Kuih tutu



Kuih tutu is a small steamed cake made of finely pounded rice flour with a ground peanuts or grated coconut filling.1 Thought to be Chinese or South Indian in origin, kuih tutu is believed to be unique to Singapore.2

Description
Kuih tutu is made by steaming rice flour in a special mould.3


The mould is first filled with finely pounded rice flour, following which a portion of the flour is taken out to make space for the filling, which could be either grated coconut, ground peanuts or a combination of both.4 Another layer of rice flour is then added to seal the filling in and the cake is tipped over onto a muslin cloth placed on the steamer.5

When the cake is done, it takes on the flower-like shape of the mould.6 It is then placed on a piece of pandan leaf cut to fit the kuih tutu before serving, so that it acquires a sweet flavour and scent. The flour is also slightly sweetened, hence the cakes taste just as good without filling and are sometimes sold in this form.7

The flour used in kuih tutu is traditionally made by pounding rice grains rather than grinding them. The resultant flour is sifted several times so that it is snow white and light.8 Influences from the Malay Peninsula led to ground peanuts, grated coconut and gula Melaka (palm sugar) being added as filling.9 The grated coconut is fried on low heat for several hours and sweetened with gula melaka.10

History
The methods of making kuih tutu and its ingredients are very similar to those of putu piring, which has its origins in South India’s idiyappam or putu mayam. Some suggest that its name is a corruption of the word putu. Thus in Malay, where kuih means “cake”, its name could mean “putu cake”.11


However, kuih tutu is also believed to be a snack that originated from Fujian, China rather than South India.12 Tan Yong Fa from Fujian, who sold the cakes in Singapore during the 1930s, was credited for popularising this snack.13 The original Chinese steamed cakes were larger than today’s kuih tutu and had no filling.14 The name of the cake is thought to have been derived from the sound made by charcoal-heated steamers that were used to steam these cakes in the past.15

Cities in Malaysia known for their cuisine – such as Penang and Kuala Lumpur – did not sell kuih tutu and the dish is believed to be unique to Singapore.16 In the 1980s, Singaporean Tay Low Long designed steam carts and stainless steel moulds to make kuih tutu. He developed his recipe based on his childhood memories of the kuih tutu made by a vendor in the Joo Chiat neighbourhood. He then revived the dish by setting up more than 20 kuih tutu outlets in major supermarkets such as Cold Storage and Yaohan.17

Variant spellings
Kueh tutu, kuey tutu

Kueh kutu, kuih kutu (Peranakan)



Author
Bonny Tan



References
1. Chan, M. (1986, November 23). Piping-hot kueh tutu just like father’s. The Straits Times, p. 4. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
2. Ho, M. (1987, July 2). A tart of multiracial origins? The Straits Times, p. 1. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
3. Ho, M. (1987, July 2). The kueh tutu lives on. The Straits Times, p. 1. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
4. Ho, M. (1987, July 2). A tart of multiracial origins? The Straits Times, p. 1. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
5. Ho, M. (1987, July 2). The entrepreneur as designer. The Straits Times, p. 2. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
6. Ho, M. (1987, July 2). The entrepreneur as designer. The Straits Times, p. 2. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
7. Thng, L. T. (2008, March 16). Tutu tasty to resist. The Straits Times, p. 70. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
8. Chan, M. (1986, November 23). Piping-hot kueh tutu just like father’s. The Straits Times, p. 4. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
9. Foo, D. (2003, October 5). Tarts made the 1920s way. The Straits Times, p. 39. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
10. Ho, M. (1987, July 2). The entrepreneur as designer. The Straits Times, p. 2. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
11. Ho, M. (1987, July 23). Tutu, kutu or putu. The Straits Times, p. 3. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
12. Foo, D. (2003, October 5). Tarts made the 1920s way. The Straits Times, p. 39. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
13. Chan, M. (1986, November 23). Piping-hot kueh tutu just like father’s. The Straits Times, p. 4. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
14. Foo, D. (2003, October 5). Tarts made the 1920s way. The Straits Times, p. 39. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
15. Thng, L. T. (2008, March 16). Tutu tasty to resist. The Straits Times, p. 70. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
16. Ho, M. (1987, July 2). A tart of multiracial origins? The Straits Times, p. 1. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
17. Ho, M. (1987, July 2). The kueh tutu lives on. The Straits Times, p. 1. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.



The information in this article is valid as at 2010 and correct as far as we are able to ascertain from our sources. It is not intended to be an exhaustive or complete history of the subject. Please contact the Library for further reading materials on the topic. 

Subject
Snack foods--Singapore
Cookery>>International and regional cooking>>Malay
Cookery>>Types of meals>>Desserts
Cooking, Singaporean
Ethnic Communities>>Food
Ethnic foods