Sweet Potato Ang Ku Kuih — Whip It UP!

Ang ku kuih

Sweet Potato Ang Ku Kuih (Sweet Potato Mung Bean Cake).  Photos: Shirley Ong Geok Mooi


By Shirley Ong Geok Mooi

Ang Ku Kuih, a traditional Chinese confection (literally translated as red tortoise-shaped cake) is a versatile gift presented to mark a baby’s first month, a wedding, birthday or any celebration. Shirley’s version employs sweet potato as a natural colouring agent and wraps the skin around yellow mung bean paste.


Total Time: 3 hours
Difficulty: 3/5
Cost: S$5.00
Servings: 20 pieces @50g each

A:  Filling

200g mung beans, washed and soaked 2 hours
80g castor sugar
2 pandan (screwpine) leaves, cut into 2 inches length
100ml water
3 tablespoons shallot oil (deep-fry 2 sliced shallots, use oil)


B:  Sweet Potato Dough

300g purple/yellow sweet potato*, peeled and cut into cubes
250g glutinous rice flour
1 tablespoon rice flour
3 tablespoon corn oil
100-150ml hot water


C: Banana Leaf Lining

1 banana leaf, cut into 9cm X 9cm squares, 40 pieces
1 tablespoon vegetable oil



1. Mung Bean Filling: Bring 1 litre of water in a wok or large saucepan to a rolling boil over medium heat. Steam mung beans with pandan leaves until soft, about 40 minutes.

Mung beans
Mung beans are extremely nutritious  – high in protein and dietary fibre, yet low in calories.


2. In a food processor, blend beans with 100ml water, sugar and shallot oil to a fine texture – this bean paste is the filling. Set it aside in a mixing bowl.

3. Pour bean paste into a non-stick pan. Fry using medium heat till it thickens and becomes gooey. Allow mixture to cool down.

4. Shape mung bean paste into 18g balls. Set them aside. Keep covered with a kitchen towel to prevent them from drying out.

5. Sweet Potato Dough: Bring 1 litre of water to a rolling boil over medium heat. Steam sweet potato until soft. Mash while hot.

Colour your dessert purple with this high in anti-oxidant sweet potato.
Purple in food indicates the presence of anthocyanin, which is high in antioxidant.


6. In a medium mixing bowl, combine both flours and oil (Ingredients B). Add mashed sweet potato to flour mixture. Mix until incorporated.

7. Pour hot water bit by bit into above mixture. Hot water renders a resilient dough that doesn’t break easily. Mix until a soft, pliable dough is formed. Different sweet potato cultivars have different textures. Some have a higher water content than others, hence it may not be necessary to use up all the water – discard the rest, if any.

8. Shape dough into 32g balls. While shaping dough balls, they may get dry. If this happens, wet hands before continuing to shape kuih. Cover with a tea towel.

9. Line steamer with banana leaf cut to size of tray circumference. Using a pastry brush, lightly brush banana leaves with a thin film of vegetable oil.

10. A good ang ku kuih  has a 2:1 dough-to-filling ratio. For this recipe, choose a 50g mould, which needs 32g dough with 18g filling.

11. Lightly dust inside of ang ku kuih mould with glutinous rice flour.

Ang Ku Kuih moulds.
A selection of moulds to make ang ku kuih. The 50g mould is on the extreme right.

12. Flatten sweet potato dough using your fingers. Place one mung bean ball in the centre of dough. Wrap excess dough entirely around filling, to seal dough. Roll it between your palms until a round ball forms.

Wrap potato skin around balls of mung bean paste.
Wrap potato skin around balls of mung bean paste.


13. Place each ball into the mould. Press downwards gently and evenly. To dislodge kuih, holding the handle, knock the left side of the mould once. Then knock it on its right side. Repeat, if needed, until kuih pops out.


Unmoulding tortoise-shaped kuih.


14. Place each kuih on an oiled piece of banana leaf. Repeat until dough and filling are used up.

mung bean
Yellow on yellow – yellow skins with yellow mung bean filling.


15. Bring 2 litres of water to a rolling boil in a wok over high heat. Lower heat to medium. Cook kuih in a bamboo steamer for 10 minutes.

Yellow makes a cheerful colour.
Allow some space around each kuih for steam to circulate freely and to ensure even cooking.


16. Remove from heat. Using a pastry brush, immediately brush kuih with some vegetable oil to give the skin a sheen.

Cook ang ku kuih in a bamboo steamer.

17. Set kuih on kitchen counter to cool down, around 30-40 minutes. If desired, replace banana leaf lining with a new piece – the bright green banana leaf enhances the kuih’s visual appeal.

Natural food colours
Purple and yellow are complementary colours.


TIP:  Substitute sweet potato with pumpkin if desired. Follow the same steps in making the dough.


TECHNIQUE:  Steam kuih over medium heat – a gentler heat helps to set mould design well. If heat is too high, dough flattens during the cooking process before it starts to set.


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