 cups all-purpose flour

  • 1 cup water
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil (optional)

  • For the Filling:

    2 cups peeled and cubed purple yam (available at most Asian grocery stores)

  • 1 cup peeled and cubed sweet potato (optional)
  • 1 cup peeled and cubed water chestnut (optional)
  • 1 cup mung beans, rinsed and soaked for at least 4 hours
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup palm sugar, grated (or substitute with brown sugar)
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

  • Directions

    1. Prepare the Dough: In a large bowl, combine the flour, salt, and water. If using, add the vegetable oil for extra moisture. Knead the mixture for around 5 minutes until it forms a smooth and elastic dough. Cover the dough with a damp cloth and set it aside to rest for at least 30 minutes.

    2. Cook the Mung Beans: While the dough rests, rinse the soaked mung beans again and drain them thoroughly. In a pot, cover the mung beans with fresh water and bring it to a boil. Reduce heat, cover the pot, and simmer for about 30 minutes, or until the mung beans are softened and cooked through. Drain the cooked mung beans and set them aside to cool slightly.

    3. Prepare the Filling: In a food processor or blender, combine the cubed yam, sweet potato (if using), and water chestnut (if using) and blend them into a smooth puree.

    4. Mash the Mung Beans: In a separate bowl, mash the cooked mung beans with a fork or potato masher until they are slightly chunky. You can leave some whole mung beans for a textural contrast.

    5. Combine the Filling Ingredients: In a large bowl, combine the yam puree, mashed mung beans, sugar, palm sugar (or brown sugar), salt, and cinnamon. Mix well until all the ingredients are well incorporated.

    6. Assemble the Nyonya Yam Cakes: Divide the dough into equal portions, depending on your desired cake size. Roll each portion into a ball and then flatten it into a disc. Place a generous spoonful of the filling in the center of the dough disc.

    7. Shape the Cakes: Carefully gather the edges of the dough disc towards the center, enclosing the filling completely. Pinch the edges to seal the dough and form a smooth, round shape. Repeat this process with the remaining dough and filling.

    8. Steam the Cakes: Line a steamer basket with parchment paper. Arrange the shaped yam cakes in the steamer basket, leaving some space between them for even steaming. Fill a pot with enough water to reach just below the steamer basket. Bring the water to a boil and then place the steamer basket on top. Steam the yam cakes for approximately 20-25 minutes, or until the dough is cooked through and becomes translucent.

    9. Cool and Serve: Once steamed, remove the yam cakes from the steamer basket and transfer them to a plate. Allow them to cool slightly before serving. Nyonya yam cakes can be enjoyed warm or at room temperature.

    Nutrition Facts (per serving)

    Calories: 250 (approx.)

  • Fat: 5g (approx.)
  • Carbohydrates: 40g (approx.)
  • Protein: 5g (approx.)
  • Sugar: 20g (approx.)

  • Note: These are approximate nutrition values and may vary depending on the specific ingredients used.


    Nyonya yam cake is a delicious and versatile dessert that can be enjoyed on its own or paired with a cup of tea or coffee. The vibrant purple color and contrasting textures make it a visually appealing treat, while the sweet and savory flavors create a delightful taste sensation. With its simple ingredients and easy-to-follow instructions, this recipe allows you to recreate this popular Southeast Asian dessert in the comfort of your own home.